Art of the Vienna Galleries – The Collection Of Count Schönborn-buchheim

IN the stately old palace of Count Schönborn, in Alt Wien, we find the collection of his paintings displayed in three large, richly furnished salons. The crowded condition of the walls — the room is fifteen feet high and the paintings reach to the ceiling — and the poor light from windows that open upon a narrow street, interfere with the close examination and unalloyed enjoyment of a number of the paintings that are worthy of a better fate. We will select the most important canvases for our study.

In the First Salon we note an immense canvas that gives an allegorical presentation of the gods of the sea. Neptune, Amphitrite, and many other aqueous deities display before Mercury and Amor the riches of the ocean’s depths, fishes, pearls, corals and numberless sparkling treasures. Women, representing the nations that draw their wealth chiefly from the waters, especially the rich inhabitants of the city of Antwerp, bear witness in this opulent scene, such as the fertile fancy and exuberant brain of a Rubens might have invented. It may, therefore, well be regarded as a masterpiece of its author, Jacob Jordaens, who made the design and painted the figures, while the still-life and further accessories were painted by Jakob van Es.

A painting by Ferdinand Bol, ” Hagar being comforted by the Angel in the Desert,” is a master-piece of this pupil of Rembrandt, who is better known as a portrait painter. Unfortunately he changed his style in his later years by mistakenly following Rubens. There is, however, no evidence of this in the picture before us, which excels in chiaroscuro. A large landscape is by Jan Wynants, truly realistic in its natural appearance. It is of the artist’s latest years and, although not remarkable in colour, impresses one by its light-effect and aerial perspective. A company of ladies and gentlemen consulting a gypsy fortune-teller is a vivacious tableau by J. A. Duck.

The early Dutchman, Maarten van Heemskerck, made the Italian journey in middle-age, and de-voted himself especially to the study of Michel-angelo. The mythologic and classic subjects which he thereafter produced were never popular in Holland, and have all been dispersed away from his native country, with the exception of one in the Ryksmuseum. A fine example here depicts a Roman landscape, with the temple of Saturn in the Forum and the Flavian Amphitheatre.

Although Jacob Gerritsz. Cuyp is known in the Netherland galleries only as a portrait painter, he also essayed the rich, colourful life of nature, and frequently loved scenes of stirring activity. Such a one we find in the large cavalry battle ascribed to him, which, despite its narrow colour-gamut — only brown and yellow tones — still has a scintillating glow. Another military piece is by Esaias van de Velde, who pictures the ” Siege of s’Hertogenbosch by Prince Frederik Hendrik.” It has an intimate, local atmosphere, of picturesque setting. Two portraits, said to represent the Electors of Saxony of the Reformation period, Frederick the Wise and Johann Frederick, were painted by Lucas Cranach, the Elder.

The Second Salon offers equal variety. One of the most attractive paintings in the collection is a ” St. Catharine ” (Plate XLVI), by Carlo Dolci. Although this artist’s work generally cloys by being oversaturated with sentimentality, we find in this beautiful work the great skill of the painter asserting itself sufficiently to overcome his customary weakness. The perfection of its craftsmanship, of. its drawing, its light-effect, and the wonderful colour harmony of the blue and purple shot-silk dress, is heightened by its grace and charm. A half-length figure of Diana belongs to the same eclectic school, and is supposed to be the work of Guido Reni. A view of Königstein in Saxony, charming in its architectural construction and harmonious colouring, is by Canaletto.

Branching off to the German school we meet with a splendidly painted portrait of a man, by Hans Holbein the Younger. The strongly marked features give it an individual expression, while the fur-bordered black cloak, lighted up with the collar of a white shirt, the sea-blue background and the deep-green table cover form an harmonious combination.

Then we pass again to the Dutchmen, and find two genres in the punctilious method which Dou first introduced. The one by Kaspar Netscher is a rather unusual composition for Protestant Hol-land, for we see a woman kneeling before an altar on which stand a crucifix and sacred cup. She is deeply engrossed in passing her beads. In the distance a priest and two deacons are seen celebrating the mass. Only from internal evidence — its fine brush-work, colour and drawing — can we give this little panel to its reputed author. A ” Surprised Letter-writer ” is by Gabriel Metsu, and is painted with a precise but not finical brush, which lovingly lingered over the textures of a gown and table-carpet. We are also able to see two good portraits of men by Jacob Gerritsz. Cuyp, whose battlepiece we have already admired in the first room. A magnificent riverview of the Maese, near Dordrecht, by Jan van Goyen, has the full stretch and sweep of landscape with hazy atmosphere for which this master is noted. It puts the ” Storm at Sea,” by Ludolf Backhuyzen, the later marine painter, on a much lower plane.

