THE last two sections of the Grande Galerie contain some of the important pictures of the Flemish masters, the larger number of the remainder owned by the Louvre being in the new rooms opened in 1900.
Paul Bril, of whose works the Louvre possesses a number of excellent specimens, lived and worked so long in Rome that he became greatly Italianized. Still, he kept certain Flemish attributes. His realistic method of looking at nature was essentially Flemish, as was his conscientious care in dealing with details. He was noted for intelligent distribution of light, for poetic rendering, and for an effective ensemble that was not too much broken by his worked-out accessories. He has been called the precursor of both Claude Lorrain and Poussin. Both he and his elder brother Matthaus received pensions from Sixtus V. and most of their work is. still to be seen in Italy.
Of his works owned by the Louvre, one is a landscape called Diana and Her Nymphs. Bril had a plan for building his landscapes that was evidently one of pre-conceived design. His foregrounds are almost always sunk into a sombre shadow that is brown in tone and decidedly unnatural. Once in the middle distance, his light grows clear, his atmosphere vibrating, his colours delightful. The general criticism holds true of this canvas. A winding stream fills the larger part of the foreground, reeds and bushes growing in it at the right and two tall trees at the left. This is all in deep shadow, the more difficult to understand because there seems to be plenty of open space through which the sunlight could easily break. A forest makes the middle foreground at the right and this also is largely in shadow. At the left, however, the light strikes clear and bright. Here a bridge of logs is thrown across the river and over this Diana, her dogs and two of her companions are crossing. Beyond them again, where a charming rolling land of trees, fields and hills stretch to the sky, the atmospheric effect is thoroughly delightful.
Exactly the same distribution of light is shown in The Duck Shooting. At the right two enormous oaks, the branches of which are cut off by the top of the picture, are in a depth of unexplainable shadow. The two hunters on the ground at their base, are of course entirely sub-merged by this darkness. Once beyond this point, how very different the feeling ! The pond with its smooth surface scarcely rippled except by the swimming ducks, the massed trees across it in the middle distance, the opening into the fields beyond, the enveloping sky, all are full of a peaceful light and are as true and natural as they are idyllic. In this as in many of Bril’s pictures, the figures are by Annibale Caracci.
The Air and The Earth, by Jan Breughel in this section, show some of that painter’s characteristics. He was a contemporary of Bril, and was called Velvet Breughel because he painted flowers that afterward were largely copied on velvet. He had none of the roystering style of his father, Peter, and dealt but little in peasant pictures. He was a celebrated landscape-painter of his day, and Rubens frequently employed him to paint landscapes and flowers in his pictures. He as well as Bril was a strongly Italianized Fleming, and in most of his scenes he introduced Roman ruins or classic buildings.
The Air shows Urania sitting upon a cloud, nude but for a bit of red drapery. In her left hand she holds a spear and upon her right shoulder perches a white paroquet. By her side a young Love gazes through a glass at Diana and Apollo in their chariot driving through the air. At the right are three little Loves in the middle of a heap of optical instruments, at the left a tree and a deep valley.
The Earth is an opening of a forest where all kinds of animals are seen. At the right, near a tree, in the midst of flowers, is a wolf, in the centre an ox, a turkey-cock and a peacock, at the left, a lion, a tiger, and a horse. In the distance at the right is a pond and at the left Adam and Eve with God, near the tree of good and evil. Here are all the elements Breughel revelled in. And who shall say the picture is not as full of humour as the more notable peasant scenes of his father ?
Entirely different in almost every respect are the paintings of Frans Pourbus, who, living at the same time as Breughel, spent a large part of his life in Paris. His work was chiefly portraiture, though some of his religious scenes are well known and admired. In Paris he painted all the royal family and most of the noted people of the court. They are finished to a high degree, have always much richness of costume, and seem extremely truthful in countenance.
Of the two portraits of Henri IV. by him in the Louvre, the one standing with his hand directly on the table beside him, is today regarded as a classic. The king is posed squarely in full face, but has turned his head slightly toward his left shoulder. He has a ruff about his neck and the order of the Holy Spirit on a ribbon across his chest. He is in black doublet and hose which contrast with the red and gold covering of the table. Henri IV. is a man of middle age in this portrait and in the furrows of his forehead, in the conetracted brows, the firm mouth and the straight pose, can be felt something of the nature of Henry of Navarre whose Edict of Nantes is perhaps the best thing that men remember of him.
