The greatest art collection of modern times perhaps of all time is to be found in Paris. It is the world-renowned Museum of the Louvre. Here are treasured the great works of dead masters, while those of the more recent painters and sculptors are, of course, in the Luxembourg on the other side of the River Seine.
The name ” Louvre ” is somewhat doubtful in origin. It has been thought to come from Louverie ” (wolf-preserve), as the king’s hunting lodge in the twelfth century was situated on this spot. Again, the Palace when completed is supposed to have been called ” L’oeuvre ” (the work), from its beauty and importance, hence the ” Louvre ” today. It is to Francis I. of France that the world is indebted for the beginnings of this great collection. It was with this monarch that Leonardo da Vinci found a refuge after years of wandering, and thus France came to own some of the priceless works of that great master.
From the immense collection of the Louvre, but a comparative few of the pictures can be indicated, yet they may show its scope. The large historical ” Coronation of Napoleon I.,” by the great Jacques Louis David (1748-1825) is considered the artist’s masterpiece. It depicts the coronation, at Notre Dame on December 2, 1804, at the moment when Napoleon, taking the crown from the Duc de Berg, who presented it on ” a velvet cushion, was about placing it on the head of the Empress. . All the people present are .’ . portraits, and David himself is seen on a platform sketching at a small table.” Other historical paintings of David are the ” Rape of the Sabines” (1799) and ” Leonidas at Thermopylae ” (1814) ; of his portraits may be mentioned the beautiful ” Madame Récamier,” reclining with bare feet on a couch. It is said, however, that she did not care for this picture, and refused to pose for it after the first few sittings. Another David portrait is the celebrated ” Pope Pius VII.” So fond of his ” Leonidas ” was David that it is said, as he lay dying, he was shown a print of this favorite work, and as he looked at it he whispered, ” Il n’y a que moi qui pouvais concevois la tête de Léonidas ” (Only I could conceive the head of Leonidas).
An academic painting, ” Cupid and Psyche,” by François Pascal Baron Gerard (1770-1837), pictures Psyche receiving the kisses of Cupid, and is very typical in style of the earlier French School, which leaned toward the classic, as all French art has done. Gerard, who was David’s pupil, was extravagantly praised as the ” Painter of Kings and the King of Painters.”
In the famous Salon Carre hangs Titian’s unequaled ” Entombment,” representing the Saviour’s body, supported by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, assisted by St. John, a beautiful face filled with tragedy; at the left the Mother and Mary Magdalene. Titian’s ” Christ Crowned with Thorns is also an impor-tant picture. The well-known half-length portrait of his ” Man with the Glove ” is a favorite with many for its remarkable character delineation, and the profile view, ” Portrait of Francis I., is another celebrated work.
Several important Raphaels should be observed, in the same room. ” La Belle Jardinière ” (The Lovely Gardener) is a beautiful composition, showing the Ma-donna seated, beside her the Infant Jesus standing, and on the right St. John with a tall cross-tipped reed. This picture is believed to have been painted during the last of Raphael’s stay in Florence, and no doubt represents in its background a Florentine garden and vista. The large ” St. Michael vanquishing the Dragon;” though cataloged as a Raphael, is attributed in part to a student. The great ” Holy Family of Raphael was purchased by Francis I., and is therefore one of the early pictures of the Louvre collection.
The most famous picture in this room of famous works is, undoubtedly, the ” Mona Lisa ” or ” La Gioconda;” of Leonardo, lost for a time, but now happily recovered and again in its old place. Though faded, since the days when Va-sari praised it so highly, this subtle face yet casts its spell over all who study it. Leonardo never considered it finished, after spending four years on this por-trait of the wife of the Florentine, Fr. del Giocondo. His beautiful ” Sainte Anne ” pictures the Virgin, her mother St. Anne, and the Child Jesus. ” St. John the Baptist ” shows a wondrously modeled half-length figure, holding in his left hand the tall reed cross. But is this the Man of the Wilderness? We might almost believe the picture to be a woman’s face, or some young aesthete. In ” La Vierge aux Rochers ” (The Madonna of the Rocks), we find the same subject as in the National Gallery of London, though this one in the Louvre is claimed as the original.
In Paolo Veronese’s large paintings one feels the life of the painter’s own day. This is especially true of the ” Marriage Feast at Cana,” a splendid view of Venetian life in the height of its glory, ranking as one of the great pictures of all time.
A favorite subject with Renaissance painters is that of ” The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine of Alexandria,” attributed to Correggio, who, according to. Vasari, painted this on the occasion of the marriage of his own sister Catherine.
Rubens loved to paint his beautiful wife and children, and in this room of masterpieces we find a tender, brilliant, even exquisite ” Portrait of Helene Four-ment and Two of Her Children,” with the same beauty of feature but with more of the mother-love than in our charming portrait (p. 72).
