IN Salle XXXIV. are two portraits of women by Jan van Ravestein, the Dutch painter, who, with the exception of Hals and Rembrandt was scarcely ever equalled as a portrait-painter in his country. There is a largeness, a truth, a brilliancy and a style to this man’s work that, though not seen at the Louvre anywhere near at their height, are at least intimated in these Dutch women. It is in the Hague where he is best represented with his great corporation pictures as well as with his splendid portraits of men. He has not quite the dash, surety and ease of brush-work that distinguish Hals, but his technique is free, full and certain and his colour is equal to Hals at his best. He reminds one, perhaps, of Van Dyck, both in brush-work and in colour.
These two excellent portraits would attract far more attention were they not so near the famous Bohemian Girl of Frans Hals. This picture widely as it is known and admired, critics generally regard as not one of his very greatest works. It has nevertheless, some of the most noted and fascinating characteristics of Hals. The broad freedom of the brush-work, the way he has ex-pressed the gay insouciance of the smiling face, its abandonment to untrammelled jollity, with a sort of whole-hearted ignoring of any unpleasant consequences, the art that can so paint a smile that it does not grow wearisome, all this and more are in this gipsy maiden who looks out so gaily from the rough tangle of her shadowing hair. It is a picture that makes the most fastidious smile in sympathy and puts one at once so in tune with the universe that almost one is ready to smile good-naturedly with her at the whole huge joke of living.
The other Portrait of a Woman by Hals in the same room is very different both in character and technique. She is of the bourgeois class, and is represented standing turned toward the left, her hands crossed at her waist. Her close-fitting cap, deep plain collar and cuffs are white, her dress a sombre black. Though larking some of the brilliant colouring and esprit of his most successful canvases, this has a truth, a sobriety, and a fine sense of values that would make a triumph for any man who had not achieved so much more.
Of yet another calibre is the Portraits of the Van Beresteyn Family, in Salle XXII. This is a picture of father, mother, six children and two nurses. They are seated under the branches of a tree in the midst of an indeterminate landscape. Hals paid as little attention to that as he did to the compositional lines of this picture as a whole. At the extreme left paterfamilias sits cross-legged on a slight hillock, his left arm thrown around his wife’s shoulder. She is sitting a little lower down on the ground beside him, and behind her stands one of the nurses pulling some cherries from the branch over her head for the small boy next his mother. His smiling profile, as he raises his hands in anticipation, is charmingly frank and boyish. Slightly below him a small daughter kneels with her mother’s arm about her waist, while she reaches up a bunch of flowers to her father.
This group has a certain continuity of interest that, if loosely, still does hold it together. At the right on the same plane, is the other nurse, one small child in her arms and clasping the wrist of another standing beside her. In front of them a third tiny maiden is sitting flat on the ground picking flowers, while the fourth infant looks out from behind the nurse. As a composition this picture has little or no merit. As a portrait group of ten people it is a marvellous production. With the exception of the father and mother, every face is smiling, each countenance fairly bubbling over with mirth. The elder ones too, if more sedate, express an equal pleasure. The picture was painted before 163o and is consequently considered to be in his first manner. He has paid great attention to the rich brocades, silks, velvets and laces that clothe these patrician sitters of his, but glowing as are the colours and highly wrought as are the stuffs and laces, they never obtrude to the detriment or eclipse of the speaking faces. The painting has been badly restored, the child on the far right seeming to be almost entirely by another hand.
The separate portraits of Nicholas Van Beresteyn and his wife represent Hals at an even higher plane than does the family group. They stand in their respective frames facing each other. Nicholas is turned toward the right, his wife to the left. Frau Van Beresteyn has her right hand resting on the top of a carved chair, the other hanging closed by her side. The husband’s left hand which holds his hat rests on a table before him, his right is doubled up against his hip. They are in gala attire, with wonderful ruches edged with pointed lace, and deep plaited muslin cuffs elaborately trimmed with lace. Frau Van Beresteyn has a splendid cap that encircles her head with its lace border sticking out like an aureole. Both are in rich brocades, the wife with a deep embroidered stomacher. The drawing of their hands, the modelling of the flesh, the individuality of the faces, the clear transparence of the ” carnations,” the mastery of the technicalities of robes and stuffs, all this makes a remarkable pair of portraits.
The lack of compositional unity apparent in the family group of the Van Beresteyns was a characteristic failing of Frans Hals. It is only as a portrait-painter that he can rank among the great painters of the world. In this line, even if he rests content with portraying simply what he saw on the surface, and thus proves himself to possess less imagination, less depth than Rembrandt; if he has on the whole a less brilliant, scintillating palette than Velasquez, or even than Rubens or Van Dyck, in his own way, within his own self-imposed limitations, he is as great as any painter that ever lived, in certain ways greater. No other man ever so completely revelled in painting as painting. No one else ever expressed such a joy in brush-work that he made the mere manipulation of pigments a great art. It is perhaps this manipulation that differentiates Hals from all other painters. In breadth, in freedom, in dash, in surety, in fulness, in plastic power, in any one of these attributes he has been equalled, perhaps excelled. But no one has had all of them developed to such a tremendous height as he had them. And, as critics have not failed to point out, he copied nobody’s method. He was influenced neither by his contemporaries nor by the men of the past. Besides the technical’ wonders his brush achieved, its greatest marvel is its perfect adaptability to the subjects he depicted. Those beaming, buxom Dutch girls, those smiling, well-nourished, care-free matrons, those joking, laughing, broad-faced cavaliers, or tavern-keepers,what other touch, what other brush ever half so well ex-pressed them? Frans Hals painted in a flat, unforced light, choosing neither a shadow-lurking studio, nor the outdoor glare for his sitters. He is thus less concerned with atmosphere or artificially lighted surroundings than he is with local colour and values. And no one has ever had a keener sense of values or expressed them with freer, flatter tones. In the beginning his colour was some-what brown in the flesh-tones. In the height of his powers it was clear, brilliant, pulsating ; in his old age it grew much grayer till finally it became almost monochromatic. But even at the very end of his long life he never lost his wonderful sense of values.
Not much younger than Hals was Poelenburgh whose pictures in Salle XXII. show him to have been in his own way also an originator. He was a great favourite with Charles I. of England, and if his technique suggests in its finish Dou or Metsu, his colour-scheme was different and he may be said to have originated his own style. He chiefly painted landscapes in which he placed charming little nude figures of nymphs, fauns, Cupids and the like. His flesh-tones are somewhat purplish, but they have the exquisite finish and delicate modelling of the contemporary school of Dutch painters.
In The Bathers are three women preparing for their bath in the river which flows at the right under a wooden bridge. At the left cattle are grazing in the field, and on the horizon breaks a line of mountains. The women are carefully drawn and modelled with a finish like enamel, that nevertheless gives a charming if rather unreal effect to the flesh.
In the View of Mt. Palatine and the Temple of Minerva, Poelenburgh had a chance to make his usual ruins historically and geographically accurate. A herdsman, his very presence emphasizing the age-long wreck of the palace of the emperors, is in the centre of the picture, with his dog. He is talking with a peasant woman, while on the plains the cattle graze. At the right upon the mountain are the imperial ruins. Finish, joined to a certain sort of logical truth is perhaps the strongest characteristic of this little picture.
In the same room are several paintings by Gerard Honthorst, who, unlike most of the Dutch school was strongly influenced by Italian art, especially by Caravaggio. The intensity of his shadows and the sharpness of his lights led to his being called Gherardo delle Notte. Most of his work is too ostensible, too made, too forced in its scheme of chiaroscuro. He delighted in having only candle-rays for the light of a whole composition. By this method one small spot would shine with a brilliancy greatly exaggerated by the depth of the shadows about. The works of his in the Louvre are not remarkable though they show his usual tendencies.
In Robert of Bavaria the prince is bareheaded, turned three-quarters to his right. The wide guipure collar, the green sash, and the sword are as carefully painted as is the face. It was regarded as a fine portrait in its day, but it is a mediocre work.
The Man with the Lute is decidedly better. In style of subject this somewhat suggests Hals, though Hals never dealt in such cold, deep shadows. The player is shown seated before a table, the lute resting upon it and in his arms. He has lifted his head and is smiling, and, apparently, singing, with grimaces that divide his merry countenance into wrinkles. Before him on the table is a huge beer-mug, and the whole air of the picture is convivial and rollicking to the last degree. It has less of the artificial effect of lighting than many of Honthorst’s.
Jan van Goyen died the same year as Honthorst, 1656. He was one of the earliest of Dutch landscape and marine painters, and was one of the very first to’ give to the sky a real place of importance in a picture. His skies were always remarkably in accord with his fields, his canals, his seas, and they were always full of light, with big fleecy clouds, through which shone gleams of the sun or bits of the blue. The banks of canals or shores of rivers are his usual subjects, and the scenes of his which are in Salle XXIII. are fairly representative.