Equally characteristic and much more splendid is the Portrait of Marie de Medici, Henri’s wife. She is seated on a sort of dais covered with red velvet bordered with gold. Her gown is a most magnificent blue robe scattered over with golden fleurs-de-lis and bordered with ermine, the velvet mantle being also enriched with the flower of France, and lined with the royal fur. Pearls and precious stones blaze and bloom about her and if one thinks rather more of the gorgeous costuming of this Italian Queen of France than of her high-bred, slender, haughty face, it is not because the painter has slighted the person of the royal sitter but because the clothes were of such vast importance !
Pourbus’s Portrait of Guillaume de Vair, guardian of the Seals of France under Louis XIII., is another fine work.
To begin to describe the paintings of Rubens in the Louvre would require a volume in itself. It is only possible to mention a few of the more important ones, or those that are for one reason or another especially characteristic of this painter of whom, one is tempted to say, everything was characteristic. For Rubens painted every sort of subject that a painter’s brush could choose.
Biblical, legendary, ancient and modern, historical and mythological subjects; portraits and salon pieces; battles and hunting-scenes ; grotesques and landscapes, flower and fruit decorations; nothing was outside the range of his genius. Though he represents the complete fruition of Belgic art, in him too, are seen the germs of its decadence. To a certain extent he may be compared in this way to Michelangelo. Michelangelo’s followers and even the men who were working right with him, though they might appreciate his genius, mostly copied his faults, as if the source of his power lay in the exaggerations of his hand. So with Rubens. His heaped-up mountains of flesh, his tumultuous action and emotion, his surging blood, his grossness of form, his coarseness of suggestion, his disregard of the convenances of painting, his abandonment to the fleshly, the earthly, the spectacular, all this again, in Rubens even at his worst, and it not infrequently was at his worst, is so charged with the fiery spirit of his brush, so overwhelming in its beauty of colour, so powerful, so much above as it is outside the canons of art, that one forgives the lack of taste, the brutality, the sensuality, in an ecstatic maze at the versatility, the rush, the sweep, the creative fire of his art. But, again, it was just this creative fire that his followers lacked, while his idiosyncrasies and extravagances they found easy enough to copy.
Rubens was born in Cologne of Flemish parents and returned to Antwerp when a young boy. He travelled extensively in Italy, in Spain, and England, and was renowned as a courtier, a savant, a diplomat, and as an honourable, upright man, a true and tender husband and father. Besides all his gifts and opportunities, he was a most indefatigable worker. No other painter ever began to leave behind such an enormous amount of work.
The number of his pictures reaches over fifteen hundred, and though, like Raphael, he had a small army of assist-ants constantly at work, the canvases that show only his own hand are enough to outnumber the entire output of the most prolific painters. Fecundity, originality, in-exhaustible fancy, almost unbelievable facility, a complete command of every trick of technique, a surety of hand, a certainty of eye, in all this Rubens has scarcely ever been approached by any artist of any day. And yet it remains true that in religious painting he almost never reached the highest expression, and in portraiture he cannot be named along with Titian, Velasquez or even men of lower rank. Yet, he painted the mighty Descent from the Cross at Antwerp, the St. Ildefonso at Vienna and the portraits of Helena Fourment.
Of the many canvases of his that are in the Grande Galerie, the Kermesse, in Bay F, represents one of the scenes of ” low life ” that, when he chose, he could revel in with an abandonment unequalled by Steen or Brauwer. A large company of peasants is assembled outdoors in front of an ale-house. A long curving line of them are dancing madly, a lot of others are squatted on the ground drinking with equal fury, while others are engaged in love-making as open as it is indecent. Waagen says ” There is in this marvellous picture such a vivid exhibition of jovial sensuality and a glow of physical life .. . that every other work of this class must appear tame and heavy in comparison. At the same time the intellect dis-played in the treatment, the richness and brilliance of the colouring, are worthy of the admirable skill and invention displayed in the composition.”
