THE Salon Carré marked Room IV. on the plan, contains the chief gems of the Italian paintings owned by the Louvre, as well as a few examples of other schools.
Of all the famous pictures hung in this famous room none, probably, is better known or has been more praised than the Mona Lisa, La Gioconda, of Leonardo da Vinci. From the time of Vasari to the present century language has been exhausted in efforts to find new panegyrics for this creation. No praise has been too great, no adoration too excessive, no amazement at its perfection too over-wrought. The portrait is so universally and thoroughly known that description seems quite unnecessary. Yet, when Vasari’s glowing words are recalled, extolling its marvellous bloom of colour, its palpitating flesh, its limpid eye, its cheeks of rose, its lips of carnation, its exquisite eyebrows and eyelashes, its hands of pearl, its landscape background as real as nature herself, the first look at the picture must surely be disappointing. For the rose, the carnation, the bloom of the lovely face have gone. The greens and browns of the trees, the soft azure of the sky, the sparkling tones of the winding stream have all turned to a blue-green background that makes still whiter the white chalky face and emphasizes the disappearance of the brows and eyelashes over which Vasari raves. And yet, after the first surprised look, the spell of the picture steals over you as it stole over Vasari, as it has over every one who has looked at it for four hundred years. Those soft, melting eyes see as far into the soul’s mysteries as they did when François I. bought it for three thou-sand golden crowns from its reluctant painter. That full, broad brow, that noble neck, that firm white bosom, those perfect hands so temptingly beautiful in line and curve all these are the same even if the glory of the colour has departed. And beyond these, dominating every one as it dominates the portrait itself, is that subtle, tantalizing, inscrutable, untranslatable smile, surely never more full of meaning, never more elusive, never more appealing or more repelling, more lovable or more malicious, more full of pure amusement or more cynical, what-ever ones point of view, four hundred years ago than it is today.
The portrait is of the wife of Francesco del Giocondo and for over four years Leonardo kept the picture with him, working on it as he chose or could get his model, and calling it unfinished even when François I. persuaded him to part with it.
The Virgin, St. Anne and the Child Jesus by Leonardo is supposed to be one of the pictures the painter took with him to France when he entered the French king’s service. It found its way back to Italy afterward, how-ever, and did not reappear in France till bought by Riche-lieu. There is some doubt as to whether the picture is entirely by Da Vinci, in spite of the Leonardesque type of face of Mary and Anne. Mary is shown sitting in her mother’s lap, while Jesus who is in her arms plays with a lamb. Anne is scarcely older than Mary in appearance and the two faces are both rarely beautiful
There are still critics who doubt whether the Concert is a genuine work by Giorgione, but Morelli, Berenson, and several other authorities declare unreservedly that it is not only by the man of Castelfranco but that it is one of his most beautiful works. It has undoubtedly been much repainted and has suffered greatly in consequence. But the glow’ of the poetic landscape, the splendour of the figures of the two nude women, the magnificent lines of the composition, the idyllic character of the whole scene, and above all the feeling of musical pause that pervades it, these incline critics to credit it to Giorgione.
In the foreground on a sloping rise of meadow sit two young men close together. The one on the left dressed in a green tunic with red sleeves, showing a bit of white linen gathered about his neck, and a red cap on his luxuriant curls, holds a lute in his arms. He has just struck or is about to strike a chord, as is indicated by the position of his right hand. Meanwhile he has turned to speak with his companion, a bushy-haired youth, and the movement has thrown the two faces into a deep shadow that breaks into light only on the white about their necks and on the hand poised above the strings. The enveloping tone over these two makes all the more effective the golden light that plays about the woman sitting back to, in front of them. She holds a flute in her hand which she evidently waits to sound till the men have finished their conversation. The lines of this sensuous figure have a curve, a rhythm and a wonderful sweep that balance with the lines of the composition in a way peculiarly Giorgionesque. More lovely still is the second woman who stands at the left resting her left hand on the edge of a stone fountain while, with only a slight twist of the torso, she reaches her right arm across to fill a pitcher with the water. Her head is in profile and soft shadows slumber about her eyes and under her chin, and are augmented by the shadow of the arm over the chest and thigh. A piece of drapery falls from her left hip over the leg and around the other leg from the knee down. The lines of the folds are themselves part of the untranslatable, but exquisitely joyous, poetic charm of the whole canvas. At the right, lower down, coming from the deep shadow of thick trees, a shepherd leads his flock. The distance gives a stretch of plain, a castle, a bending tree, a light-broken sky.
