HUBERT VAN EYCK, the father and founder of Flemish painting, and his younger brother Jan, hailed from the valley of the Meuse, a river as celebrated in the history of art as the Rhine or the Arno. Maaseyck, the cradle of their race, is but a Sabbath day’s journey from Maastricht, which, together with Cologne, had early acquired repute as a centre of artistic activity. Few indeed of the so-called Flemish painters were actually born on Flemish soil, but were attracted to the wealthy towns of Flanders from the Meuse country or from the northern provinces.
Between Hubert’s birth, in about 1370, and his arrival in Ghent some fifty years later, nothing is known of his movements. It is far from improbable, however, that he spent some years in Cologne, learning the rudiments of his art. Of late it has been suggested that he started his artistic career as a miniature painter. Afterwards he seems to have travelled to Italy, where doubtless he would have wondered at Giotto’s wall paintings, still in all their pristine freshness. It is possible, too, that after the adventurous manner of his time Hubert joined a crusade, and journeyed to Jerusalem. All this is, however, mere conjecture, gathered from hints scattered here and there in his pictures.
Hubert’s greatest achievement, the wonderful many-panelled altar-piece of the “Adoration of the Lamb,” was painted for the great church of S. Bavon at Ghent. Unfortunately it has been dismembered, only the central compartments of the original remaining in their old position, while the panels composing the shutters are in the Berlin and Brussels Museums. These have been replaced, however, in S. Bavon by good sixteenth-century copies, so that the scheme of the altar-piece may be enjoyed in its entirety. In one of the lower rooms of the National Gallery there is a small but excellent water-colour copy of this master-work, painted for the Arundel society, an exact counterpart of the original in miniature, with its folding shutters. From this we are able to study its composition and significance, though, of course, the tiny copy can give no adequate idea of the depth and splendour of colour, the powerful conception and accomplished technique of the original. But this picture, which is at the same time the starting-point and the chef-d’oeuvre of early Flemish art, demands more than a mere mention, though the National Gallery is not fortunate enough to possess any part of it.
According to the inscription on the painting itself, the work was begun by Hubert and finished by Jan, the ” inferior in art ” as he there modestly describes himself. When the shutters are thrown back the picture is seen to be divided into twelve parts. The three central panels of the upper division display majestic figures of God the Father, red – robed and holding up His right hand in blessing, the Virgin in garment of rich blue, and S. John the Baptist in green. These monumental figures seem to dominate heaven and earth. On either side of them bands of angels, accompanied on the organ by S. Cecilia, unite in singing God’s praises; and on the extreme limits of this upper region stand Adam and Eve, life-sized figures of extraordinary vigour and vitality. In these nude forms indeed the very limits of artistic realism have been reached. The painter has cared nothing for purely physical beauty, and made no attempt to idealise his models. But their lack of loveliness is made good by no little dignity of bearing, especially in the man. We are not surprised at Albert Durer’s admiration for these nudes when in the course of his journey in the Nether-lands he passed through Ghent. Comparing these savage yet austere figures with the famous ” Adam and Eve” by Masaccio in the Brancacci Chapel in Florence, painted about the same time, we realise how broad is the chasm which separates Italian suavity and idealism from the rugged, truth-loving spirit of Flemish art. This somewhat stern realism is indeed the keynote of Flemish painting, the quality that most markedly distinguishes it from contemporary Italian art, which, for all its devotion to nature, always aimed first at graceful line and decorative harmony.