Salles XXXI. and XXXII. are called Rembrandt rooms and are full of gems by this greatest of Dutch masters. In calling Rembrandt that, all critics agree. The term however does not in the least define or limit his genius, and it is just this definition and limitation about which students, painters and critics have widely disagreed. Rembrandt, the marvellous technician, yet often the slovenly workman ; the greatest realist of his own or any time, yet one of the idealistic dreamers of the world; Rembrandt, the unflattering, argus-eyed portrait-painter; Rembrandt, the mystic ; Rembrandt the Lutheran ; Rembrandt, the religious painter par excellence since Fra Angelico ; Rembrandt, the portrayer of the common, the unlovely; Rembrandt, who made flesh look as if it were only a golden reflection of the impenetrable shadows that nearly submerged it; Rembrandt, who painted flesh as glowing, pulsing, rich, as even Rubens or Van Dyck; Rembrandt, whose compositions were unformed, ill-balanced ; Rembrandt who balanced, massed, combined his portrait groups into compositions unexcelled by Raphael himself ; Rembrandt, whose brush-work is thick, rough, heavy, muddy ; Rembrandt, whose surface is as thin, as smooth, as polished, as free, as supple as Velasquez ; above all and always Rembrandt the thinker, the originator, the free man, dependent on no one before or beside him, thinking his own thoughts, and expressing them in his own way, and leaving to posterity a mass of works enough for three lifetimes. And among these are masterpieces such as no one else has equalled, master-pieces that the whole western world agrees in calling among the few great treasures of art of all time.
The Home of the Carpenter was painted about 1640. It shows the carpenter back to in his shirt-sleeves by the open window at the right working at his planing-board. In front, at the right of him, but still at the left of the centre of the picture sits the mother holding the little naked baby to whom she offers her breast. At her right is the grandmother, who has paused reading from the big book in her lap to lift the covering from the child’s face The whole light of the picture is concentrated upon the child and the mother’s breast save where it rests upon the floor in front in the shape of a square made by the reflection of the open window. By this arrangement the father, the grandmother and the mother’s face are thrown into a half-light. But all the rest of the room, where a large mantel-place fills one side and various pieces of furniture and utensils other parts, is submerged in a deep brooding shadow.
It is a bit out of the life of a simple Dutch family here, such as Rembrandt must have seen daily about him. The mother is lovely only by her care and tenderness, the child is a round Dutch baby. Yet so full of feeling, so rich in tone, so wonderful in lighting is this little scene that almost it seems as if no one else ever painted so beautiful a Holy Family.
In this salle are two canvases, each called The Philosopher in Meditation. They are very similar in treatment, and were painted about four years apart. In one canvas the old man, wrapped in his fur coat and huge cap sits by the window in the vaulted room alone, plunged into the deep thought apparently quite apart from the books lying on the table before him. In the other picture, the dreaming scholar is not alone. Several women are about, though in the gloom of the vaulted chamber they are of little importance. These two scenes are among the first examples of Rembrandt’s work in chiaroscuro, when the subtility of light and shade plays so important a part in his pictures. The colours of the two are grayish, almost monochromatic.
The Angel Raphael Quitting Tobias is no less remarkable for its chiaroscuro, and it has much more variety of colour. Gathered on the porch of a house are Tobias and his family, while immediately above them at the right of the picture, the angel is just rising into the heavens. Tobias himself is prostrate on the lowest step, his son on his knees beside him. Behind them on the step above, the son’s wife stands with prayer-met hands, her face lifted in wonder to the departing heavenly visitant. Leaning against her, with her head on her shoulder is the wife of Tobias, overcome both at the apparition and at her own lack of faith. Between the two groups is a dog, his attitude one of crouching fear.
The light is concentrated about the figure of Raphael. With extended arms, wings and legs he is shown in a foreshortened back view. If the spread feet suggest a little the feeling of swimming in the ether, rather than flying, and if they are a little awkward and ugly in their lines, the wonderful illumination of the whole figure, the beautiful tones of the feathery wings, the brilliant white tunic, and the glory of the heavens into which he will shortly vanish at once make up for any such shortcomings. Almost all the rest of the picture is enveloped in a rich shadow scarcely lifted except where the radiance from above strikes Tobias’s bent head and neck and parts of the face and breast of the son’s wife. This is quite sufficient, however, to hold the connection between the upper and lower part of the composition. And the effect of this lighting is wonderful in its depth of expression. Nothing more reverent, more impressive could be imagined than Tobias as he rests on hands and knees. The light that strikes his fine old head is like a spiritual radiance from within that answers to the celestial beams from above. Complete faith, humble gratitude, soul-exaltation, all are expressed by this wonderful management and focusing of light. Almost as telling is the light that strikes upon the son’s wife. The mysticism, the ideality, the real religion of Rembrandt’s art is here given expression, if not so fully and so freely, yet almost as beautifully as in the Good Samaritan which is near by.
This was painted about 1648 and is Rembrandt in his full power. At the entrance of an inn whose windowed wall extends more than half across the whole of the canvas, a boy servant holds the bridle of the horse from which the sick man has been taken. Two other servants bear the weak traveller between them,. On the steps, in fuller light, stands the Samaritan waiting for his guest and looking at him with sorrow and pity, and behind him, a trifle higher on the step in the shadow, is his good wife. From the window of the tavern several heads are peering, and below a couple of horses are tied. The day is dying, the light from the twilight-filled sky only touches here and there the group about the sick man, now emphasizing the line of a shoulder, here throwing a face into half-light, now touching the bandage about the ill one’s head, anon hitting his thin knees, softly rounding the flank of one of the horses and striking more broadly the lower angle of the tavern wall, and finally resting squarely over the upper part of the Samaritan’s figure. The rest of the scene is enveloped in the darkness of the oncoming night, full of the rich, dark harmonies Rembrandt alone knew how to express. Here once more the art so peculiarly Rembrandt’s own is wonderfully adapted to the subject treated. Nothing else, no other way of painting, assuredly, would have so visualized, and so intensified the reality and the beauty of the old story. Pathos, tenderness, subdued strength, the mystery and beauty of goodness all seem a part of this subtle, caressing shadow of the sinking day.
This same mystery of darkness plays an important part in Christ at Emmaus. In a shadowy room the two disciples sit in profile facing each other at the ends of the small white-covered table. With them is the Master, so sitting that he is in full face, with the table in front of him, a disciple on each side. His hands break the bread while his eyes are raised to heaven asking the blessing. And it seems as if it was only at that instant that his two followers had realized who he was. The one at the left who has turned till he is nearly back to, joins his hands in prayer, the other has started back in astonishment and is gazing eagerly at the guest, as if not yet quite certain of his identity. A servant at his side is placing a dish upon his shoulder. He, apparently sees nothing to startle him, though his face like the others is lighted by the strange effulgence that plays behind and about the Saviour of men.
Fromentin says of this composition, so small in size, so rough in execution, that no other painter has ever imagined the Christ like this, with the marks of torture still showing on his darkened lips, the great, deep, wide-open eyes lifted heavenward, the halo, a phosphores cent envelop that submerges him in glory, and his face bearing the inexplicable look of a living, breathing human being, who has passed through death ; with his bearing so impossible to describe and more so to copy, with the entire feeling of the face where there is yet scarcely a defined feature, these are the things which no art recalls and which no one before Rembrandt and no one after has expressed so marvellously.
The Portrait of an Old Man, painted about 1638 is an interesting study, if far below the compositions de-scribed above. He is represented in full face enveloped in a big cloak, his head bare and almost bald, with a long beard, and graying moustache.
Of the four Portraits of Rembrandt at the Louvre, three show him as a young man. They are all painted in three-quarters view, the earlier three on oval canvases. The one without a cap shows him with his bushy, curly hair thick about his head, wearing a violet velvet cloak draped with a golden chain set with pearls. There are already some of the familiar wrinkles in his ‘forehead between his eyes, but they are the sort that come from close and sustained thought rather than from worry or trouble. His eyes are bright, his face is full and round, everything bespeaks the man of youth, of love, of good fortune, the rich clothes and jewels no more than the easy pose, the comfortable, happy expression, the light in the eye, the eager mouth.
In the other two he has a velvet cap ornamented with a golden chain, other gold chains about his neck, and frankness, good humour, happiness still radiate from the face, that, though far too heavy and loosely modelled ever to be beautiful, has a mobility, a life, an intelligence, that make it wonderfully interesting. Rembrandt’s hand was perhaps not at the height of its power when he painted these three. Any one of them, nevertheless, easily ranks among the great portraits of the world.
