THE face of the artist in Papperitz’s picture of Brauwer is so kindly and pleasant that one is glad to believe the latest accounts of him, which assert that he was not such a worthless toper as older writers have made him out to be.
Doctor Johnson said, ” Who drives fat oxen should himself be fat,” and perchance this Dutch painter was (dis)credited with much of the drinking, gambling, and quarrelling which, so far as his own life was concerned, went on only in his pictures. For these were the kind of subjects pot-house brawls and drinking bouts, dice-throwing and maudlin revels, which he always painted, and painted so superbly that genuine works from his hand are most highly prized. Brauwer died when but little over thirty, and his pictures are quite rare.
Vandam has written a vivacious account of an adventurous episode in Brauwer’s life which is well worth quoting.
“It is a sunny afternoon in May, 1634, though very little of its cheerfulness penetrates into the gloomy cell where we meet once more with poor Adriaan. It is part of the prison constructed in one of the angles of the citadel, which was built by the Duke of Alva to keep rebellious Antwerpers in check. How comes he there ? Simply enough. He has been arrested as a spy by the Spanish sbirri. They must have been very bad judges of physiognomy. A spy is a crafty being, whose apparent confidence and assumed tranquillity always more or less betray his circumspection and his fear. Our man is the very reverse; he is indiscretion personified. Those that have seen his portrait, painted by himself, in the gallery at Dresden, will be in a position to judge how much he had in common with a professional espion.
Nevertheless, there he is safe enough under lock and key. Not that he takes the matter an serieux. To beguile the tediousness of his imprisonment he intones now and then a snatch of a Dutch or Flemish patriotic song, or else empties enormous goblets of beer, that is, when he can get them, chaffs his gaolers, draws their caricatures on the walls ; in one word, plays the devil to such an extent that his next-door neighbor, a captive as well as he, and who is no less a personage than Albert de Ligne, Prince de
Barbancon, Comte d’Aigremont and de la Roche, Knight of the Golden Fleece, etc., becomes interested in him, and obtains, by his influence, the permission of the governor that Brauwer shall come and keep him (the prince) company.
“Next day finds the newly made friends seated at the same table, a large apoplectic jug of amber-tinted beer between them ; in the distance, through the small windows, appears at intervals the tan-colored face of some Castilian or Austrian, some caballero, as noble as the King of Spain himself, but obliged to occupy the humiliating position of warder to the Flemings these Gueux,’ as they contemptuously call them, never dreaming that these beggars would almost become their masters in a few years.
” The prince is recounting his adventures of love and war : ” Twice he fights his battles over, Thrice he slays the slain.’
“The painter narrates the story of his young and checkered, though not altogether joyless, life. While still young, he designed flowers and birds on caps, which his mother sold to the peasant women to buy bread ; but even as a child he was already fond of accompanying his father to the ale-house, and a humer le plot, as Rabelais has it.
” He tells him how Hals, struck by his precocious talents, offered to teach him ; how he began to instruct him in the various technicalities, which the most happy genius, if left to itself, could never master, and which can be taught by experience alone; how, when his master saw that his lessons were bearing fruit, he changed his conduct toward him, at the suggestion of Mrs. Hals, a pitiless Megaera, who made him isolate the boy away from his comrades ; how he was shut up in a miserable garret, with hardly any clothes to cover him, and where, almost starved to death, he was forced, day after day, to throw off small pictures, which were sold by Hals at a great price, and of the merits of which he (Brauwer) was absolutely ignorant ; how, following the example of their elder, his fellow-pupils bought drawings of him, which they paid for at the rate of a penny a figure, and which they afterward disposed of for hundreds of guilders ; how, tired of such an existence, he made his way, at the instigation of Van Ostade, his only true friend, to Amsterdam, where he arrived, footsore and penniless, but full of confidence in his youth and the future ; how he sold his first great work, ‘A Quarrel between Peasants and Soldiers,’ to M. de Vernandois, who gave him a hundred ducatons for it ; how that gentleman told him that his productions were already noted and valued ; how he was stupefied by the, to him, enormous sum, and, in the exuberance of his feelings, ran home, emptied the bag of. gold on his pallet, and rolled himself round in it ; how he spent it in ten days, exclaiming, when the last piece was gone, ‘ Thank God, I have got rid of that load, and feel all the lighter for it.’
” Much more does he tell, which space for-bids me to reproduce in detail but through-out the whole tale he shows the same philosophical espieglerie, which never left him till his death.
” He flavors his récit with sundry anecdotes, some of which are so good that I cannot forbear to retail one or two.
” Shortly after his first picture was sold, his parents, to whom he was very good, expostulated with him upon the meanness of his attire. Forthwith he goes to the tailor and orders a splendid justaucorps of velvet, a cloak embroidered with gold lace and satin, and everything to match. The change produced its effect immediately. He received an invitation to a wedding party. In the midst of the dinner, while all the guests are at table, he chooses a dish, the sauce of which appears to him the richest, and throws it over his garments, apostrophising them thus ; It’s you that ought to fare the best, because you, not I, were invited.’ Diogenes could not have surpassed the severity of the reproof.
” One more, and I resume my sketch.
“After being robbed of everything he possessed, he returns to Amsterdam in a most pitiable state. He provides himself, on credit, with a suit of plain linen, covers it, by the aid of his brush, with the most delicious flowers, and takes a walk in the public promenade. Every one’s, but especially the ladies’, attention is drawn upon him, and he is pestered with requests for the address of the manufacturer of the material. His answer is a sponge and some water. With a few strokes he restores l ile de satin of the cure of Meudon.
“Thus chat the prince and the artist. The former encourages him with cheering words, and stimulates him to work. Brauwer asks for brushes and colors, and reproduces, there and then, on the canvas a sketch of the soldiers who are guarding them, sitting at play in the next room.
“The picture finished, Albert de Ligne, mistrustful of his own judgment, sends for Rubens, who no sooner caught sight of it than, like Praxiteles of old, when Apelles had been to visit him in his absence, and left, as the only sign of his call, a figure drawn on the wall, he exclaimed, ‘ This is Brauwer’s ! No one could have treated a scene with so much dash and perfection.’ And on the spot he offers six hundred guilders for it.
“The reader may easily imagine that the Prince de Barbancon did not part with his little treasure.
“The Lord of Stein did not stop there. He took steps to obtain Brauwer’s freedom, lodged him in his own house, admitted him to his table, and provided for all his wants. But the inveterate Bohemianism of Adriaan could not reconcile itself to the regularity of the great painter’s household. The elegance of the latter’s manner, the high-bred tone of his usual companions and friends, were insupportable to Brauwer, whose every movement, whose lightest words were at variance and in discord with his present surroundings. He already began to regret his garret at Haarlem, where, at least, no one censured his doings or criticised his bearing. Unable to hold out any longer, he sells his clothes, flees from his benefactor as from a tyrant, and replunges with ecstasy into disorder and debauch.”
Georg Papperitz, born at Dresden in 1846, has painted many popular pictures, among which may be mentioned “Richard Wagner at Bayreuth,” ” Romeo and Juliet,” and ” Queen of Heaven.”