Rubens’s colour was never more wonderful than in The Flight of Lot. It is also more restrained, more dignified, more imposing in its significance than in most of his Scriptural scenes. At the right, an angel, with wings spread is showing Lot the path. Another heavenly guide in the centre is hastening the steps of Lot’s wife, who is turning toward him, her hands clasped in pleading, her eyes full of tears. A daughter, at the left, a basket full of jewels in her arms, holds the bridle of an ass loaded with precious articles. Behind the ass the second daughter carries on her head a large basket full of fruits. In the sky are four demons armed with thunderbolts which they are showering upon the doomed town.
One of his characteristic pictures of the Madonna is the one called The Virgin, Child Jesus and an Angel in the Middle of a Garland of Flowers. The Madonna, a half-length figure, is holding the child on her knees, while an angel places a crown of flowers on her head. The whole group is encircled with the elaborate wreath of flowers which it is supposed Velvet Breughel painted.
Neefs, who is represented by a number of church interiors was the most celebrated “architectural painter ” of Flanders of the seventeenth century, ranking only below De Witte, who came thirty years after him. He was a friend of Velvet Breughel, of Francken, of Teniers and Van Thulden, all of whom at times painted the figures in his compositions.
His View of the Interior of a Cathedral shows his delight in portraying processions and funeral services under the light of torches. Though his chiaroscuro is not equal to that of De Witte he succeeded in achieving an effect that is both realistic and telling.
Among the many animal paintings of Snyders in the Louvre, the Wild Boar Hunt is one of the most amazing. It is in Bay E and differs only in detail from many other boar hunts by him. The same desperate wild animal, the same plucky, furious hounds; some dying, some inflicting fearful wounds on their prey, all is a wild carnage whose outcome is left to the imagination. It is always just before the crisis that Snyder depicts his conflicts, just before the decisive victorious stroke is made by either combatant. It is partly due to his ability to suggest that the worst is yet to come that makes these battles so thrillingly dramatic.
Fyt, the other great animal-painter of Flanders is also well represented at the Louvre. Nothing of its kind could be more perfect than his Game in a Larder. In this crowded canvas he shows what he can do with feathers. These he can paint till one seemingly can fairly pluck them from the limp, lifeless bodies they cover. Heaped on the floor, and piled on a long low bench, are partridge, woodcock, wild duck, tumbled on their heads, their wings spread out, thrown flat on their breasts or half held up, claws in air, with one huge hare hanging against the wall above them, the mass of feathers and fur is as brilliant as it is realistic. An amusing element is introduced by the cat, who, half-buried among the birds, sits gazing at two marmosets, they in their turn studying her with unafraid interest from their perch on the sill of the partly open window at the left.
Of these two men, it is only during recent years that Fyt has been given his deserved recognition. Snyders has been called the Rubens of the Lower Life. There is the same sweep of brush, the same fulness and amplitude of form, the same splendour of colour, and rush of movement, the same richness of ideas, the same command over materials. He essayed every branch of animal life and was equally successful in all. His lion, bear and boar hunts where dogs are the furious antagonists are so terrific, so full of maddened power, rage and yelping victory, that the spectator is fairly carried off his feet by the concentrated power and passion of the scene.
Fyt had less of the terrible, the overpowering, the threatening, but he had more sanity, equal freedom of expression and more truthful realism. He was bolder in his touch and freer. His rendering of fur and feathers is amazingly perfect and his brilliance of light, delicacy of colour and the sincerity of his emphasis often, as has been said, make him surpass even Snyders himself.
When Louis XIV., at sight of some pictures by David Teniers exclaimed disgustedly, ” Tirez de devant moi ces magots,” he would have been still more disgusted could he have dreamed that one day a large number of these despised works would be given places of honour in the chief museum of his country. Thirty-three paintings by Teniers are in the Louvre and of these many are in the Fleming’s best vein. It certainly is a vein, how-ever, that the ” grand monarch ” who admired above all art the pomposity of Le Brun, could never have learned to appreciate. Gautier says of Teniers: ” No one has better painted the outer appearance of Flanders, with its humid sky, softly gray, its fresh verdures, its brick houses, . . . its hospitable inns, its thickset peasants .. . and its good, round little women.” Teniers not only painted drinkers, smokers, peasant life in all its ramifications, but he also essayed Biblical scenes. In these, like some of the Italians, he made no pretence at historical ac-curacy. His people were straight Flemings, and his costumes ” la mode du XVII siècle.” Teniers was the friend of princes, was court painter to Archduke Leopold William, Governor of the Spanish Netherlands, and this dignitary made him groom of the chamber and superintendent of his picture-gallery. It is to these circumstances, probably, that Teniers in spite of his paintings of tavern scenes and drinking bouts escapes the opprobrium that was bestowed upon Brauwer and other painters of ” low life.”