Of all the many Entombments of the Italian painters of the Renaissance, none equals the one by Titian hanging in this Salon Carré, in depth and intensity of expression, in grandeur of line, in the superbness of its massing and wonder of its chiaroscuro. Its colour has unfortunately darkened and faded but it is still impressive even in its present state. It must have been a marvel for even Titian’s brush when it left his studio.
Occupying the very centre of the picture is the dead body of Christ, borne in the arms of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. Assisting them, placed between, but on the other side of his master, is John the disciple, and at the left stands the mother, supported by Mary Magdalene. At the right is the open sepulchre and be-hind a mass of dense, shadowed woods and a frowning sky broken by lurid streaks of light. Such is the general scheme of composition. Not largely different from the conventionally prescribed plan of treatment of the subject, but so vivified, so realized by the mind of the genius that executed it, that the very theme itself seems never to have been expressed in paint before.
The light is so arranged that it falls on the lower part of the body of Jesus, and on his arms, leaving his face and torso in deep shade. Nicodemus, as he stands back to lifting the shoulders of the Saviour, is in light, his head and neck, however, enveloped in the shadow that covers his burden. John’s face, raised and gazing at Mary is thrown into relief, the shadow sweeping over him from his neck down. A half-light breaks over Joseph’s head, which is in profile, and grows stronger on his bent right arm as he lifts the helpless limbs of the inert form. Again, the light intensifies over the figures of the two women standing beside and slightly behind him. It is to this distribution and massing of light that much of the wonderful impressiveness of the picture is due. Nothing, for instance, could equal the effect produced by the deep shadow that shrouds the head and torso of Christ. Beneath the gloom imagination can read its own story, see the features it has dreamed of, feel the power and beauty of the dead face as no brush could portray it. If the face is left thus indeterminate, the arms are treated far differently. With them Titian ventured fully to express his own thought. On those beautiful, helpless, inert hands and arms he focused the whole force of the light. On their contour and line, on their rounded form he lavished all the knowledge, all the power, all the poetry that lay within the heart of his amazing genius. In those maimed, dead arms all the history, the whole life of the Crucified One can be felt.
Not less wonderful in their own way are the loving bearers and the women. The subordination of Nicodemus and Joseph, in spite of their necessary prominence in the part they take, to the beloved disciple and to the mother of their Lord, is another evidence of Titian’s unerring sense of the dramatic unities. It was his sense too, of the eternal verities, that made him treat John’s face as he did. Thrown into the light, and immediately over the dead Redeemer, it might easily have become the secondary point of interest in the picture. Had he not been looking directly at Mary instead of at Jesus, one’s gaze would have lingered on his sensitive, poetic face, till the part Mary bears in the tragedy would have half lost its meaning. As it is ones eye at once follows his anguished regard, and rests immediately upon the stricken mother in the Magdalene’s care. It is a marvellous stroke that thus connects and solidifies the composition, making it not only so technically perfect, but so transcendent in its soul qualities.