The chief work of Velasquez owned by the Louvre is the half length picture of the four-year-old Spanish princess, ” Portrait of the Infanta Margarita.”
As a companion piece to Rubens’ picture of his wife may be studied the beautiful Rembrandt” Portrait of Hendrickje Stoffels,” richly garbed and jeweled, a handsome young woman, no doubt, yet of whom the interesting question always re-mains, ” Was she Rembrandt’s wife or not? ”
Leaving the Salle Carré, perhaps the most beautiful nude of the French School is ” La Source,” by Ingres. It was painted when the artist was seventy-six years old, though he had made a sketch for it forty years earlier. Standing in a little pool, this classic maid holds on her left shoulder a tilted Greek vase from which water falls in a continuous stream. Another Ingres, ” OEdipus Interrogating the Sphinx,” is a mythological theme, showing in profile a Greek youth of faultless figure, questioning in a grotto the Sphinx, a woman-headed griffin. A replica is owned by the Walters Gallery, Baltimore.
In the Salle des Primitifs are the early Florentine painters. The ” Virgin and Angels,” attributed to Cimabue, is an interesting, archaistic Madonna, a favorite with lovers of the primitives, though modern critics deny its authenticity, and contradict many of Vasari’s statements.
Giotto’s ” St. Francis of Assisi receiving the Stigmata ” was painted for the altar of San Francesco in Assisi. Ac-cording to Vasari, this picture so pleased the Pisans that they summoned Giotto to paint the ” Trials of Job,” for their city; this in turn led to the Pope’s invitation to go to Rome.
Ghirlandajo’s beautiful ” Visitation ” presents the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth (” Blessed art Thou among Women “). The kneeling Elizabeth and the standing Virgin are most graceful; the Virgin’s long full mantle is of blue, caught at her breast with a large brooch set with precious stones.
The ” Virgin, Child, and St. John,” somewhat doubtfully ascribed to Botticelli, is a tender and pleasing picture.
In the Grande Galerie, Bay A, is a celebrated though much restored ” Holy Family,” by Andrea del Sarto. A second ” Holy Family” is supposed to be the original of those in the galleries of Munich and Vienna. The picture, ” Charity,” for which del Sarto’s model was, as usual, his beautiful wife, represents a woman nursing a sturdy child, and with two other little ones clinging to her. She is Charity, in the words of M. Gautier, not Maternity. This picture was painted for Francis I. about 1518.
Several Titians may be observed in Bay B, though the more important Titians are in the Salle Carré. Here, however, the ” Jupiter and Antiope is a favorite mythological scene, such as the Venetians loved. Antiope, apparently sleeping, is jealously watched by Jupiter, in the guise of a satyr, at whom Cupid in the tree above aims a dart.
The famous Veronese, the ” Disciples at Emmaus,” pictures the Master at table, blessing the bread, at the moment he becomes transfigured to them. An interesting medieval feature of the same picture is a landscape view between the pillars at the right, where the Guest is seen approaching with the disciples, while their ” hearts burned ” within them by the way.
Another pleasing touch, a Veronese char acteristic, is in the two little girls playing on the floor with the big dog; they are supposed to be the artist’s own children.
Murillo’s most celebrated work, the ” Immaculate Conception,” in Bay D, pictures the Virgin standing amid the clouds, under her feet the new moon, and surrounding her the little loves as angels. It is marked by wealth of color, beauty of drawing, and harmony of composition.
An interesting ” Portrait of Philip IV.” in hunting costume is attributed to Velasquez, though critics now think it may be a copy by Mazo of one in the Madrid gallery.
One of Holbein’s best-known portraits ,is that of ” Erasmus.” The story is told of Holbein that when asked by the King why he had not learned English during his long stay in England, the painter answered, ” Pardon, your Majesty, how can a man learn English in thirty years? ” Holbein’s famous ” Portrait of Anne of Cleves,” fourth wife of Henry VIII., is here. One is tempted to ask how its “beauty” could have misled the King, as history affirms.
Rembrandt’s ” Pilgrims of Emmaus ” is again the old subject, but with a different treatment from all other painters. The effulgent glory that surrounds the Master serves only to enhance the look of tragedy about the One who is a part of the unrevealed mystery.
The ” Bohemian Girl,” perhaps the best-known though not the greatest of Frans Hals, abounds with good cheer and the painter’s characteristically strong color effects.
In the Salle des Etats is the greatest of François Millet’s works in the Louvre, The Gleaners ” (p. 194). This study of toil ranks with the ” Angelus ” and ” The Sower,” his most virile pictures, in which two there is, perhaps, more of the mystic element than in ” The ‘Gleaners.” We feel in Millet a sympathy with the ” Primitives,” whom he adored, which links him with the Pre-Raphaelites; and in his strength we find, too, a connection with the classical Michelangelo.