The only Flemish picture of note here is a masterpiece by Gonzales Coques, a creditable follower of van Dyck. His usual ” polite conversation ” pieces cannot compare, however, with the serious portrayal of this scholar sitting in his much-littered study. Although manifestly a portrait, we are most attracted by the careful painting of the de-tails and accessories.

The Viennese certainly appreciated the Breughel family of painters, for as we enter the Third Salon we stand before a masterpiece of Jan Breughel the Elder, called Velvet Breughel. That velvety touch, which gave him his cognomen, lies over all this crowded ” Village Kirmess.” Throngs of people swarm upon the square before the church and to-wards the river brink. Gay parties are setting out in boats. The stream, meandering in sinuous curves through the meadows, is lost in the dis-tance, but gleams like a band of gold in the bright rays of the sun. The bluish tone, peculiar to this artist, enhances the brilliancy of the colours with a harmony both suave and striking.

A splendid sketch of the head of a bearded man, by Rubens, must have served as a study for one of the heads that appear in the ” Lion Hunt of the Dresden Gallery. A ” Holy Family,” by van Dyck, bears strong traits of Titian’s influence. The Child in its mother’s arms refuses for a moment the breast, as it listens to the voices of the cherubs that flutter in the sky. Joseph looks with astonishment from the book which he has been reading. The tone of the beautiful blue mantle around the shoulders of the Madonna is that which van Dyck most favoured during this middle period of his career.

Adriaen Brouwer has here one of his inimitable surgical operations, where the grotesque sufferings of the patient conduce more to hilarity than sympathy. A ” Picture Gallery,” by Frans Francken, is in the style of Teniers. A beautiful interior of the Antwerp cathedral, with all its architectural magnificence, is, of course, from the brush of Pieter Neeffs. A group of interiors by the Dutch genre painters forms an historical chapter of social life. Gerard Dou has painted the dark study of an astronomer peering over his world-globe. The only illumination is the light of a candle, with the same marvellous, revealing shadows as seen in the master’s famous ” Evening School,” in Amsterdam. As a pendant serves the ” Laboratory of an Alche-mist,” by Thomas Wyck, who in his interiors retained the national characteristics of sincerity and truthfulness, but whose landscapes were thoroughly Italianised. Another interior by Wyck shows a peasant family at dinner, and is a genuine portrayal of the life of the people.

Two of Dou’s pupils contribute to make the tale varied. Pieter van Slingelandt, of whom it was said that he spent four years to paint a lace jabot, has one of his rare works here. It relates the comedy of a dragoon, quartered in a farmhouse, who makes love to the buxom dairy-wench, at which the old peasant shuts his eyes, but which greatly excites the young swain who seeks to protest against such familiarity. The mechanical finish and conventional attitudes are not refreshing. Some beautiful landscapes and marines are to be noted from Jan van Goyen, Cornelis Herman Saftleven, Julius Porcellis, Hendrik Dub-bels, and two early works by Jacob van Ruisdael.

The finest work of the collection is a masterpiece by Rembrandt. This is the famous ” Blinding of Samson,” of which the Cassel Gallery possesses a good old copy. The painting is a marvellous example of Rembrandt’s chiaroscuro, with its play of light and shadow, in which dark waves, shaded, deepened, thickened, revolve around bright centres which are thereby made to appear more distinct and radiant; and yet, in which the darkness is trans-parent, the half-darkness easy to pierce and even the heaviest colours have a sort of penetrability which prevents their being black. An unseen torch throws the figure of the soldier in the foreground in strong silhouette, as he holds the blinding iron. That torch casts also a bright light over the form of the fiercely struggling Samson who has been pulled down backwards with his assailant under him. In the receding light other soldiers are seen attacking the giant; and Delilah is fleeing out of the tent still holding the shears wherewith she has shorn Samson’s head, whose hair she waves before her. The faint glimmer of the dawn illuminates the back-ground through the open tent-flap. There is no ambiguity in the just allotment of the light, as it touches with flickering brilliancy the parts it strikes, while leaving the corners in a darkness that still reveals. The passion on the faces of the soldiers, the fierce, mocking triumph of the vampire, the horrible agony on the distorted features of the lost giant, are intensely dramatic. It is one of the most powerful paintings the master has ever produced.