Of a very different order is the Alfonso of Ferrara and Laura Dianti. This is supposed to be an actual portrait group of these two people, though in past times it has been given other names. Laura Dianti was a peasant girl who was first mistress and then wife of the Duke of Ferrara, and the man whose head is seen dimly in the shadow bears a strong resemblance to other pictures of Alfonso by Titian. Behind a stone table, of which only an edge appears, the young woman is standing, her body in front view, her face turned to the left, gazing into a looking-glass held up by a dark-bearded man standing behind her. In his other hand is a round mirror which he holds back of her head. Her left hand rests on a glass on the table, her right lifts a long tress of the curly golden hair that has fallen over her shoulder. She has a very low-cut chemisette with big, loose, wide hanging sleeves coming from under the arm-straps of her dark peasant bodice that fits close over her full green velvet skirt. Her large, brilliant eyes, straight nose, curved red lips, softly moulded chin and rippling golden hair are all distinctly Titanesque. It is so purely the type of woman he so often portrayed that its absolute fidelity as a likeness may be questioned. Those wide, languorous shoulders with the bones so thoroughly bedded under the soft flesh, the rather short neck, the round but not small arm, Titian of Cadore has painted these over and over. It is his feminine ideal as distinctly as the Gioconda is Leonardo’s. And if one judges that the type lacks something in mental equipment, it lacks nothing in the physical, however different may be ones opinion as to what constitutes a beautiful woman. The adorable curve of those shoulders, the colour of those Cupid-bow lips, the melting brilliancy of those large eyes, the intense femininity of that low, broad brow, the entrancing lights and undulations of that golden hair, it is woman, woman incarnate.
As painting it is masterly. In spite of darkening due to time there is still enough of the original tone left to show what it must have been originally. The scheme of chiaroscuro is particularly effective, with the hair and hand so cleverly arranged to break up the expanse of light on the chest, and thus throw the face into stronger prominence. For its own sake, too, this shadow that balances that on her left cheek, chin and neck, is a charming thought. Titian revelled in painting soft white linen closely gathered over full soft shoulders, emphasizing the delicate contrasts of flesh and linen as only he could do it, and here he has displayed his power to its utmost.
If the Alfonso and Laura is very unlike the great Entombment, as unlike in treatment as it is in subject, very different from either is The Man with the Glove. This is a half-length portrait of a young man standing with shoulders square across, his head turned a little to the right, his eyes looking still farther in that direction. His left arm rests on a block of stone, the gloved hand falling loosely and holding his other glove, while with his right he grasps his belt in front. Nothing could be simpler. Bareheaded, dressed in black, with the coat open from the neck in a narrow triangle to the waist and showing a white gathered shirt, crossed by a coral chain, with ruffled white lace at the wrists, the portrait is painted without accessories, with nothing to detract from the wonder of that quiet face and hands.
There is none of the subtlety, none of the enigma, none of the seductiveness here that is felt so strongly in Mona Lisa. Neither is there any intense psychologic moment suggested, such as one is so often conscious of in a great Lotto portrait. It is merely a representation of a youth, scarcely out of boyhood, with the soft, early down on his upper lip, his large eyes calmly regardful, his whole expression one of quiet contemplation. What it is that makes it such a marvel of portraiture is hard to define, though the most uncritical observer has felt its power. It is more than its draughtsmanship, though Michelangelo never showed firmer construction ; it is something besides colour, though its sombre harmony of rich and mellow tones has a depth and solidity great for even Titian to achieve ; it is not alone its admirable composition, though the balance of the hands and the placing in the canvas so that one scarcely realizes that one has not seen the entire figure, mark it with a distinction worthy of Raphael ; it is not even its arrangement of light and shade, though Leonardo could not have handled the chiaroscuro more effectively ; neither is it the assurance it gives that it must have been a speaking likeness, —- though in that last popular phrase there is a hint of the truth. There is more than all these. Somehow, in those limpid, sober, questioning eyes Titian has shown the spirit that looked out from their depths ; shown it with a truer, juster insight than this most objective of painters often succeeded in doing. In the smooth oval of the cheek, in the wide, firm brow, in the steady lips that could so easily be tremulous, in that sinuous, nervous, beautiful hand so bent that three fingers are not seen at all, above all, perhaps, in that hand, he has portrayed a real personality, with a vigour, a life and a depth of truth that few painters have equalled, perhaps none surpassed.