Beneath the heavenly courts represented in the upper half of the altar-piece, a beautiful, spacious landscape is unfolded, in the midst of which the Mystic Lamb of the Revelation, raised aloft upon an altar, is worshipped by bands of martyrs, ecclesiastics and laymen. Above the altar hovers the holy Dove. In the foreground we see the Fountain of Life, somewhat out of drawing, it must be confessed, as far as the perspective is concerned. The landscape is continued across the lower compartments of the wings, where the Just Judges and the Champions of Christ on the one hand, and the Holy Hermits and Pilgrims on the other, press towards the altar of the Lamb. According to tradition the portraits of both the van Eycks are to be found among the Just Judges. Hubert, the elder, in the foreground, mounted on a white horse, is a benevolent-looking elderly man, while Jan, the young man in a kind of turban, who has turned round so as to face the spectators, seems quite twenty years his junior. The smiling, green glade in which the scene is set proclaims the painter of this wonderful allegory an innovator, not alone in his method of painting, but in the actual presentment and setting of his subject. The beautiful flower-strewn expanse, across which the eye is carried to the distant towers of Jerusalem and a range of blue mountains beyond, is perhaps the first landscape scene ever treated in the spirit of naturalism. It is full of depth and romance, and shows a quite new understanding of light and atmosphere. We feel that we might wander for miles through this balmy valley before we reach those distant blue hills. Italian art, for many years to come, has no such landscape to show, and indeed, with the exception of Perugino, the Italian painters of this century cared little for the beauties of natural scenery. But in the north it was far otherwise, and from the very outset the painters of the Netherlands showed no less affection for landscape than skill in rendering it. It became one of the most precious characteristics of Flemish art, and so continued down to the matured and sweeping style of Rubens himself.
On the reverse side of the shutters are paintings in grisaille. Here, with hands reverently folded, kneel the elderly donors of the altar-piece, the bald-headed Jodicus Vydts and his wife Isabella. Between them stand the two SS. John, like statues carved in stone, the Baptist with his lamb, the Evangelist holding the poisoned chalice. Above these full – length figures the angel Gabriel kneels before the Virgin, announcing to her the future birth of Christ. This upper scene takes place in a bare chamber with tiled floor, whence, through an arched window, we look down upon an open square surrounded by houses. One of these may be seen to this day in Bruges, not far from the site of Jan van Eyck’s own house.
The Ghent altar-piece remains for all time the central monument of early Flemish art. Doubtless it became for the artists of the Netherlands what Masaccio’s frescoes were to the Florentinesa model, a very academy of painting. Can we not imagine the young painters of the period standing in wonder and reverence before the great master-work, from which all must have drawn inspiration? Van Mander, the Vasari of Flemish art, tells us that the altar-piece was opened only for important personages, or for those whose curiosity could be backed by something even more substantial than rank. But on feast days the shutters were thrown back and the public allowed free access to the chapel. Hither they flocked from morning to night, as the chronicler quaintly puts it, “like flies and bees in summer round a basket of figs and grapes.” The exact share of each brother in the execution of the work is not easy to determine. Probably the greater part had been painted by Hubert before his death in 1426, for between this date and its completion in 1432 Jan spent but little time in Bruges, being fully occupied in travelling on embassies for his patron, Philip of Burgundy. But this is still a matter of dispute. It is indeed only of late years that Hubert’s name has come forward prominently again, and he is now generally admitted to be the author of a number of pictures formerly ascribed to his better – known brother. Jan, as the trusted ambassador of the duke, versed in the ways of courts, was a more prominent personality in his day than Hubert, who, after his early wanderings, worked as a quiet craftsman in the democratic city of Ghent. But it is easy to distinguish the strong feeling for beauty and grace, the poetry, the mysticism which reign in the Ghent altar.. piece from the more consciously realistic, less beauty-loving aims revealed in the signed works of the younger and, it must be owned, somewhat unimaginative brother. Whatever Jan’s share in the “finishing” of the work may have been, the spirit which informs it is Hubert’s, and though we may fancy we detect the younger brother’s brush in certain parts of the picture, particularly in the figures of Adam and Eve and the lifelike portraits of the donors, he will always remain second as far as this altar-piece is concerned.
After the “Adoration of the Lamb” the most important work ascribed to Hubert is the wonderful ” Maries at the Sepulchre,” belonging to Sir Frederick Cook ; though here again some critics uphold Jan’s claim to its authorship. In this picture the beauty of the landscape and lighting seem to hold us spell-bound. It is the moment when twilight, dispersed by dawn, melts away before the unutterable glory of a new-born day. The sky is illumined with mysterious light, bathing the whole atmosphere and touching with golden radiance the towers and mosques of distant Jerusalem. The empty tomb, the white-robed angel, the three women approaching with spices and ointments, all seem in harmony with the peace of the hour. The clownish guards, lost in heavy slumber, are rendered with true Flemish realism, which frequently touches the borders of caricature. It is the accurate delineation in the background of the features of Jerusalem that has given rise to the suggestion that Hubert himself pilgrimaged to the Holy City, and perhaps, though rather contrary to the habit of the time, painted this picture on the spot. The Hebrew inscription bordering the draperies, of which the words ” In the Land of Israel in the year . . .” have been deciphered, lends additional colour to this interesting theory. A panel with the Madonna and a donor in the Berlin Museum, an exquisite little “Crucifixion,” also in Berlin, and two pictures, one at Turin, the other in New York, representing S. Francis receiving the stigmatathese last suggesting that he visited Assisi on his return from the Eastmake up the tale of works now generally ascribed to Hubert van Eyck. The well-known picture of the ” Fountain of Life,” in Madrid, can only be the copy of a lost painting from his hand.