Most of his works that are not in the Collection Lacaze, are to be found in Bay E. The Inn Beside a River is one of these. At the left is the little inn of a story and a half high, and at one corner out-of-doors, a group of peasants sit or stand about a small table. From the door in the end of the house the hostess comes bearing a waiter. The shore by the inn slopes down into a river that flows diagonally across, and in it men stand busy with their nets. On the opposite shore on a high, wooded bank, is a castle. In the distance the sun’s rays pierce the clouds and strike brilliantly on a point below the castle.
The Temptation of St. Anthony was a favourite subject with Teniers, apparently chiefly because it gave him a chance to depict grimacing beasts and fearsome birds. The aged saint kneels in profile in a cave, before a rock on which is his open book of prayers, a skull, a wooden crucifix and a jug. With one terrible claw clutching the saint’s hood which has fallen back, a demon leans over him offering him a glass of wine. The leer on this face under its hat cocked up with a carrot is enough to give one bad dreams for a week. Behind Anthony a hag of a sorceress looks up with a snarling laugh from the parchment she reads, and above are bats, and night-birds and gloom and horror.
The Prodigal Son is merely a Dutch out-of-doors party, except that the girls are rather better dressed and the furnishings of the table more elaborate than usual in Dutch paintings of such occasions.
The Village Fête is another kind of scene which Teniers loved to portray. He was in his element when he could paint a crowded country fair or fête, of dancing, eating, drinking, love-making peasants. This is full of the boisterous noise, rude actions and hearty guffaws which only Jan Steen could more realistically express. But the truth of action, the vigour of movement, the amusing episodes, the freedom of handling and excellent grouping are all found in this as in the Kermesse in Collection Lacaze.
A soft, gray, luminous sky is one of the chief charms of the picture called Works of Mercy, in which an old man is giving bread and milk to a crowd of beggars.
If the Louvre has thirty-three Teniers, it has twenty Champaignes. And vastly different these latter are from the former. Champaigne lived and worked so long in Paris that his pictures are not much like most of his countrymen’s. Yet, in spite of the influence of France and Poussin, he has been universally regarded as be-longing to the Low Countries. And indeed he never lost the Fleming’s feeling for colour and depth of tone. His work was chiefly portraiture and religious scenes, though he painted some landscapes with real poetic feeling. Of these there are two in the Louvre of no common interest. But it is in his portraits that he ranks highest. They are vivid, spirited, and must have been extraordinarily realistic as likenesses. His touch is free, his draughtsmanship able, his colour brilliantly silvery, pure and transparent except where the shadow-tones have grown too dark owing to an impure medium. Among his works here are some of the very best that he produced.
Very wonderful is the double Portrait of Mother Catherine Agnes Arnaud and Sister Catherine of St. Susan, the latter the painter’s daughter. The picture was executed by Champaigne and given to the convent at Port Royal in grateful remembrance of what he regarded as the miraculous cure of his daughter in answer to the mother superior’s prayers. The canvas shows the nun in the midst of these devotions. Sitting in a wide, low chair with her feet resting on a broad footstool in front of her, is the young daughter in the costume of the nuns of Port Royal. She holds on her lap the little open box of reliquaries, while, with frail, joined hands, she prays for health. In the centre, facing the observer, but on the far side of the young Catherine, kneels the mother superior, her head lifted, her hands met in prayerful pleading. The surrounding room is one of the cells of the convent and the bare gray walls are unbroken except for a large crucifix over the young nun’s head and a long Latin inscription at the left in which Champaigne expresses his gratitude for the recovery. By the side of his daughter at the right is a chair on which is a book of hours. The colour throughout is quiet, re-strained, a gray harmony. The faces of the two women are remarkable examples of what portraiture can be. That they were likenesses, contemporary criticism makes evident. But that they are much more, the merest tyro must perceive. The pale, wan, yet peaceful face of the girl, the older, fuller, but even more spiritual face of the mother, show an insight, an appreciation of spirit, and a power of communicating this insight to others that has rarely been surpassed.