One of the greatest portraits that Raphael ever painted hangs in the Salon Carré. This is Baldassare Castiglione, and as a portrait is ranked next to his mighty Leo now at the Pitti. It is a half-length figure, turned three-quarters to the left, his face and eyes somewhat more to the right. He wears a broad black hat and his cloak is a combination of black and gray, opening to show a white ruffled shirt. Only a bit of the clasped hands is dis-played. The background is gray and the effect of the whole picture is a symphony of gray tones where the highest lights are on the face and shirt and the darkest darks on the hat and cloak. There is no touch here that is not Raphael’s own, and the result is a masterly characterization in which every detail but adds to the perfection of the whole. The face is modelled with a large, free touch, the tones having a sort of opalescent feeling about them, as if the flesh caught some of the reflections of the gray background and full, gray, shimmering sleeves. It is an active, open countenance, the large, observing eyes both gentle and keen, the lips close and firmly curved, the nose not too fine, but far from coarse.
The picture was first on wood and has since been transferred to canvas. In the seventeenth century it was in a Dutchman’s collection, afterward it was in Madrid, where probably Rubens copied it. Rembrandt had earlier made a water-colour sketch of it. Cardinal Mazarin finally bought it and his heir sold it to Louis XIV. It is in fair condition but has become probably grayer than it was originally.
Raphael’s Madonna called La Belle Jardinière, which is in this room, he is supposed to have painted toward the last of his stay in Florence. It is therefore an example of the time when he had begun to abandon his Peruginesque traditions and had already been influenced by Fra Bartolommeo and Leonardo. Next to the Sistine and the Gran Duca Madonna and the Madonna of the Chair, this is probably his most popular as well as really most beautiful Madonna. It is supposed to be entirely his own work with the exception of a little of the blue drapery which, Vasari states, Ridolfo Ghirlandajo completed for him.
The shape of the panel is oblong with a circular top. In the centre of a placid landscape where a horizon line of mountains rises from a lake, with a village massing against the hills, sits the Madonna in a flower-bespattered field, resting apparently on a rock. She has been reading, but the book has dropped into her lap and she leans over the little Jesus who stands by her. One of his tiny hands he has put on her knee, pointing with the other to the small Baptist who is kneeling at the right, his tall, cross-tipped reed over his right shoulder, his eyes fixed longingly on the smiling Jesus. Mary is dressed in a low-cut, red gown edged with black velvet ribbon, the sleeveless bodice drawn over undersleeves of yellow. About her right shoulder and coming around behind her is a gauzy head-dress, whose ends float down over her bare neck. She is a typical Raphael type, blonde, of rather full figure, with a sweet contemplative expression that, if it lacks the grandeur of the Sistine or even the depth of tenderness of the Gran Duca or the Madonna of the Chair, is equally far from the wooden insipidity that unfortunately characterizes many of Raphael’s earlier Madonnas. The little leaning figure of Jesus is exquisitely pure in modelling and contour, and his lifted face with its laughing lips, its eager, baby eyes, has rarely been excelled by any painter of the Renaissance.
As has been often said, it is as a composition, how-ever, that this picture is greatest. The way the group fills the landscape, the splendid spacing, the balance of lines, the total absence of both crowding and of empty holes, all show Raphael’s genius. It is seldom that a group placed in the foreground of a wide landscape is so marvellously handled in its relation to the landscape.
The large St. Michael, also in this room and catalogued as a Raphael, is almost wholly Giulio Romano’s work. The angel stands poised on the devil’s prostrate shoulder, arms, draperies, hair, wings, leg, all out in air as if he had swooped through space straight on to his victim. It is supposed to have been painted for Leo X., who presented it to François I.