The fourth was done when he was old, poor, disregarded by the very public that had once adored him, pressed by difficulties on every side. Yet it is not hard to trace in this portrait the indomitable energy, the uncomplaining spirit, the steady purpose, the love of art that remained with him up to the last gloomy year of his life. It was painted the year before the famous Syndics, in 166o. It has not the glowing colour of that masterpiece, nor the haunting, mysterious shadows of transcendent lights of many of his earlier works. It is somewhat murky, this painting of the old man in his white cap that, looking like a night-hood, ill assorts with the long fur-bordered robe hanging loosely about his figure. In his left hand he holds his palette and brushes, in his right his maulstick. He is standing in three-quarters view, facing toward his left, before a canvas on an easel. Gone are the gold chains, the velvet caps, the pearl earrings, the rich surroundings of his earlier years. The plain walls of a bare room are his only background, and in the uncompromising flatness of the rather dull tones, the too heavy brush-work, one seems to read the rebuffs that made this royal good fellow of 1634, an old, tired man, with the homely, hanging double chin, the wrinkled, heavy skin, the short, scant hair. But still the mouth presses firmly together, still the eyes look out squarely, surely, and still shines the unbroken spirit of the man who kept free and young in the love of his life, his art.
One of Rembrandt’s pupils was Adriaen van Ostade, whose effects of chiaroscuro gained for him the title of ” the little Rembrandt.” He painted generally the extremely ugly. His tavern scenes, his drinking and smoking men, even his home interiors, show the Dutch peasant in his homeliest, most awkward, rudest aspect. Yet so glowing is the colour, so marvellous the arrangement of light and shade, that in spite of the gaucheries of form, the clumsiness of action, they are in their own way really beautiful. His brother Isaack was his pupil and in the beginning copied his style of painting. Soon he dropped that to paint landscape in which he achieved decided success. Though he has a brownness of shadow, his scenes are remarkably fresh, breezy and brilliant. He has a keen observation and rejoices in depicting the picturesque details of his tavern-yards, his river-banks, his frozen canals. Both of these brothers are well represented at the Louvre, pictures by them being in Salles XXIV., XXV., XXXI., XXXIIÎ., and XXXIV.
Among the most noted by the older man is the family group of himself, his wife, his six children and his brother Isaack and his wife. It is one of his largest can-vases, measuring thirty-two inches in length by twenty-eight in height. As a portrait group the figures are combined skilfully enough so that the lines are pleasing if not distinguished, the massing easy if not striking. The extreme elongation of the group gave Ostade a superb chance to paint the varying tones of black garments and white caps and collars. These blacks have been called among the most wonderful renderings known of this most difficult colour. Ostade himself, a middle-aged man, in big soft black hat, knee-breeches, low ties and a wide white collar sits at the left holding on his knee the chubby hand of his wife who sits beside him. Her mouth is a bit open and her face is turned to her husband. The little gesture of her left hand indicates the conversation she is carrying on with her good man, who, though he is assuredly listening, is looking out and away. Five small girls of varying age are grouped in a more or less broken line extending from the mother’s knee almost to the right of the picture. Their positions are all natural, easy and full of childlike vivacity. A little behind the group, in the centre, stand Isaack and his wife side by side. Back of his father’s chair and at the left is the boy of the family, smiling and holding his gloves in one hand. All these personages are in black except the two smallest children in front, one of whom has a maroon dress, the other a gray. It is a free, realistic, lifelike group and would do honour to the greatest painter. The flesh-tones are clear and living, the modelling supple and simple, the draperies wonderful creations of tone.
The Fish Market is another celebrated scene by Ostade. Sitting at his counter in nearly full face, the old merchant lifts with one hand the fish he has been cleaning and looks up as if he regarded some possible purchaser. He is in a cool, even light that does not, to be sure, suggest out-of-doors though the booth is open. Behind him are other booths and a crowd of people under the shadows of the projecting roofs, and farther beyond still, the sun-light of real outdoors. The management of the shadow, the softness and graded tones of its mass, the light back of it emphasizing its own luminosity, show the influence of Rembrandt. The drawing, modelling and colour of the old fish-seller are all more than admirable, as is the atmosphere of the whole thing, with its warm, golden light, and its humid shadow.
Still another is The Reader. Out of an open window above which a grape-vine falls down in two graceful sprays, leans the jolly old man who has apparently stopped reading to answer the call of some one below. His right hand still holds the paper, his left his glasses. On his head is his soft black hat, behind him, the deep shadow that allows no details of the room to be seen. His wrinkled, fat, coarse face is wreathed in a kindly smile. The green overcoat and undersleeves of maroon make a fine bit of colour, and the lighting of the face and hands and their relation to the white paper show splendid feeling for colour.
Perhaps the best of Isaack van Ostade’s works in the Louvre are his Frozen Canals, though his Halts before Taverns and his Winter Scene are all good. The Frozen Canal in Room XXIV. shows a high bank with naked trees and old thatched cottages rising out of the wide frozen canal, a strip of lower shore cutting diagonally across as foreground. Near this shore a man and woman come skating rapidly and behind them are a dog and a small boy doubled up with the cold. At the left another small child pushes herself along on a sled and at the right two boys have stopped while one tightens his straps. On the shore at the left of the picture two other children push to the canal a sled bearing two of their companions, and up on the bank a peasant drives an old gray horse hitched to a truck. In the distance are boats and ships in the ice, other skaters, and farther off mills and roofs of the village. This is a striking winter scene of Holland, full of truth, life and action and fairly pervaded with the cold whiteness of the ice and snow.
Van der Helst, who in the judgment of his fellow countrymen was considered almost equal to Rembrandt as a portrait-painter is only meagrely represented at the Louvre. In his day his clear, bright, sharp portraits with their admirable construction, definite portraiture and elaboration of detail were given highest praise. Today his colour seems hard and somewhat artificial and his dislike to use chiaroscuro or to make one part of his pictures more predominant than another, all militate against his being considered a real master.
His Judging of the Archery Prize is a small reproduction of the larger one at Amsterdam. Sitting around a table covered with a gaily striped cloth are four of the chiefs of the archery companies of Amsterdam. They are looking at the rich prizes in gold and silver and evidently are discussing their merits. Behind them at the left a serving-woman carries a huge drinking-horn ornamented with silver trimmings. At the right, again, in the hall beyond, three young men are seen standing, holding their bows and arrows and watching the group about the table. A huge slate with the score upon it rests against the leg of the table almost in the centre of the picture. At the left is a spaniel. These figures are splendidly and finely drawn, each one admirably posed, the action of the heads and bodies being in absolute accord. The colour is clear and brilliant, if somewhat sharp.
In his Portrait of a Man, Van der Helst shows his mastery of line, of contour, along with his remarkable power as a discriminating delineator of feature, position and character. The man is standing with his left hand spread out on his coat just below his neck. He is in full face, bareheaded, wears a turned-down collar of lace tied with cords ending in two tassels, and is dressed in black with open sleeves showing the full white shirt-sleeves beneath.
In the same room with many of Rembrandt’s great works are the little genre pieces of Gerard Dou, who it is claimed was a pupil of the great man. From Rembrandt he undoubtedly acquired his knowledge of the value of chiaroscuro and how to employ it. From him, too, he perhaps learned the art of composition which in his own way he interpreted as wonderfully as his master. But essentially, no two painters were ever more diametrically opposed in most of their expressions. Besides the mere matter of large or tiny pictures, of splashing, broad, or infinitesimal brush-work, of disregard of accessories, or of microscopical attention to the most insignificant details, besides such superficialities of differences, it is the under-lying aim of the two men that is so dissimilar. With Rembrandt it is always the thought, the emotion behind his faces, below the scenes. Very different is it with Dou and with the Dutch school of which he is a leading representative. It is never the soul-thought, the hidden spirituality or the real nature underneath the common-place exterior with which he is concerned. If he paints a buxom Dutch maiden on her way from market with a fowl slung over one arm and a milk-can over the other, he paints her just as he saw her, and as undoubtedly she would wish to be seen. If she had been neglected by her lover only the day before it was not Dou’s business to proclaim her sorrow to the world. The Dutch maiden you may be sure would have kept it quite hidden behind her frank pleasant eyes. Dou, then, confined himself to painting the homeliest of daily scenes such as the merest observer was familiar with. But he so filled them with colour, light, fine composition, and extreme finish, as only, begging pardon of Mr. Van Dyke and others, as only an artist, not an artisan could do. It is this extreme love of the minute things in his picture, this lavish care bestowed upon the feathers of a dead bird, the high light in a brass firkin, the shine in a flask of water, where, too, each of these articles is itself scarcely an inch high, that has helped to make critics belittle Dou’s art. Poet, he may not have been, yet whose canvases tell more truly their tale, if it is a simple one? Whose transcripts of the daily life of the humble or middle class are truer or more perfect in their own way? If Dou has never penetrated into the ecstasies or agonies of the human soul, is it not also the province of art to show the beauty, the colour, the charm of the daily, the usual, the ordinary? And that Dou has done with no uncertain brush. From his tiny porcelain-like finished canvases one learns that in the midst of fearful wars of Church and state, at a time when Spanish persecutions and Louis XIV. absolutism were contending for the life and soul of the whole Dutch country, the simple joys of quiet home life still flourished in the dyke-built land, and virtue, integrity and a quiet courage were not difficult to find. Or at least Dou found them. Even in burgher Holland it must have required some selection, for a painter to have always read so honourable a tale. Perhaps, then, after all, he had a bit of the poet’s insight that can see the true, the simple.