Jan van Eyck, the collaborator in the Ghent altar-piece, is magnificently represented in the National Gallery by three portrait panels, one of them a masterpiece. Of Jan’s youth we know equally little, but it is easy to infer that he was the pupil of his elder brother. At the age of thirty he took service under John of Bavaria, Bishop of Liége, as painter and chamberlain, and in the former capacity worked at the Hague, where, since his conquest of Holland, the infamous prelate held his court. Then in 1425 he came under a new master, no less a personage than the great Philip of Burgundy himself, and was employed by him almost incessantly as political and diplomatic agent and on missions to various countries. After a few years, however, Jan seems to have given up diplomacy and devoted himself entirely to painting. He settled in Bruges and wrought there, till his death in 1440, that wonderful series of religious pictures and portraits to which he owes his fame.
Turning now to the marvellous double portrait in the National Gallery (186) we find ourselves in front of Jan van Eyck’s finest work, painted two years after the completion of the Ghent altar-piece. It represents Jean Arnolfini and his wife Jeanne de Chenay standing with joined hands in the middle of a small room, softly lighted from a latticed window on the left. It is evidently a solemn moment in their joint lives. With quiet fervour the husband seems to vow fidelity to his newly-married wife, the future mother of his children. Both are arrayed in their robes of state, the man in furred purple cloak and the vast beaver hat which threatens to extinguish him, his wife in the heavy cloth dress of the period, warm green in colour, and lined with white fur. These massive draperies with their stiff and voluminous folds are a familiar feature in Flemish and German art. How different from the slight, simple draperies in Florentine pictures which clothe but never conceal the form ! The head-dress of exquisitely dainty white linen, frilled and goffered, under which the hair is arranged in two curious horns, is exactly like that worn by the painter’s own wife in his wonderful portrait of her in the Bruges Academy. This is indeed no comely couple. Neither Arnolfini nor his lady can lay claim to beauty in the ordinary sense of the word. And indeed the Flemish painters, and Jan van Eyck in particular, cared little for facial beauty, even in their pictures of the Madonna. Where shall we find a more ill-favoured type than that of Our Lady in the great altar-piece of Canon Pala at Bruges ? The small eyes, the almost entire absence of eyebrow and eyelash, the exceedingly high forehead, from which the hair appears to have been shaved, are certainly not elements that make for beauty. But then the women of the Netherlands have never been renowned for classical regularity of form or feature, and it is the harsh, homely type of their own country-women that these truthful painters of the fifteenth century took as model for their pictured madonnas and virgin saints. If, as it has been said, in Flemish art the men possess beauty and the women intelligence, the rule hardly applies here, for the bride looks shy and sheepish, and by no stretch of courtesy can her husband be pronounced handsome. Arnolfini was one of the many Italian merchants who had taken up their abode in Bruges as agents for some bank or commercial house in their native country. He seems to have had a brother, who also sat to Jan van Eyck for his portrait, which is now in the Berlin Museum. We may detect to-day in the gaunt, melancholy face, with its large nose and half-closed eyes, its heavy pallor and look of ill-health, just the characteristics of the more famous brother in our Gallery.