The only two paintings by Correggio owned by the Louvre hang in this Salon Carré. Both are gems, and if one never saw another work of the man of Modena, they would be sufficient to give a just idea of this exquisite colourist, he who had too, a charm, a persuasion, a mystery and a mastery of chiaroscuro possessed by none other unless by Rembrandt.
In everything that Correggio did is shown an abandon of joy that permeates the observer like the smile of an archangel. He peopled his paintings with seraphs, cherubim and heavenly hosts, or with Cupids, gods and goddesses, surcharging them all with a ” light that never was on sea or land,” drenching them in a colour that is a very perfume of ecstasy. That is Correggio. And with it all he was a master of realism, painting with a very passion of truth that sometimes led him into an ugliness of foreshortened line that only his all-pervading, undrownable charm of colour and light makes excusable.
It is Ludwig Tieck who says ” Let no one say he has seen Italy, let no one think he has learnt the lofty secrets of art, till he has seen thee and thy cathedral, 0! Parma ! ” There is where Correggio is in all his glory, and indeed it is undoubtedly true that there alone can he be seen in his full expression. Yet, the charm, the joy in glowing, sunlit flesh, the sweet secrets of the mystery of soft rich shadows, the abandonment to the allurement of the spiritually sensuous can be felt in many of Correggio’s panel pieces. Not far below his highest level is the Jupiter and Antiope in the Salon Carré, which indeed is one of the most beautiful pictures in the world. ” Perhaps ” says M. Alexandre ” the most perfect bit of painting that exists.”
Lying against a bank under a group of shaded trees, is Antiope, and at her side facing her, the winged Cupid, his head on his arms, he as well as the nymph apparently fast asleep. Within the shadow of the trees is Jupiter in the guise of satyr. He is leaning over the sleeping girl and has just lifted the blue drapery which had covered her body. The whole of her beautiful nude figure is thus completely exposed. As she lies her knees are slightly drawn up, her left arm extended with loosely dropped hand, her right thrown over her head which is bent far back, bringing her chin up into a sharply fore-shortened position. The figure is uncomfortably placed, and the position of the neck, the thighs and the legs, and even the head, is distinctly awkward. As has been noted it is characteristic of the painter of Parma frequently to show this disregard of the beauty of line. No one is greater than he as a draughtsman, but he is so absorbed in his wonderful effects of chiaroscuro, he so revels in depicting his sun-kissed flesh that, though never drawing falsely, the necessity for beauty of line as well as of colour, light and shade, seems not always to impress him.
It is safe to assert that amidst all the treasures that line the wall of the Salon Carré not one is more compelling, more striking than this. As one enters the room it is as if the whole light of the apartment drew together and threw all its brilliancy, all its clarity and transparence upon this one canvas. Such is the effect of the glowing palpitating form of the sleeping nymph. No perceptible brush-work mars what has never been surpassed as a painting of living, breathing, pulsing flesh, suffused with a golden light beyond an alchemist’s dream. Scarcely less entrancing is the rosy Cupid, curled up in complacent slumber over the results of his labour. For it is he who has brought Jupiter there. All this glorious brilliance of whitest flesh is in sharp contrast to the dark tones of the satyr, his natural colour intensified by the shadow of ,the trees. Still it is a royal head on the misshapen body, and its ambrosial curls and Greek purity of profile bespeak the royal lover.
Correggio is supposed to have painted the Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine of Alexandria, which hangs on the same side of the room as the Antiope, in 1522, and Vasari states it was done on the occasion of the marriage of the painter’s sister Catherine.