The Dropsical Woman was painted in 1633 when Dou was fifty years old. It is universally considered one of his masterpieces. Even his detractors have granted to this a certain sentiment and feeling which they claim is ” unusual ” for the painter. It is larger than many of Doll’s works and must have taken him long to paint, judging from the stories which credit him with spending five days on a lady’s hand and three on an inch-high broomstick. The picture represents the interior of a handsome room lighted through the tiny panes of a high Gothic window, which is at the left of the picture and by a small round one immediately above it. Here, in front of the window-settle the sick woman lies back in her big chair, too ill so much as to look at her young daughter who kneels before her clasping her loosely hanging hand. Behind the mother is an elderly serving-woman leaning over her with a spoon in her hand.
More at the right of the picture, beside and in front of his patient, stands the doctor, in a brave purple silk robe, looking at a round glass flask of medicine. He is in profile, facing the window, so that he is mostly in full light. The shadow behind him and back in the distance of the room is wonderfully atmospheric in its gradations of tone and no less masterly is the management of the heavy shadows in the folds of his rich robe. Every piece of furniture, every bit of carving, the thick brocaded portière that is looped up in front of the scene, the simple one drawn back on its rod at the window, the reading-desk with its big Bible, the hanging brass chandelier, catching the light on its polished sides, every bit of the surroundings of the scene is carried to the extreme point of finish Dou alone could accomplish. Yet the minuteness of execution does not take away from the pathos of that group whose centre is the sick mother. Surely here is story enough for even a Preraphaelite, though dealing with the sorrows of daily life would probably not interest those who see poetry and feeling only in the myths of the past.
At the Grocery is one of Dou’s smaller pictures, measuring fourteen inches in height by ten and a half in width. Considering the size of this panel it is amazing to see how much is within it. The picture is bounded by the lines of the big open window which has a wide curve at the top like a Romanesque arch. Running diagonally backward from its wide sill is the counter at the right of which is the mistress of the shop. Opposite her are two customers and in the background among the shadows a boy is seen carrying a jar before him. Of the two customers the one in front is an old woman sitting at the counter reckoning the amount of the various pieces of silver spread out before her, and the other is a gay young girl in kerchief and cap. She has drawn her left hand through the handle of her big basket and leans slightly on it as she looks up smiling at the shop-keeper who is weighing her purchase on the scales she holds. On the window-ledge before these are a bunch of carrots, some onions, and a large earthen jar, and on the side of the opening above hangs a basket of eggs. Behind are well-filled shelves and farther back various grocery belongings appear dimly among the shadows. Here, the finish of workmanship, the polish, the attention to every scrap of detail is carried to its limit. But, once more, the people are what really hold the attention. Especially does the eye linger on the fresh young maid, at whom the awkward boy is gazing so furtively.
The Girl with a Fowl is again framed by the wide-arched window. ” Prosaic and trivial ” this, as well as many other transcripts of daily life, has been called. It shows Dou’s consummate mastery of line, colour and an indefinable charm that in spite of its ordinary subject continues to attract the connoisseur, the amateur and the public. Standing behind the sill of the arched window, a young servant-maid leans forward to hang a rooster on a nail outside, her other hand resting upon a big copper basket. Beside her a tipped-up silver coffee-pot is airing next to a heavy candlestick, above which is a bird-cage attached to the side of the window. The piquant-faced curly-haired girl might be the same but now buying of the grocer-lady. There is a hint of wistfulness in her bright eyes and perhaps she is thinking of the dull grocer laddie. But with no less care than he gave to her fair face, Dou has painted the brilliant-hued cock, the shining bit of copper, the silver coffee-pot, the cage and the candlestick. Each has its own beauty of colour, and form, its exact value ; and everywhere is that insistence upon actuality, truth. The panel is only eight by ten inches and is dated 165o.
Like Dou, Ferdinand Bol was also a pupil of Rembrandt, and a very famous one. At his best he was so much like the greater man, that his works have often been taken for Rembrandt’s. Later in life however, he became sadly Italianized and Rubensized, and lost much of the beauty of tone and luminosity of shadow which had been so characteristic of him. His best portraits have life, dignity, poise, insight. He shows himself master of his material and uses it with the freedom and ease of a man to whom it is merely valuable as a medium for expressing ideas.
The Mathematician by him in Salle XXXI., is one of his finest portraits. Sitting sidewise with his right arm resting upon the stone balustrade the professor holds before him in his left hand a copper rule with which he points to a geometrical figure drawn upon the board behind him. He has turned his face over his left shoulder till, in three-quarters view, it is gazing straight out at you, to whom, apparently he is explaining the problem. It is a face as full of character as it is of technical beauties. The firm mouth, the finely-lined nose, the clear, questioning eyes, the full broad forehead, all speak the man of logical mind, of an unruffled, contemplative nature. The fulness about the chin and the rather delicate hand hint a certain fondness of the good things of life. Soft, waving hair falls about the neck on to the broad white collar and on his head is a black skull-cap at an angle suggestive of ” bonhomie.” The total relations between the flesh, the gray hair, the white collar and the black robe are wonderfully fine. Not less so is the shadow on the left side of the face, breaking as it does into reflected light by the eye and deepening again under the nose.
The hand is modelled with a surety and a simplicity that bespeak ease of draughtsmanship. The whole pose is as natural, as dignified and as inevitable as if the professor had been suddenly surprised elucidating a problem in his own class-room.
The Portrait of a Man is another excellent work, He is standing on a balcony leaning with his left arm upon the railing which is behind him. This brings him into a three-quarters position facing toward the right. The light comes from the left, throwing the right side of his face, his white collar and both hands into strong relief., Dressed in black, the cuffs and collar alone breaking the sombreness, the man’s face is almost Spanish in its contour. Of a rather long type, high bridged and long nose, large, full-lidded eyes, finely curved mouth which the small moustache does not hide, his hair waving over his high forehead and about his ears, this unknown gentleman has a serious, intent aspect that proclaims this a capital portrait.
Less like Bol but more, in a way, like Dou are the five pictures by Ter Borch in these Dutch rooms. It is only, however, in their carefulness of finish that they remind one of the latter, for Ter Borch was as original and had as distinctive a style as any man of the Dutch school. No rowdy parties, no brawling tavern-scenes, no questionable company appear in the scenes of this gentleman painter. They all breathe the air of gentle breeding, sometimes, one is tempted to feel, almost to inanity. His brush, like Dou’s, but very differently, is always depicting the simplest of scenes and he is especially happy in suggesting the varying shades of even commonplace expression. In fact it is the commonplaces of eminently correct society that all of Ter Borch’s panels portray. And it is the minute variations of expression of this great respectability that he delineates best of all. A half smile, a tentative glance of curiosity, a fleeting look of incredulity, a questioning lift of eyebrows, a quiescent pause where the expression is absolutely blank, this is what Ter Borch can do better than anybody else and with the simplest means. His marvellous draughtsmanship is apparently so little allied to art, to study, to effort, that it is as difficult to try to copy one of his figures as it is to copy life itself. His colour was restrained but full of fine gradations, his sense of values and of contrast both equally strong. He was one of the greatest of Holland’s painters and in his own line does not fall far below Hals or even Rembrandt.
In The Concert, in Salle XXVI., the young girl so often seen in Ter Borch’s pictures is the central object of interest. She sits in profile, by a table with a gay cover, facing toward the left. Her blond head with its full, childlike forehead, its small chin, its yellow curls tied with black velvet ribbons, her white satin skirt falling in folds that catch and reflect the lights and shades so entrancingly, all are familiar to us, but yet, as ever with Ter Borch, all is new. She is sitting with downcast eyes, singing from the sheet of music held in her left hand, while with the right she beats time. Standing on the other side of the table in full face is another girl playing upon a guitar. She is dressed in gray with a white chemisette. At the right just behind the first girl’s chair, a page enters the room bearing a salver. He is not hurrying, and the smile on his lips and the retrospective expression in his eyes give the reason. He is decidedly interested in the concert. Behind all is a tapestry hanging which sinks dimly into the back-ground without, however, the depth of shadow which Dou would have thrown upon it.
It is a characteristic bit by Ter Borch, a simple, unpretentious scene with few accessories and none of Dou’s insistence upon detail. There is too, far less evident delight in brush-work, per se. Ter Borch uses his brush as a tool, not as an object in itself. As brush-work how-ever, it is supple, full, fat, broad and inclusive, delicate and fine, with exquisite accents and subtle touches, so subtle that they are noticed only after careful examination. It is reality that concerns Ter Borch, and reality is what he expresses.