Another double portrait is the one of François Mansard and Claude Perrault, architects. M. Mansard is at the left of the two, turning slightly to the right, his face in three-quarters view. Perrault faces him but looks toward the spectator, pointing with his right hand to a statue resting on a column behind. Mansard has a dark moustache, eyes and hair, Perrault is much fairer. The former is dressed in black, Perrault in gray with a white collar. The stone railing on which Mansard’s arm rests makes the base-line of the picture so that the two are shown scarcely to their waists. If not so celebrated as the two nuns or the Richelieu, this is among the best of Champaigne’s portraits. The background, the statue, the somewhat conventional positions, recall Poussin’s influence, but the truth of delineation, the strong individualization, the smiling interest of Perrault suggest even more strongly Champaigne’s Flemish birth and training.
His religious pictures, Christ on the Cross, the Dead Christ, the St. Philip, are all Champaigne Poussinized, and though full of dignity and religious feeling, are too thoroughly impregnated with the classic traditions of the French school to add greatly to Champaigne’s reputation.
The Portrait of Himself is valuable both as a historical document and as a work of art. The painter is delineated middle-aged, sober, the marks of sorrow on his lined face, his regard self-contained and serious, his eyes shining with a courage that illumines the whole face and makes it both lovable and strong. As a technical achievement it is not far below the Perrault in value.
The four pictures of Meel or Miel, his name being spelled both ways, in Bay E are good examples of his style. The style, however, is that of the decadence. He was born in Antwerp, but went to Rome and studied with Andrea Sacchi. His works display dignity, good draughtsmanship, and a colour which, though rich, is often dark to sombreness.
In the foreground of The Halt, a couple of soldiers are asleep on the ground. In the centre of the grotto, which is the encampment of the company, an officer is giving orders to a subordinate. At the right some soldiers are playing cards, a cavalier feeds his horse and others are about a fire. At the left in the plain are the tents of the camp.
Much more of a decadent, and far more Italianized, is Van der Meulen, who has a long list of pictures at the Louvre. He was one of the painters of the court of Louis XIV. and followed that monarch to battle, reproducing scenes of the campaigns on canvas. In many of his works are found excellent portraits of Louis XIV. and other notable people of the day. His landscapes are often too green, though he had Huysmans to assist him in this part of his labours, and his horses, though fairly drawn are not of sufficient variety in character or action. The best of his canvases in the Louvre are, perhaps, The Entry of Louis XIV. and Marie Theresa into Auras ; The View of the Village and Château of Dinant, View of the Fort of Luxembourg and a View of Fontainebleau.
In the first of these, from the left over a vast plain, comes a gilded coach drawn by six white horses. Within are the queen and her ladies in waiting. Her pages march alongside and behind are Louis on a white horse and the Dauphin on a sorrel. They precede a cortége of mounted noblemen. At the right, in the foreground, an assemblage of people watch the procession and in the distance the body of the troops is seen. The fortifiecations of the town make the horizon line.
In both E and F as well as in other rooms of the Louvre, are canvases by Huysmans, he who assisted Van der Meulen in landscape. Huysmans lived at the time of Ruysdael and Wynants. His style reflects some-thing of Rembrandt’s influence especially in his chiaroscuro. He had a way of lighting the interior of a wood or a bit of a clearing with a golden tone that is all the more telling in comparison with the dark colouring surrounding it. His landscapes have real poetic feeling and where they are not spoiled by the dimming of time still show the out-of-door atmosphere that was so admired in his day.