Seated at the left, a three-quarter-length figure, is the Virgin, holding on her lap the child Jesus. Both are in profile, facing the right. Opposite them is St. Catherine whose right hand rests in the Virgin’s left, her betrothal-finger being at the same time grasped by the baby Christ. Behind St. Catherine St. Sebastian is seen leaning over her, smiling, the arrow of his martyrdom pressed against his chest. In the charming landscape background are two scenes from the martyrdom of the two saints, a conventional rendering that, by their perspective and low tones Correggio keeps very unobtrusively back from the principal group in the foreground. The Madonna is dressed in the typical red and blue, St. Catherine in a soft, rich brocade.
The colour in this picture is a dream of golden, light-illumined flesh, entrancingly heightened by the soft, luminous shadows that play over cheek and neck, and sweep down about the draperies and out over the distant trees. Not less exquisite are the forms themselves. The Madonna, whose face is as pure as it is femininely charming; the baby, whose rounded, perfect little body is in exact keeping with the curly hair and baby face with its surprised sort of childish regard ; St. Catherine, whose beautiful hand matches the high-bred, gentle lines of her earnest, lovely countenance; St. Sebastian, whose Cupid-like head and waving locks make his arrow seem, as Gautier observes, more the sign of the god of love than of his own martyrdom ; in each and all is that glorious, pulsing charm of sun-swept flesh, of perfect modelling, of beauty of form and line and contour that is so peculiarly Correggio’s own.
The marvellous joining of the three hands in the centre of the composition has often been extolled. It is doubtful if ever a group of hands was more perfectly, more picturesquely rendered, and nowhere in all the history of art, surely, are any more beautiful ones seen. The supple form, the white softness, the aristocratic lines of Catherine’s delicate hand are counterbalanced and complemented by the dimpled baby curves of the little hand over it.
Tintoretto’s Susannah at the Bath, is only a ” morceau ” by the great Venetian, but it shows his skill in portraying the nude. The figure of Susannah, in its fulness of curve and richness of tint, is a forerunner of the women of Rubens. It represents the girl sitting at the left before a cluster of bushes, turned three-quarters to the right. One serving-woman stands combing her hair, and another is kneeling and dressing her feet. At the right is a pool of water where birds and reptiles bathe, and in the distance behind is a table, introduced with total disregard of the possibilities of the place, at which the two old men are sitting and staring.
Unlike Tintoretto, Veronese is splendidly represented at the Louvre, and in the Salon Carré are several of his most noted pictures. The immense canvas of the Marriage Feast at Cana, was one of Napoleon’s war trophies. When, in 1815 most of his artistic spoils were returned to their previous owners, the officers of the Louvre persuaded the Austrians that to move once more this vast expanse of canvas would probably ruin it for ever. In recompense they took Le Brun’s Descent of the Holy Spirit, now in the academy at Venice. It was an exchange at which the gods of art must have smiled in derision or glee, as they favoured the French or Italian powers.
The scene takes place in a balcony or gallery open to the sky, with clusters of marble pillars on each side indicating the palace of which it is a part. From right to left across the centre of the composition runs a marble balustrade, which separates a higher balcony from the one in front. The table forms three sides of a parallelogram and is placed so that it borders the three sides of the gallery, leaving an open square in the centre of the composition. With his head coming against the balustrade, Jesus sits facing the spectator, occupying the central seat at the table. At his right is Mary, and about him are the disciples. This little company, however, is almost overlooked in the crowd of people who fill all sides of the table as well as the open space in front, not to mention the many servants and attendants who throng the upper balcony, looking down upon the scene below. The assemblage are all in the costumes of Veronese’s time, and, as usual with this painter, the title of the picture has practically nothing to do with it. The comparative unimportance of Jesus is not even lessened by any emphasis laid upon the miracle he is supposed to be enacting. At the right corner of the table a servant pours wine from one jug to another and a man sitting back to is watching him with some interest, while another looks attentively at a filled wine-glass which he holds in his hand, Otherwise the entire company are engaged in talking among them-selves, listening to the music or speaking to the servitors. It is necessary therefore to eliminate all consideration of the picture as a religious painting to appreciate it at its true value.