The Music Lesson is another variation of a subject which was a favourite with him. Seated with his elbow resting on a table covered with a red cloth, the young musician is playing on a guitar to his fair pupil who – stands in front of him at the right, holding an open book. She is listening while he sings, and somehow there is a suggestion that this white-satin gowned, blond young woman, has more ability to listen than to execute. At all events a bored expression hovers on the musician’s face and it does not appear that he will be sorry to be interrupted by the summons of the servant who has just opened the door in the background. He is extremely well dressed, this nonchalant teacher, with his big Spanish riding-boots and spurs, his wide-brimmed hat on the floor beside him, his waving black hair, his gray cuffs and collar, his baggy trousers. The girl, too, is more than richly robed. There is a magnificence about the folds of her bordered satin gown, the lace in the sleeves, the necklace, that speak wealth and leisure. It is a leisure that perhaps tends to somnolence, as exemplified in her own heavy-lidded eyes and in the little dog curled up asleep on the chair behind her.
Besides the charming colours of the picture, with the soft sheen of the satin, the more vivid note struck by the table-cover, this counterbalanced by the black suit of the musician; besides the absolute justness of the values, with the exact and actual relation between flesh and stuffs, stuffs and furniture, furniture and walls besides the solidity and strength of drawing, with such feeling of bone and muscle and form beneath those velvets and satins ; besides the excellence of composition with the inevitableness of position and placing; besides, finally, the actuality and individuality of the man and girl, there is something else that is even less often in even the works of the greatest masters. It is the unconscious reality of the picture as a whole, if it may be so expressed, and it is this appearance of actuality in all Ter Borch’s scenes that makes them so remarkable.
One of the very best of his works to be seen anywhere, is in Salle XXIX., called An Officer Offering Money to a Young Girl. It gives the interior of a room, where, beside a table covered with red, sits a young girl holding a glass decanter on one knee from which she is about to fill the wine-glass in her other hand. She has been interrupted by the Dutch officer who sits at her left slightly in front. He is reaching out his fat open hand, in which are several pieces of money. It is this movement which has made the girl stop a moment, and she is gazing down at that ” unctuous palm ” quite oblivious of anything else. The officer meanwhile is looking at her with a roll of his eyes over his fat cheeks that suggests anything or nothing as one may please to interpret. Equally enigmatic is the quiet, downward look of the girl. It is not at all certain what that blond head is thinking. In fact the countenances are as doubtfully definite as they would be in real life. The modelling of these two figures is beyond praise. The solid bulk of the soldier is no more marvellous than the construction of those pudgy hands, they no more perfect than the silken folds of the white satin gown, the fluffy fur about the yellow jacket or the very droop of those hiding eye-lids of that little blond head.
Fourteen pictures by Wouverman and ten by Jardin are found in these Dutch rooms, Though modern taste has relegated these two most popular painters of their day to nearly complete oblivion, they really deserve neither such total ignoring nor the sweeping condemnation bestowed upon them by Ruskin. They were both men of decided parts, who drew with a correct and facile pencil, whose colour was generally pleasing and whose figures had individuality and not seldom distinction. Wouverman especially was a tremendous worker, Smith in his ” Catalogue Raisonné” crediting him with between seven and eight hundred pictures. They both painted all sorts of subjects, Wouverman particularly being equally at home in any scene from a cavalry charge to a picnic group of ladies and cavaliers. He delighted in filling his compositions with horses, and generally the highest light in them falls upon a white horse. It is a sign of his ingenuity and of a certain sort of fecundity, that he almost never has duplicated a single picture. Even the white horses are never the same. In spite of many excellencies neither he nor Jardin had the ability or the charm of either of the Ostades.
Among Wouvernlan’s more important works in the Louvre may be mentioned The Fat Ox, The Stag Hunt, and The Cavalry Charge that is in Salle XXVIII.
In the first of these the ox is being led by two butchers along a road bordered by an old city wall. The huge animal is ornamented with wreaths and bears on his back two great glasses. Leading the procession are a man who plays a tambourine and some children. At the right are more peasants and other spectators, among them a cavalier holding his son on the saddle before him. This picture is painted in the silvery gray tones Wouverman affected toward his later years.
The Charlatans at the Fair by Jardin is a representative work. Standing on a platform made by boards resting on barrels, the quack is in profile haranguing the crowd before him. At his side on a table is his big open box of drugs and sitting on the platform with his legs crossed and a mask on his face, a harlequin sings to his guitar. Behind the quack, peering through a crack in some curtains Punchinello’s face is seen leering. Among the listening crowd are a peasant woman with a baby on her back, a donkey pannier-laden, on the top of which sits a boy, a man with a great cloak drawn about him and various others. It is a composition which on the whole justifies Alexandre’s remarks that both Wouverman and Jardin were painters of neither the real Dutch nor yet of the Italian schools. They followed what happened to be the fashion of the time and had really few ideas and less originality in expressing them.
A much greater man than either was Aelbert Cuyp of Dordrecht, who has six panels in these rooms. Fromentin places him in the ” first rank,” though below not only Rembrandt, of course, but also Ruysdael and Potter. He has been called the ” Dutch Claude,” and it is the wonderful atmospheric splendour that fills his canvases that has given him the greatest renown. He did not confine himself to landscape, however, portraiture, still life, flowers, the sea, cattle, horses and interiors were frequent subjects for his facile brush. He was at his best, nevertheless, in landscape, in which he always placed both people and animals. His colour, especially when he portrays the hazy mist that rises over sun-bathed fields, or the golden pathway across a meadow at midday, or again when the cool glimmer of the moon strikes the silent river or cuts athwart a bank, then, his colour is fairly pulsating with an effulgence that only Claude before him approached and which only the modern impressionists have excelled.
One of his best works here is the landscape in Salle XXX. At the right in the foreground a herd of cows graze in a field. At the left, some children, seated near a dog, listen to a shepherd blowing on a reed. In the middle distance is a river, and on the banks opposite the mills and houses and the tower-clock of Dordrecht. At the right upon a mountainside a flock of sheep and three shepherds.
The Marine is not one of his best, but the Departure for the Promenade is a noted example. Two mounted cavaliers are at the left in front of the walls of a house. A servant is handing one of them his stirrup, the other is ready to ride off. There is much bright colour here, with the horsemen in red and gold and black and gold, the servant with his green coat and the bay and dapple gray horses. Two dogs are at the left of the group, one lying down, heedless of those about, the other standing watching. The light is brilliant over this foreground group, and the middle distance is full of soft haze. The horses, as was apt to be the case with Cuyp are rather too large-headed for their round bodies.
Unlike most Dutchmen of his time, Cuyp did not care for extreme finish or polished brush-work. He painted broadly and freely and, like Rembrandt, one part at least of his picture is generally lost. Rembrandt loses it in shadow, Cuyp lets it disappear in the blaze of the sun.
Though Fromentin places Cuyp on a lower plane than Paul Potter, there are few of Potter’s actual works that are equal to the better examples of Cuyp’s talent. Paul Potter is to be judged rather by his promise than by his performance. A recognized painter when only fifteen, he died of the wasting disease he had fought from boy-hood at the age of twenty-nine. He was almost entirely self-taught, and seems to have been little influenced by the great men of his or any time. If he had lived he undoubtedly would have accomplished greater things in his chosen line than even the famous Bull at The Hague. Most of his paintings that are scattered among the European museums, are, in comparison with this Bull, tentative, unskilled, uncertain, not much more than studies. In them is seen almost nothing but his picayunish habit of emphasizing detail, drawing with pains-taking care every branch, twig and even the separate leaves in foliage, outlining the feathers of a hen or duck, laying the fur upon his cattle as it were hair by hair.
One of his pictures at the Louvre is of far greater interest than most of these studies. It is called Horses before a Thatched Cottage and is in Salle XXVI. A twilight sky full of soft clouds and the last gleams of departing day ; a low field with a river in front, the houses of the distant village cutting against the horizon ; in front the end of a thatched cottage with its chimney, and before it two farm-horses standing with heads down waiting for their evening meal ; coming toward them the farm-boy bearing a pail of water, and beside him a dog stopping to bark at something in the distance ; this is the picture which Fromentin regards as one of the most perfect examples of Potter’s work at its highest genius. And assuredly it is not only a marvellously truthful portrayal of the two old farm-horses, drawn, modelled, constructed with so exact a knowledge, so just a brush, but it has almost as much of the mystery, the beauty, the pathos of the peasants’ life and the dying day as a scene by Millet. The tone of the luminous sky, the silhouette of the farmer are as full of charm as they are of scrupulous truth. As for the beasts, they are as remarkable bits of fidelity as is the great bull himself, with much more of poetry and suggestion. One can feel their tired, gasping breathing, one can see the tense muscles, the strained haunches, the dragging feet. All is there, as a poet sees it, and it is like an epitome of the peasant’s life.
The Prairie, says Fromentin, is either very good or very bad as one regards it as the work of a scholar or of a master. Signs there are in the reddish beast standing in the cool of the early morning, of the Bull that was to come, but the surety, the vigour, the wonderful life are lacking.