Bay E is mostly given up to works of Jordaens, Van Dyck and Rubens, the rest of their canvases being in the new rooms at the end of the Grande Galerie. When Rubens died, Jordaens was universally regarded as the greatest painter left in Flanders. He was then about forty-seven years old, and had not yet decorated the Maison de Bois with his celebrated Apotheosis of the Prince of Orange. Jordaens has rarely had justice done him either by critics or amateurs. Often he has been dismissed with the summing up that he was little more than an imitator of Rubens. Influenced to a certain extent by the great painter of Antwerp, undoubtedly he was, as was every other painter of that time and land. But he did not become a mere replica of Rubens. He is indeed seen to be more and more unlike him the more they are studied together. To begin with, Jordaens is more truly Flemish. And it does not take long to see what Alexandre points out, that he was more real than Rubens. Rubens produced the visions of his mind to a much greater extent than he copied the views of his optic nerve. Even when he painted actual, every-day scenes or portraits, they had first been passed through the golden alembic of his brain till they were trans-formed into something more brilliant, more intense, more glorious than ever mortal eyes had seen. With Jordaens, on the contrary, his passion for the real, the actual, the present, allowed no such liberty. To paint things exactly as they existed was to him the height of achievement. He would make them more real, if possible, rather than idealize them out of nature. It is this very absorption in the present, the existing, that has caused the slur of ” vulgar ” to be thrown at Jordaens. To our time and race, those bulging, heavy women, those pompous, over-fed burghers may indeed seem common, vulgar. But they were the people of Jordaens’s day and race and in their very truth to nature were neither coarse nor common. Another point of difference between Rubens and Jordaens is their colour-scheme. Rubens’s palette was silvery gray, delicate, fresh ; Jordaens’s hot, brown, and somewhat heavy. Yet vigour, truth, richness and power it had to a tremendous degree. In drawing he was more truthful, more normal, in composition more restrained but not less felicitous, in modelling of flesh and form as masterly. It is indeed, as Alexandre again says, not so much below Rubens that he should be placed. If not quite on the line of Rubens’s pinnacle, he is at least on the same plateau with him, overlooking a vast plain of artists who have been more widely praised.
Jordaens was not so successful in his religious scenes as in his mythologic, historic or portrait pieces. The Four Evangelists, however, is less a religious scene than it is a portrait group of one very young and three elderly men. The one denominated John is in the centre of the four, all of whom are very earnestly and reverently studying an open book on a table at the left. His white robe is so full as to be almost cumbersome and covers him so completely that his head and hands alone are exposed. Hie stands in profile, his head bent over, reading, his left hand holding the drapery at his neck, his right crossing it and resting against his chin. These hands are nervous, sensitive, complementing well the impressible, finely drawn face, with its waving dark hair. At the right is Matthew, who is about to write in a book which he holds before him, evidently copying from the one on the table. He is grizzled, gray, but not so old, apparently, as Mark and Luke who are looking over the shoulders of the other two. The hands of all four Evangelists are full of character and very expressive. They are however, somewhat too prominent and similarly placed. The heads are vigorous, firmly drawn and modelled.
Under titles such as A Family Repast, Concert after Meals etc., scenes similar to the one called here The King Drinks are among the most characteristic of Jordaens. He was never so happy as when he could crowd about a table as many people as the canvas could hold giving variety to the scenes both by the difference of the attitudes and the ages of the company. All sorts and conditions of men, too, he loved to bring together. This one shows his usual method and is an average example, not one of his finest works. There are ten people and one dog about this family board. Among them are an old man and an old woman, a middle-aged man and his slightly younger wife, two maidens, two youths and a child. And it is not too much to say that Jordaens’s brush has expressed wonderfully the soft pliability of youthful roundness, the firmer, harder planes of middle life and again the wrinkled parchment-like flesh of old age. His colour is equally successful in differentiating, his chiaroscuro is splendidly managed. At one end of the table sits he of the family who bears the crown upon his head. He is back to a window so that his face is in shadow, the light striking, however, against his hand holding the goblet from which he is drinking. Behind him stands a young boy pouring wine into the glass of an elderly man at the right of him with the crown. In the foreground, and thus sitting back to the spectator, is the young girl of the party. She has turned her head to look over her right shoulder, however, so that her face comes into three-quarters view, catching a charming play of light on forehead, cheek and nose. Opposite her is the fool, in cap and bells, grinning, as he rests one hand on the hostess’s shoulder and offers her a goblet with the other. This woman is richly dressed and looks at the man at the head of the table with a brilliant smile, Beside her is the small child, next the grandmother, and finally at the end of the table a young man with wide open mouth repeating the note he has just struck from the tuning-fork in his hand. Back of him the head and raised arms of a serving lass are seen, and in the immediate foreground standing beside the maiden, is a dog. All is jollity, glee, all apparently are joining in the song raised by the youth. There is also much charm to be found : note the delightful curves of the girl turning round ; much vigour and strength : see the firm hand holding the tuning-fork or the grandmother’s splendidly drawn face; much amplitude and fulness of design, of massing and of colour.