As a magnificent decoration, as a most splendid representation of a splendid feast in royally splendid surroundings, as a picture of Venetian life in the height of her glory, as an admirably massed, wonderfully balanced, in every respect superbly composed picture, it takes its proper rank as one of the greatest paintings of the Renaissance or of any time. The life, the movement, the individuality, the enveloping atmosphere, the transparent silver tone of its colour, the variety in pose,. features and expression in these hundred life-sized figures, the gorgeousness of the stuffs, the skill displayed in indicating textures, the nobility of the architectural surroundings, these are the things which help to make the work all the more of a marvel when one remembers that Veronese completed it in fifteen months.
There are many famous portraits among the guests.
At the left end of the table are Alfonso d’Avalos, and the Marquis du Guast, beside whom a negro stands offering wine. At the side of the marquis a young woman behind whom is a clown, is supposed to be Eleanor of Austria, Queen of France. Next is François himself and then comes Mary of England in a yellow robe, and next but one, picking her teeth, is Vittoria Colonna. Farther back is seen the Emperor of the Turks, Solyman I. Veronese is the musician playing on a viol and dressed in white. Behind him Tintoretto accompanies, Titian plays on a bass viol and Bassano on a flute. The picture is thirty feet long by twenty high and was painted originally for the refectory of San Giorgio Maggiore.
Veronese’s Holy Family in this room shows the Ma-donna seated on a low throne in front of a hanging curtain of rich golden brocade. She supports with both hands the nude baby Christ who stands on her lap, leaning to the right toward St. Benedict who kneels at the side of the throne. St. Catherine of Alexandria stands behind presenting him to the Mother and Child. At the left St. George, in full armour, is hastening toward the throne, one foot already on its base. The colour of the rich draperies, the folds of the silks and satins are so masterly here that the eye lingers over them perhaps too long to do full justice to the splendid modelling of face and figure, to the grace of Catherine, the winsome charm of the Madonna or the sturdy earnestness of St. Benedict.
The Repast at the House of Simon is another enormous canvas by Veronese and faces the great Marriage of Cana. It is less beautiful than that but has many of the striking characteristics of Veronese at his best.
Barocci, a man of indubitable talent, of immense facility, and of real enthusiasm, has a Virgin in Glory in the Salon Carré that, though not so exquisite a canvas as his Annunciation in Rome, sufficiently shows his love of rosy flesh, of curving contour, and of the forced lighting and profound shadows he employed so assiduously in his attempt to make of himself another Correggio. The Virgin is seated on clouds, holding on her lap the baby Jesus who is extending a palm to St. Lucy kneeling below at the right. Over the Virgin two angels bear a crown which they are about to place on her head, and above this is the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. Behind St. Lucy stands another angel bearing on a plate the eyes that the martyr gave up for love of her Lord, and at the left St. Anthony sits reading. In the distance are the walls of a city.
The Dead Christ on the Knees of the Virgin by Caracci is one of his best works. It has something of the deep feeling of the earlier masters and is remarkably good in line and chiaroscuro.
Guido Reni has several pictures in this golden room of the Louvre, but they make slight impression compared to the great works that are all about them. Dejanira and the Centaur Nessus is mannered and overdone, with what M. Alexandre calls ” a cold romanticism,” but it has a certain seductive charm of colour and real vigour of action. Dejanira is standing upon the Centaur, who is trotting toward the left. In the distance at the right Hercules is seen shooting an arrow after them.
Only one painting by Rubens is given place in the Salon Carré, but the Portrait of Helen Fourment and Two of Her Children is quite enough to show the consummate master this Fleming was. Rubens is never more tender, more brilliant, more exquisite, never does he paint so con amore as when his brush portrays his young wife, Helen. In this one he has added two of their children, Francis and Clara. The picture is as full of grace and freshness as it is of brilliant purity of colour.