Salle XXV. holds a number of pictures by Ruysdael, generally considered Holland’s greatest landscape-painter. From the point of view of modern art his canvases are too dull in key and somewhat heavy. But he had a poetic mind that loved best the sombre, the sorrowful, and to express it his palette needed little but browns and grays and darkening greens. ” He transported humanity to the heart of the hills that it might be still and reflect ; and he allowed no gay colour, sunlight or blue sky to distract the attention.” He never could paint figures, and Berchem, Van de Velde, Wouverman and Lingelbach used to put the figures into his scenes for him.
The Thicket, in Salle XXV. has the effect of being higher in its general key than usual with Ruysdael. In the middle of the foreground is a cluster of trees and bushes, shaken and tumbled and bent by a fierce wind, its shadow thrown far in front of it. This thicket makes a sort of point which cuts triangular-wise into a road-way coming from behind it and thus separated into two arms. These two arms and the unbroken line beyond it are in brighter sunlight than Ruysdael often achieved. Up the right path a man and three dogs are walking and beyond at the left the village spires and roofs are seen. The sky is heavy with clouds, but is broken open in wide patches, letting the sun through. It is a very beautiful scene, and the massing of the shadow in front with the light in the distance gives a perspective as full of charm as it is of distance. The sky is sympathetic, arched, full, and the mournful note that as usual is never lacking, has almost lost its plaint in the general brightness that surcharges so much of sky and plain.
Ruysdael’s Tempest in the same room has been considered by so just a critic as Michelet, as the greatest gem in all the Louvre. The general feeling to-day, how-ever, is that the lashing waves are sadly deficient in colour, the barks that are scudding under bare poles equally wrongly monochromatic, and in fact the entire modern view of what colour is is entirely lacking here. Yet it is nevertheless a real tempest. The feeling of the angry sea, the heave and throb of the big waves, the anger of the tumultuous clouds piled in serried ranks, the depth of the shadow flung remorselessly upon all the sea except where a ray of light brightens a bit of the foreground at the right and makes one slender line in front of the horizon, everything adds to the remorselessness of the waves and sky. At the extreme right where the thatched cottage and its orchard are only separated by a fence of piles from the advancing tide, the shadow that envelopes this helpless piece of land is again used with telling effect. It is as if it would Cover with its darkness the ruin that certainly soon must come. Almost one waits to see the huge ships flung pellmell on to this unprotected point. Almost one sees a fearful wave advancing to overwhelm it.
The Ray of Sunlight is more of a classic sort of scene. There is here a sort of mixture of Holland and Norway, in its mountains and castle-crowned hills. It is the illumination on the distant hills and across the river that is so entrancing, joined to the wonderful gray sky, that throws from its cloud-filled arc only this one gleam.
Eight paintings by Gabriel Metsu give a good opportunity to study this Dutchman who was a pupil of Dou and who was undoubtedly influenced by Rembrandt. He was on the whole more like Ter Borch than any other, but at the same time he was quite himself and as a whole deals with simpler and rather more elemental states than Ter Borch.
The Vegetable Market in Amsterdam is considered one of his best works as it is one of the least characteristic. He did not often depict outdoors nor the peasant life, preferring the drawing-rooms of the opulent. In this one nevertheless he has succeeded as admirably as would have Steen himself. Squatted about their piles of vegetables the merchants harangue their customers or sell their wares. At the left one fat woman, seated before her carrots and turnips is repelling indignantly the accusations of another woman, who, with arms akimbo, stands facing her, evidently treating her to decided vigour of language and look. Near by a young gallant in a red suit tucks his plumed hat under his arm and leans forward to banter the girl in yellow who walks sedately along, her brass kettle slung over her arm. In front of her a hen huddles on the ground and on top of a wicker cage is a rooster. A dog by the young girl’s side is viewing this gay cock with a questioning face, much to the latter’s disturbance. Behind these are other men and women engaged in buying and selling. The market-street runs along a canal and on this is a sailboat and across on the other bank a row of houses. At the left, with its branches almost filling the entire upper part of the picture is a wide-spreading tree whose shadow largely dominates the scene. It gives a vigorous effect to the view and makes the aerial perspective of which Metsu was generally master, more than usually telling as a compositional unit. Like most of the Dutch painters Metsu knew how to paint dogs, and neither Landseer nor Decamps has succeeded in depicting more truly dog nature than he has in this mildly inquiring spaniel who stands with feet well planted, quite ready, should occasion or fun decide, to frighten that rooster out of his gaily painted feathers.
There is another even more amusing little beast in The Young Woman and the Officer, which, by the way, is a remarkably fine example of Metsu in his best known field. This scrap of a long-eared canine stands at the left, his four tiny paws far apart, his inquisitive head poked far forward, barking a surprised disapproval of this visitor to his mistress. He plays the fussy duenna to perfection, and the two young people pay as much attention to his objections as is customary in such cases. The richly dressed young woman is sitting turning toward the right, looking up smilingly at an officer who stands before her, his hat in his right hand, his left resting easily on a table beside him. Back of the hostess’s chair is a young page, bearing a basket of fruit. Dressed in a black velvet overgown with petticoat of white satin and guimpe, fichu, and big bonnet of white muslin, the young woman sits bolt upright, one hand on her knee the other holding a tall wine-glass. The formality of her attitude is counter-balanced by the coquettish tip of her blond head and her smiling lips and eyes. The officer appears fully conscious of both her charms and her delicate reserves. Complete and most graceful homage and respect are in the slight forward bend of his well-knit figure, in the instinctive gesture of his hand holding his hat, and in his inclined head and lowered eyes. His finely curved lips smile with undisguised tenderness, but the innate good taste and good breeding of the man are even more apparent.
The chiaroscuro of this little scene is remarkably effective. The shadowed background against which the blacker velvet of the girl’s dress and her brilliant white kerchief come out so brilliantly suggest somewhat the spotting of Rembrandt. Like Rembrandt too are the spots of high light on the white neck and nose of the dog, on the necktie and full cuff of the gallant, and on the edge of the page’s salver. Equally noticeable, but more entirely his own is the feeling of restraint in the picture. It is not only the well-indicated reserve and good taste of the two young people, it is shown as well in the soberness and delicacy of colouring, in the unforced yet telling scheme of chiaroscuro.
In The Cook, the subject of the picture is seated by a table on which is a dead hare and a wooden basket, peeling an apple from the tray full which rests on a big basket before her. A close white cap and kerchief and white undersleeves make strong notes of contrast against her somewhat toil-worn skin. There is a hint of weariness in the slight strain of the figure and in the eyes, and Metsu cleverly indicates that this is no model posing but a real working woman, a bit tired with her daily round of duties. Metsu paints less accessories than Dou, and in this case he has only represented the necessary adjuncts of the present task of his cook. The surety of drawing, the fineness of characterization, the exactness of handling, the splendid rendering of stuffs, wooden utensils, fur of the hare, the table-cover, all do not detract in their perfection, from the simple intent of the picture as a whole.
The two pictures by Pieter de Hooch in Salle XXX. are all the Louvre owns by this celebrated Dutchman, who was influenced greatly by Rembrandt, though it is not known with whom he studied. This influence of Rembrandt, too, is shown in a rather unexpected way. In the works of both it is light that plays such an important part. But Rembrandt uses his brilliant, forced spotting to illumine a face, to make an expression telling, to lift the veil of the soul. Technically, too, he employs it especially to give more depth, richness and intensity to his shadows. With half-tones, also, he has little to do. De Hooch, on the contrary, employs light for light’s sake. It is never his object to treat it as subservient to face or form. He loves it for itself and especially as it patterns itself on bare walls or through half-open windows. He loves eagerly too, the intermediate gradations of it, from the scarcely shaded reflections through the softened dimmer tones of inner rooms down to the darkened recesses of half-hidden corners. It is to be doubted if Rembrandt ever portrayed real sunlight. De Hooch, on the other hand, used all the notes and tones of shadow, half-light and clear reflection, merely to make more dazzling his final outpouring of sunlight. It is as a painter of interiors that De Hooch is largely known, though his courtyards and gardens are equally successful if less numerous. And these interiors are really interiors, not pictures of people within certain rooms. The people are there to be sure, a few at a time. But they are placed generally some distance away from the immediate foreground. Almost always there is a wide strip of tiled floor or brick yard with absolutely nothing on it except the pattern of the light that falls from a high window or through an open door. Then, instead of following the example of most of the Dutch painters who threw their strongest light upon their group in the foreground and massed behind them the clustering shadows of a room beyond, De Hooch again pursued an almost opposite course. His first room is in a half-light that in corners grows into deep if translucent shadow. Back of this another room opens and that, being so much nearer the court or yard is in higher light. Opening out of that comes perhaps the court itself where the undiluted sunshine plays gaily. The skill such treatment requires it is not necessary to dwell upon. In his own line there never was a more masterly technician.