The Infancy of Jupiter shows Jordaens with a very different subject. At the left a satyr sits laughing and trying to attract the attention of the small Jupiter who sits weeping at the foot of a pear-tree. In the middle of the composition a nude woman is curled up milking a goat. She has turned her smiling face to the baby god, as if assuring him his dinner would soon come. It was in such mythologic scenes that Jordaens fairly revelled. Never was his brush more virile, his colours more brilliant, his composition more telling.
Of the five canvases in Bay F by Van Dyck, the Children of Charles I. is one of the best known. The little Prince of Wales, afterward Charles II., stands at the left with crossed feet, leaning against the base of a pillar, his left hand holding the right of the tiny Duke of York, James II. to be. The third of the trio is the Princess Mary, afterward wife of William of Orange. At the extreme left, beside the heir apparent sits a shaggy dog, soberness and importance shining from his intent eye. The Prince of Wales is in a yellow satin suit with wide lace collar and cuffs, a rich belt about his waist. The other two are in full white satin gowns made with the high waist, low neck, wide sleeves and long stiff-spreading skirt so indissolubly associated with these children of the unhappy Charles. Back of the three hangs a golden brocade, and at the far right a view of a garden. Van Dyck painted so many portraits of these royal babies that they are to be found all over Europe. Never more delightful than when he depicted children, he was perhaps at his best in these portrait groups of the children of the king who so admired the Flemish painter.
The Portrait of the Duke of Richmond is another noted canvas. The very embodiment of slender grace is the youthful duke, with his full bloused shirt, his crimson satin breeches, his blond curls falling on to his shoulders, his long, delicate face with the half-vacuous, half-wondering expression. High breeding, that subtle exhalation of the exquisite in life which Van Dyck better than any other could express, speaks from every long curve of the slender body and hands, from the carefully tended curls, from the bloom of the pure complexion.
Not only could Van Dyck paint the luxurious life, but he could and did live it. However much his and Rubens’s surroundings or their work resemble each other, the men themselves were totally unlike. In spite of the princely magnificence in which Rubens always lived, in spite of the voluptuousness felt in many of his paintings, he himself was most abstemious, with none of the vices too common at that or any age to men in his position. Van Dyck, on the contrary, though perhaps first getting his taste for luxury while he was a pupil of Rubens, carried his extravagant expenditures into every phase of life. When, at forty-four years of age, death finally overtook him, he had thrown away youth, health and wealth in a mad rush for pleasures that once snatched, were only cast away for others, newer and more exciting. Even in his early days when he had only just reached Italy, he spent so lavishly and lived so recklessly that the Italians called him ” il pittore cavalieresco.” It is as a portrait-painter that Van Dyck is known at his best. Though he painted some beautiful religious pictures and some noteworthy historical scenes, it is not in these that his genius finds full expression. As a delineator of the cavaliers, the nobles, the princes, the high-bred men and women of his time, he stands almost unsurpassed. Only Titian can excel him in this branch and he not often. His rendering of flesh, the grace, the delicacy, the fineness of contour, the atmosphere of high breeding with which he surrounds his sitters, these are characteristic of Van Dyck more than of any other painter. As has been often said he lacked the imagination, the unlimited fecundity of ideas, the originality of Rubens, but he was a better draughtsman, a truer colourist and a finer naturalist. In the opinion of the greatest critics, Van Dyck occupies a place in the annals of art quite by himself. They do not allow him to stand with the most mighty of the art giants. Neither can they relegate him to the second rank. Quite by himself, then, he stands, with the eyes of the world following him perhaps even more than they follow his leaders.