This picture is in its way as original and unprecedented as the ” Adoration of the Lamb.” If in that stupendous work a landscape setting is used for the first time in northern painting, in the Arnolfini portrait the painter has set out to render the soft, subdued lighting of a dwelling-room. His object went further than the presentment of the man and woman who stood before him with such impassive gravity. He has indeed anticipated the problem which Peter de Hoogh and Vermeer of Delft attacked so vigorously nearly two and a half centuries latera problem, too, with which modern painters delight to grapple. To give depth and space to the room, to set the figures actually inside it, in fact, to paint an interior with figures in it rather than figures with a room behind them seems to have been his aim. The room is indeed no mere background but a very actual fact. We must walk a step or two into it to approach the figures, set a little back from the edge of the frame, an additional device to enhance the effect. The eye is led inwards again by the converging parallel lines of the floor, the carpet and the window-frame. Following the pattern of the rug, which, by the way, is not absolutely correct in perspective, we instinctively measure the space between the figures and the end wall of the room. Again, how subtle is the lighting ! Clear daylight from the casement window on the left streams into the room, where it is caught and chastened within its prison of four walls. The far corner, where stands the stately red-curtained bed, is in half shadow, but the light plays on the cool gray wall at the end of the room and is reflected in the finely-wrought brass chandelier suspended from the ceiling. On this end wall hangs a mirror, a marvel of minute painting which more than assures us that the new oil medium was adapted to the most delicate workmanship. Reflected in it may be seen a back view of the hero and heroine of the picture, besides two other people standing by the door, one of whom is evidently the painter himself. His companion, the small figure in red, may perhaps be Jan’s wife, the lady of the Bruges portrait. The strong likeness between her features and expression in this portrait and those of Arnolfini’s wife has suggested the idea that the two were sisters. Here, then, we have a family visit introduced indirectly, to give the picture a new and personal interest. It was surely a novel conceit of the painter, that of bringing in the mirror reflecting his own person, but, from the pictorial point of view, it was a clever device to give an additional semblance of depth to the room, an artifice not unknown in many a modern drawing-room. The mirror seems to have become a favourite artistic property, for not only do we find it used by Petrus Cristus, Jan’s immediate follower, but by Memlinc and Quentin Matsys many years later. Even more wonderful than the figures reflected in the mirror itself are the ten little circular scenes from the Passion let into its frame. To see these properly it is almost necessary to use a magnifying glass. By the mirror, from a nail in the wall, hangs a clear amber necklace, and above it runs the inscription, ” Johannes de Eyck fuit hic,” and the date, 1434. Every touch in this picture is of interest : the oranges which glow as the light from the window falls upon them, the little glimpse of a cherry-tree in fruit seen through the casement, the wooden pattens in the foreground, the scarlet embroidered slippers behind, and the strip of Turkey carpet. Nothing could surpass the patient care and minute delicacy with which these details are rendered. Nor is the picture bare of symbolism, for the little wire-haired spaniel in the foreground is held to betoken Fidelity, and the two candles burning in the otherwise empty chandelier indicate perhaps that the light of two loving hearts shall never be extinguished. Strangely enough, where all is so accurately portrayed, the mirror has failed to reflect the spaniel.
The wonderful state of preservation in which the picture remains, fresh and glowing, as though it had but just left the master’s workshop, gives us the opportunity of examining its technique and judging wherein the new method had surpassed the old. We observe at once the extraordinary depth and glow of colour, the transparency of the shadows, and the soft reflected lights. The white ground on which the painting was executed tells through the thinly-laid glazes of colour, giving the utmost brilliance and clearness to the lights. The colours are minutely blended, showing no trace of the fine brush marks which are often so evident in tempera paintings : the picture looks as though it had been painted in a single flow. Its fine surface and gloss result from the Flemish method of mixing the oil and resinous varnish with the colour and using it as the medium, instead of adding the varnish subsequently after the manner of to-day. To clean or restore an old Flemish picture is consequently a very difficult matter, there being no surface varnish to remove, and the dull condition to which some of these early paintings have been reduced is almost always due to ignorance of this fact. The varnish; indeed, forms an integral part of the picture, and any attempt to remove it necessarily involves injury to the colours with which it is mixed. Fortunately, neither the Arnolfini picture nor Jan van Eyck’s two small portrait heads, which hang beside it, have been subjected to this destructive process of rubbing.