The young mother is seated in a big chair, facing the left, turned so that her face and bust are in three-quarters view. She is dressed in white, with a big hat that droops long plumes over her blond hair. On her knees she holds the little Francis, whose hands play with her corsage, while he looks over his shoulder at the spectator. He is a delightful morsel of mankind in his fine gray suit with velvet cap and curling hair, big, wondering eyes that recall his mother’s, and curving baby lips. Standing on the other side of her mother’s knees is Clara, her brown dress partly covered by her white apron which she is lifting with both hands. On the arm of the chair are placed two little hands of a child not otherwise seen. The sweep of line in this composition does not lack the movement, the life that Rubens always attained. But there is a placidity, a comfortableness, a sort of homelike ease here that he does not so often get. It is a domestic idyl, full of clarity of colour, of charm of feeling.
The chief Velasquez gem which the Louvre owns is the Infanta Margarita which is in this room. It is the only one in the museum that conveys any adequate impression of the master’s genius. The picture is a half-length of the four-year-old baby, standing almost in full face, her right hand resting on a big chair, only partly within the painting, her left at her side holding a flower. She is dressed in a grayish white gown, trimmed with black lace, a gold chain about her neck and another falling over her shoulders. Her soft fair hair, brushed till it is like a blond veil about her shoulders, is tied over her right temple with a rose-coloured bow. This halo of hair with its delicate tones and reflections is one of the great charms of the picture as it must have been of the baby princess,
Her complexion is of the pallor associated with the royal house of Spain, but it is here like the bloom of a pearl rather than the dead white tone of the Philip IV. portraits. Her big blue eyes that look out so wonderingly and yet so calmly, the stateliness of the child’s pose make one feel in that little figure as Gautier did, ” The conscious dignity of her position ; it is a little daughter, but it is a daughter of the king who will one day be queen.” Over her head in large gold letters are the words ” L’Infanta Marguerit. The canvas was painted after Velasquez’s second return from Italy and follows the one in Vienna.
After all these great men comes Rembrandt, also with only a single canvas to show his own greatness. But, as with Rubens it is enough. No one save a master of masters could ever have painted the Portrait of Hendrickje Stoffels. This likeness of the faithful maiden servitor of the difficult latter years of his life, is justly regarded as not only one of the greatest treasures of this gallery, but as one of the great pictures of the world. Rembrandt himself did not often surpass it.
Dressed in richest fur-bordered cloak that falls away from her throat and shows the transparent muslin chemisette gathered over her breast, with her soft curly hair falling in ringlets over her ears, with a green velvet cap, red-knotted on each side, big pearl earrings and a pearl brooch at her bodice, and bracelets on her left arm, Hendrickje is as charmingly gowned as she is lovable in expression. Big dark eyes looking out tenderly and brightly, mobile, curved lips, and delicate chin, the whole air of this maid who perhaps did become Rembrandt’s wife, is that of trusting sweetness, joined to a gentle repose that only emphasizes the general intelligence of the countenance. She is sitting nearly full face and the light strikes her clear and brilliantly, the softness of the shadow under her chin growing darker till it is lost in the rich deep tone of the cloak that melts into the darker back-ground.
The picture was probably painted about 1652,” at a period when Rembrandt’s flesh-tones had taken on that golden hue which generally is regarded as most characteristic, but which during his earlier years was preceded by a brilliancy of colour as vivid as Velasquez’s or Van Dyck’s. If this warm, molten tone is less like living flesh, it is none the less marvellously beautiful. Here in Hendrickje it is as if the deep shadows clustering behind her had but just vanished from across her face, their transit turning the fair flesh into a sympathetic mellowness. On every inch of this canvas is felt a penetrating insight, a submerging of technique, an absorption in pure soul-rendering such as even Rembrandt’s greatest works do not always show. It is as if the realist and the idealist, as Fromentin calls him, had here met in an accord so perfect that brush and mind and spirit are joined in a wedlock that produced almost unconsciously this exquisite portrait.