The Cottage Interior shows excellently De Hooch’s usual method of dealing with light. In this case the principal figures are more in the foreground than usual, but to make up for that there is a wide, unbroken flooring between them and the third figure. It represents a room where soft shadows lie, though at the back is an open door with windows above and at the side. Another door swings open at a right angle to this central one, showing the first steps of a flight of narrow stairs and a part of a high leaded window. The first door opens into a walled court beyond which still another door leads into a low shed, whose unwindowed interior makes a dark oblong that repeats the dark tones of the immediate foreground. Above the walls of the court a bit of the bright sky makes a triangle of colour seen through the windows of the large room. In the first room, in the right-hand corner, a woman sits before a low table on which is a big hooped bowl or tub. She is pausing in her work to look at a tiny girl who, in a white ruff and cap, stands beside her holding a plaything. The only real glints of light that actually filter into this rather dim apartment are those that strike the mother’s cap and kerchief, the top of her right hand, a spot on the hoops of the basin, and the child’s cap and ruff. Nowhere else except through a crack in the door does the sunlight steal in. The third figure of the scene is a woman shown walking toward the shed in the court. Her light blue hood and kerchief contrast with her dark skirt which breaks what would be otherwise a rather monotonously lighted distance.
Perhaps, next to the delight this charming management of light gives to the spectator, comes the appreciation of this scene in its household aspects. The composition breathes a spirit of tranquil happiness, of a placid life that somehow penetrates more and more the longer it is studied. And gradually is forgotten the technique, the mastery of material, and all that skilful adjusting and arranging of light becomes only a part of the real thing, which is to give just this feeling of domestic sweetness and placid calm.
In the Card Party, called often merely A. Dutch Interior, Pieter de Hooch has chosen more aristocratic surroundings and personages than is his general custom. Also he has employed almost not at all his way of showing open rooms beyond the first. The only suggestion of an outlet is the narrow doorway behind the page, which gives but an edge of window and floor of the apartment behind him. At the back, through a high window a bit of sky and tree-top can be seen, but take it altogether there is much more uniformity of light here than is often found in a De Hooch.
At the left, before an open fire under a sort of porch-like mantel of rich marble columns, sits a young girl showing her hand of cards to the gentleman standing behind her, holding a glass of wine, and evidently directing her play. These two are in full light, a cross-light, indeed, made by window and dancing fire-flames. Her scarlet waist, lace kerchief, and yellow silk skirt mass brilliantly against the darkened corner of the room behind her, and her laughing face with its bright eyes and shining teeth adds to the effect. The man with whom she is playing is at the other side of the table and is thrown into deep shadow by the columns of the fireplace. Behind is a window dimly seen through its drawn curtain, and farther along at the right, under windows that are open, stand a young man and woman whispering together, their hands clasped. The light falls over their heads so that they are in shadow, as well as the page bearing the bottle of wine at their left. Between these and the card-player, stretches the tiled floor of yellow and gray and black porcelains, in a checkered pattern which De Hooch has used most effectively to show the broken lights. Here, as ever, it is light that the painter was enraptured with and he makes the spectator as enraptured as himself, which is proof sufficient of his success.
Of Vermeer, the Louvre only possesses the Lace Maker in Salle XXIX. Vermeer was as original as De Hooch, as full of a charming reserve as Ter Borch. He was a painter of enigmatical, smiling women, generally gentle-women, of quiet, reposeful motions. His palette is brighter, lighter and more penetrating than either of the other two. He especially loved yellow, soft blues and delicate greens. The little Lacemaker is a sympathetic and interesting bit but hardly sufficient to show his style or capabilities. The figure is capitally drawn, the hands especially well characterized, the face full of suggestion and charm.
Seven or eight pictures by Adriaen Van de Velde in these Dutch rooms show him worthy of the fame he is accorded. He painted all sorts of subjects, but is best known by his landscape and cattle scenes. Some of these latter are quite equal to Paul Potter’s. Among the painters of landscape he is one of the few who could paint figures, and Wynants, Ruysdael, Hobbema and Van der Heyden often got him to put figures into their pictures.
The Beach at Scheveningen is one of his best works at the Louvre. Alexandre calls it ” one of our Dutch jewels.” It was bought by Louis XVI. who had a passion for Dutch paintings as his ancestors had for Italian.
On the shore is the Prince of Orange in his coach drawn by six little white horses, the members of his suite following. At the right are a fisherman carrying a net, a man and woman talking, and a boat drawn up on the sand. Behind the dunes rise two clock-towers and in the distance appears a coach with two horses. The gray shore, the men in their blue suits, the dogs, the ” plein d’air,” the whole vivid life of the long beach is here so clearly, so justly shown, that a certain monotonous grayness of colour is scarcely felt. The horses are admirably drawn, though their heads are a trifle small. But their attitudes are diverse and full of movement and spirit and their colour against the gray sands makes a fine ” spotting.”
Early morning is the time represented in Landscape and Cattle in Salle XXX., and though Van de Velde did not choose the colours to express this time of day that either Corot or the latter-day impressionists would have employed, he has nevertheless succeeded in giving the effect of the new-risen sun with no uncertain touch. Most of the picture is in cool tones, rather mono-chromatic in their lack of variety. Only here and there do the glints of the sun gild the marsh or out-line a branch or strike more fully on the back of some of the animals. The sky shows purple and red through the clouds that bank midway in its arch, and this sky fills more than two-thirds of the entire canvas, or wooden panel, as is not only this but many of the Dutch pictures. At the left on a hillock are a weather-beaten tree, a low hut, some horses, goats, sheep and cattle. Just below these animals on a point extending into the water sit a fisherman with rod and line and another peasant leaning on his elbows. Still farther to the left are one of the cattle lying down and a goat. All these are in the demi-tone of the half-shadow. Filling the centre of the picture are more animals, some standing on the grassy marsh edge, others wading in the water. In the distance, a line of land with trees and houses and another herd at the water’s edge.
The Woman at Her Toilet in Salle XXVIII. by Frans van Mieris the elder, is one of several by him owned by the Louvre. He is called ” the elder ” because his son and grandson were both followers of him. In his style of painting he was largely influenced by Dou with whom he studied. His work is dry, minute and over-elaborate, he has little invention and less imagination. Though painting before the decadence had reached full swing, he nevertheless is to be ranked among the men who had lost the great Dutch spirit. As an imitator he was more or less successful and he was extremely popular during his life.
In the Woman at Her Toilet, a richly dressed dame stands before a table on which is a large mirror, arranging her hair. At the right a negress carries a ewer and a basin, and an open door shows a side of a portico with columns.
There is no hint of the decadence in the work of Jan Steen who has three paintings in the Louvre. Of these three the Flemish Fête in an Inn is an uproarious scene in a huge tavern. Long tables run down one side at which men and women sit drinking, while a dance is going on behind, and at one side a drunken woman is being pulled up-stairs by two men. Everywhere are to be seen indiscriminate embracing and the effects of over-imbibing. It is not an elevating scene, not a moral scene, not even a respectable scene. But it is consummate art. The drawings of the figures, the composition of the groups, the joining of the many adverse groups into one complete whole are the work of a man who has scarcely an equal as a master of composition. It is not strange that some most eminent critics have claimed that Raphael himself never surpassed him in this power of making a picture.
By far the best of his pictures here is the Bad Company. Again, it is not a scene to elevate thought, morals, or spirit, unless it can be used as a fearful warning ! It is the interior evidently of some sort of tavern or house of ill-fame. Wholly overcome by the wine he has been drinking, a gay cavalier is doubled over in his chair, one arm hanging limp between his knees, his head dropped on to the knee of the young girl sitting in a chair facing him. The girl, whose knee makes his pillow sits very stiff and straight, a tall glass of liquor still in her hand, a drunken imbecility on her face. Behind these two are two women. The one on the left is back to, busily en-gaged rifling the pockets of the young gallant and handing the contents over to the old hag who stands behind the girl’s chair, the young fellow’s rapier alert in her hands, and his cloak over her shoulder. The grin of delighted expectation on her face is wonderfully expressed. Back in the shadow a musician is playing and another old villain is smoking, while both keep their eyes on the comedy going on in front.
The satirical glee of this picture is something extraordinary. It is in looking at a canvas like this that one understands why this Dutch painter has been likened to Molière, why he has been called the greatest wit, the greatest comique and the greatest satirist in painting. Hogarth is the painter nearest akin to him but Hogarth is not so subtle, nor so ingenious as Steen. Hogarth moralizes, Steen lets his spectators do their own moralizing. As a technician, when he chooses, he is equally unapproachable. What could be more absolutely true to inert life than that limp gallant with his weight so solidly thrown upon the knees of the girl? Did ever a hand hang just so loose, so fallen, except in somnolent life itself? Equally remarkable is the girl’s figure with its unconscious, braced knees, its stiff pressure combined with its mental abandonment. The relation between these two and those behind and the two men farther back, is no less vividly actual. Looking at it all, it is easy to realize, as has been said so many times, that Steen occupies a place quite alone, not only in Dutch, but in all art.
He studied with Van Goyen and Adriaen van Ostade and the influence of both men can be seen in his work. His biographers have called him a rake and a drunkard, but it is pretty well established now that his reputation was largely made by the pictures he painted. The fact that he left behind him a most appalling number of paintings did not until comparatively lately count as evidence in his favour. Certainly a wholly dissipated individual could not have accomplished a tenth part of them.