In the same hall must be noted Corot’s ” A Morning,” called also ” The Dance of the Nymphs,” one of his typical woodland scenes. The contrast between Millet and Corot could hardly be more striking, and yet one cannot help feeling that each brings his own message to the world.
The Barbison School is further represented in this hall in a great Troyon, his best-known composition, ” Oxen Going to their Work ” (1855), that mighty picture in the Louvre,” says Muther, ” which displays him in the zenith of his creative powers. Till then, no animal painter had rendered with such combined strength and actuality the long, heavy gait, the philosophical indifference, and the quiet resignation of cattle, the poetry of autumnal light, and the mist of morning rising lightly from the earth’ and veiling the whole land with gray, silvery hues.”
Rousseau, the first of the painters to settle in Barbison, is shown in one of his greatest, the ” Opening in the Forest at Fontainebleau.”
In Salle XVI hangs the most popular of Greuze’s works, ” The Broken Pitcher,” a pretty young girl, with a demure look, her apron full of flowers. She does not seem to mind having broken her pitcher.
Madame Vigée-Le Brun’s ” Portrait of Herself and her Daughter,” is in the same room, a pleasing and well-known picture of genuine maternal affection.
The Barbison group is further included in the rooms of the French School, where notable works are Corot’s ” Landscape ” and ” Evening,” Troyon’s “Morning,” and Dupré’s ” The Great Oak.” Another, more realistic, phase of French painting is shown in Meissonier’s ” The Flute Player.”
The Musée du Luxembourg is considered the most important collection of con-temporary art in existence. It includes both sculpture and painting. The pictures are subject to change, as about ten years after an artist’s death his works are taken to the Louvre or other galleries. Most of the examples are by French artists, and these include, of course, the very modern French school. The painting of other nations is also represented, the Americans being next in number to the French.
One of the best known pictures in the Luxembourg is Whistler’s ” Mother,” which the artist called an ” Arrangement in Gray and Black.”
Sargent’s ” Carmencita ” presents the famous Spanish dancer, who often appeared before Paris art-students. Her husband, it is said, was always in attend-ance.
Jules Breton’s popular picture, ” The Gleaner,” shows a handsome peasant girl, bearing a large sheaf. She is not the toiler of Millet’s pictures.
The “Dream,” by Detaille, is a wide battle ground, with soldiers asleep at night,their vision of battle painted in the sky.
Rosa Bonheur’s ” Oxen Ploughing ” is a strong picture. Other works of note are Decamps’ ” The Foundling,” and Von Uhde’s ” Christ in the Peasant’s Hut.”
The original of ” September Morn,” a lovely thing, badly reproduced in this country, is in this Museum.
Elizabeth Nourse has a popular picture, ” Closed Shutters,” in the Luxembourg. Her fondness for French character is indicated in the ” Fisher Girl of Picardy” (p. 104).
In this gallery may be seen some-what weird examples of the latest French’ School, whose theory is thus expressed by Willard Huntington Wright : ” The new conception of art strives more and more for the emotion rather than the appearance of reality.”
The same critic says, elsewhere: ” The Cubists’ greatest apport to art (not in theory but in achievement) is their almost total abolition of the painter’s slavery to nature. It was but a step from Matisse to the complete elimination of recognizable objects, and though Cubism did not cover the entire distance, it nevertheless made an advance toward that pure expression which Cézanne saw was inevitable.”
If this be “Art,” then we must some-what revise our former ideas on the subject, but the writer believes that present conditions are but transitory, leading to a new and stronger expression of true Art, purified by the sufferings of today.
The visitor in Paris will wish to visit the Sorbonne, where may be seen Puvis de Chavannes’ ” Allegory of Letters, Sciences and Arts,” by many considered his greatest work.
Most of our American painters have studied at some time in Paris, probably at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, formerly the Académie des Beaux-Arts, founded in 1648, the national school of fine arts in France, and perhaps the most important institution of its kind in the world. It has more American students than of any other nationality, except, naturally, the French.
The Ecole des Beaux-Arts is an interesting place to visit. The Council Room is hung with portraits of noted professors. In the great Amphitheater is a remarkable encaustic painting by Paul Delaroche. Americans may be interested to know that Delaroche’s original sketch for this decoration is in the Walters Gallery, Baltimore, and is considered by critics more thoroughly the artist’s own work than the one in Paris, on which he allowed his students to assist.
The famous mural paintings of Baudry (1826-1886) in the Paris Opera House rank among the most brilliant of such frescoes.
The Panthéon of Paris is fortunate in having the extraordinary series by Puvis de Chavannes, representing the life of St. Geneviève, the patron Saint of Paris. Another masterpiece of Puvis is ” The Glorification of Law,” adorning the ceiling of the Palace of Justice.