Almost as unrivalled in his own chosen field as Steen in his, is Hondecoeter, who also has three pictures in these rooms. No one else has ever devoted himself so wholly or so successfully to portraying the feathered tribe as this man, who, like De Hooch was born in Utrecht, only six years after him.
His Two Eagles in a Poultry Yard is precisely what the title calls it. The poultry-yard is in a country-side which is traversed by a river. At the right an eagle has grabbed a hen in his claws and is flying off with him, while in the centre of the scene another is capturing a cock. Running about in fearful distress are pigeons and hens, trying to save themselves from what they believe is to be total slaughter. In the distance is a ruined château and at the right a village. Though Hondecoeter can only be seen to advantage at The Hague or in Amster-dam, this, like the other two here show how wonderfully he could depict the life, the colour, the vivacity, the plumage of these animals.
Quite a different talent still had Van der Heyden, who is sometimes called the Gerard Dou of architecture. He painted the old Dutch streets and squares with a fidelity and scrupulous attention to detail that make his works valuable as historical documents. Many of the buildings and places he depicted so lovingly no longer exist at all and can only be known through his panels. Though his particular care for the shape of the bricks, the paving-stones, the panes in the windows becomes at times decidedly amusing, on the whole it does not spoil the effect of the picture as a compositional unit. He never could paint trees well and his figures were mostly put in by Adriaen Van de Velde, who was his great friend. His achievements in perspective show him to have been a thoroughly trained draughtsman and he had beside a fine feeling for values and for atmosphere.
The Village on the Banks of a Canal, in Salle XXIX., has a diagonal line, but very well broken, of pathway and buildings that reaches from the right side of the picture to the left in the far distance. Filling what makes a lower left-hand square is the canal. The straggling line of houses, churches and trees forms an interesting and di-versified mass against the sky, and the quiet of its almost deserted path is supplemented by the square-bowed Dutch fishing-boats in the canal, their squat heaviness suggesting only a slow and torpid existence. The effect of light is well studied, if it is rather cold and thin, and the picture has merits in composition and in a feeling of sober earnestness.
Two pictures by Hobbema are in Salle XXVI. He has been continually compared to Ruysdael but he really does not greatly resemble him. He was a good deal younger than Ruysdael and was undoubtedly influenced by him. It is only within a few years that his canvases have been greatly appreciated and most of his work is owned in England who was the first to value him at his true worth. It has been often said that Ruysdael, Wynants and Hobbema were the forerunners of Constable and the English landscape school as Constable was of Rousseau, Diaz and the French of that day. At least it is true that these painters of the seventeenth century did what no others had so far done: painted landscape as landscape and for its own sake, not as background for figures. And they did get a remarkable atmospheric feeling in their scenes, and their skies had depth, expanse, vastness and luminosity as well as splendid aerial perspective. Their trees, rocks, mountains and waterfalls too, showed careful drawing and exact delineation. Their trees bent with the storm, one sees and feels the toss of their branches, the scattering of their leaves, the sharp tension of their withstanding trunks. Equally successful are they in showing the rush and power of waves and waterfalls. In fact the motion of outdoors life they portrayed with facility and power. And if their sunlight was not real sunlight, at least their values were both just and sure. Ruysdael was far more of a poet than Hobbema, but Hobbema was a much better painter.
In The Landscape a curving roadway is at the right, a tranquil brook flows across the foreground, and winds among the trees that mass in the centre and at the left into a forest. This is the picture, with the addition of a high, arching sky cloud-strewn, yet full of light. Shadow and sunlight flash over the road, the brook, the trees, now sharpening a trunk, now silvering a bunch of foliage, now streaking widely the distant plain, anon submerging in mystery the recesses of the woods. The light is thus seen to be not centralized nor specially focalized ; it is somewhat spotty and scattered. Yet it does give the effect of outdoors. This too, in spite of certain brownness and grayness of colouring.
The Water-Mill was a subject Hobbema often painted. In this one he gives with photographic clearness and insistence of detail the big wheel, the sheds, the bare logs, the bridge, the quiet water, the bordering trees. It is the luminous sky which saves the scene from being commonplace. The two trees in the foreground also are marvels of careful draughtsmanship. Even better in effect are those silhouetted against the sky in the middle distance.
There is one beautiful little picture in Salle XXXIII. by Maes, who was a pupil of Rembrandt, and who did not lose his individuality even in such close proximity to the great man. His most important work was done very early, his later years showing the decadence that settled upon all the painters of Antwerp at that time. Though he was a very popular portrait-painter, he is at his best in genre subjects such as the Blessing here. If this is the work of a boy only sixteen years old as is claimed, it is a remarkable performance. The picture is on wood, only twenty-two inches high by sixteen wide, and represents an old woman sitting alone before her midday meal, silently asking a blessing. The lighting is simple and most effective, the colour tender. But it is the religious fervour, the deep feeling in the old peasant’s face, the inward and real piety expressed in the fragile body before her lonely meal, the expression of the whole quiet scene that makes this seem like an early Millet.
The Singing Lesson and the Lesson on the Bass Viol by Casper Netscher in Salle XXIX., are fair examples of this pupil of Ter Borch. Like his master Netscher painted scenes taken from the gentle life of Holland. He has a certain sort of delicate charm, that nevertheless does not make him anywhere near the equal of his master. A rather laborious style in composition, a sufficiently accurate hand in drawing, a trained taste in lighting, a decent sort of sobriety are all to be found in Netscher’s works as well as a true Dutch ability in the correct rendering of silks, satins, velvets, utensils and the like. No one can paint white satin with greater brilliance, luminosity, sheen and reflection than he. He fairly revels in the line of a satin fold that catches the light on its curve, and then melts into the shadow that still reflects some of the mellow sheen of its lights. There is a richness, a play of tones to his brush then that he never gets anywhere else.
The Singing Lesson is just such a subject as Ter Borch or Metsu would have chosen, but both of these men would have expressed it in a simpler way. The three figures are naturally placed, if in a too evident triangle, the drawing is admirable (notice how the weight of the girl rests upon her chair), the focusing of light on the central figure is full and free of spots, and finally the interest is well sustained and well led up to. It is the overdone, or oversized details that help to make it so far below Ter Borch. The large statue of the wrestlers placed directly behind the group in the niche in the wall, the voluminous heavily brocaded table-cover, the too big and too prominent canister with its bottles and grape leaves, and finally the triangular space at the left of the background opening into the Italian sort of landscape, all these things distract the eye and lower the value of the picture. But the white satin gown of the girl sitting down is beautiful enough to excuse a thousand faults. Its stretch across her knees, the soft wide shadow below, the little glints and gleams on her lap and down over the deeper folds on the side, the brilliancy as it falls straight from her left knee, the feel of its shimmering surface, all this Netscher knew how to express better than almost any one.
The Lesson on the Bass Viol has not so much objectionable detail, and in it again is a delectable white satin gown. In the middle of the picture sits the young blonde girl playing upon the big viol. She has just turned her head to the left to look at a piece of music which her teacher behind her is showing. At the right a charming boy page holds a violin and waits with very reverent air. This child’s face is the best thing in the picture, even better for once than the white satin gown. The childlike interest in his eyes, watching so intently, the unconscious forward thrust of his head, his almost open lips, the awkward and boyish pose, this is better work than Netscher usually accomplished.
The pictures of Van der Werff in these rooms do not require extended description. He was the greatest exemplar of the Italianate-decadence of Dutch art, and in his own day was greatly admired and his works eagerly bought by prince and merchant. His drawing was supple, clear and at times distinguished. His draperies were pliant, graceful, perfectly drawn and modelled. His modelling in general was solid yet delicate, but extremely hard. His flesh was like marble or plaster in substance and was cold and unsympathetic in colour. He spent most of his time painting nymphs, goddesses and Scriptural scenes and assiduously imitated the decadent Italians. The Dancing Nymph, in Salle XXVIII. is a fair average as well as the group of half-length figures in Salle XXXIV.
With the name of Huysum, the middle of the eighteenth century is reached, when Dutch art, like Italian, is so far below its Renaissance level that its very heights would seem like the deep valleys of that happier day. In his own way, however, Huysum was a remarkable painter and is still deserving of consideration. He was the greatest fruit and flower painter of his age, and even now his pictures are regarded as wonderful examples of an unusual sort of skill. With the taste characteristic of his time, he loved best a perfect mélange of flowers and fruit. Roses of all kinds, tulips, jonquils, pinks, hyacinths, lilies, every sort of bloom he would put into his vase of Grecian shape resting on the marble table. Curiously enough, though it was as a flower and fruit-painter that he made his reputation and money, he never ceased longing to be a landscape-painter and it is said of him that he was always going into the country there to paint with pains-taking care the little scenes that remind one of Poelenburg though his’ sylvan figures are clumsy and heavy. The fruit and flower pieces in the Louvre scarcely require description. The four landscapes show his minute care and somewhat leaden brush.