Of these two portraits the earlier by a few months (29o) is signed and dated the same year as the “Adoration of the Lamb.” Here we have the portrait of a somewhat swarthy, dark-faced man of middle age. These rich red-bronze flesh tints are very characteristic of Jan van Eyck, so too are the dusky tones of the picture, the black background, and the dark-green hood, which latter contrasts agreeably with the red fur-trimmed coat over which it falls. The colours here are wonder-fully blended, and the drawing is exceedingly careful. Who is this determined-looking man, with the clear gray eyes looking straight out before him from under his high forehead, with the curious retroussé nose and the full mouth and firm chin ? But for the expression of quiet strength and purpose, we should pronounce this an almost vulgar type of face, and the hands are decidedly plebeian. The only clue to their owner’s identity is to be found in the inscription on the stone parapet, where, above the date, October 10, 1432, and the artist’s signature, we read the motto,” Leal Sovvenir” ” In loyal remembrance,” as we might sayand over that, in Greek characters, the name ” Timotheus.” The picture is further signed with Jan’s modest motto, ” Als ich kann,” the first words of an old Flemish proverb, “As I can, but not as I would.” We know nothing further of this Timothy, but the fact that his portrait was repeatedly copied seems to point to his having been a man of note in his day, perhaps a university professor or a well-known scholar. The Greek lettering of the name may have been intended as a delicate compliment to his classical learning, and the roll of writing in his hand possibly indicates some literary achievement.
The other portrait (222) was painted, as its inscription shows, just a year later. It represents an elderly man, perhaps a retired merchant of Bruges, with something of that look of tranquillity, combined with penetrative insight, which age so often brings. The quiet, yet withal shrewd eyes, which look out at the spectator, and the thin, decided lips, speak of a past in which both experience and success have been achieved. The care-fully twisted red turban, contrasting with the dark dress and black background and the sober face, relieves the sombre colouring of the picture. The head is even more powerfully modelled than in the ” Timothy,” the flesh tints less ruddy and the play of light and shade stronger. This minuteness of finish has surely never been surpassed. Every bristle on the man’s chin, every wrinkle in the skin is indicated, though never so much as to distract the attention from the effect of the whole. There is neither niggling nor disagreeable smoothness. Like all van Eyck’s pictures this can be looked at from a distance or examined closely with equal satisfaction. A striking feature in this portrait is the extraordinarily accurate drawing of the eyes. The head is turned a little to the right, and the left eye, being nearer to the spectator, appears slightly larger than the other. This sharp perspective gives a singularly penetrating expression to the eyes. The picture is not quite in the fine condition of Jan van Eyck’s other portraits here, being a good deal cracked. On the simple old gilded wooden frame of the period are carved the artist’s name and the date of the picture, and again the familiar motto.
For all his marvellous elaboration and devotion to detail, Jan completed no inconsiderable number of pictures, and those that have come down to us are scattered among the great European collections. The Louvre possesses the wonderful ” Madonna with Chancellor Rollin,” a masterpiece of portraiture and minute, finished painting. Berlin is rich in portraits, foremost among them the famous ” Man with the Pinks,” con-summate in its soft, harmonious colouring and almost startling truth to life. In Bruges we find, besides the portrait of the painter’s wife, the great ” Madonna and Child worshipped by Canon Pala,” a splendid picture in spite of the repellent types portrayed. Vienna boasts two portraits, Frankfort and Dresden each an altar-piece.
Immeasurable as was the influence of the van Eycks on the future of Flemish art, and indeed on the very art of painting itself, they seem to have had few direct pupils. The only artist whom we may assume with some certainty to have been trained under Jan is Petrus Cristus. Very little is known about this painter’s life beyond the fact that he obtained the freedom of the city of Bruges four years after Jan van Eyck’s death. Probably, however, he was studying in Bruges for some years before this, though not as a fully acknowledged painter. A ” Madonna and Child with Saints ” in the Gallery at Frankfort bears witness to the connection between Jan van Eyck and Cristus. Here we find the pupil making use of his master’s studio properties. The oriental rug at the Madonna’s feet is identical in colour and design with that used by Jan in his picture of the ” Madonna of Lucca” in the same gallery, and on the pilasters of the throne Cristus has introduced in miniature the well-known Adam and Eve from the Ghent altar-piece.
The “Portrait of Marco Barbarigo ” (696), which hangs beneath the group of Jan van Eyck’s pictures in the National Gallery, has sometimes been ascribed to Petrus Cristus. Jan’s influence is plainly discernible here, both in the brown flesh tones and the straight-forward realism of the portraiture. But we may perhaps detect Cristus in the rather hard outlines, the heavy touch, and the somewhat commonplace type of features, which always characterise his paintings. Marco Barbarigo, who for one short year enjoyed the position of Doge of Venice, acted in 1449, the time when this portrait was painted, as Venetian consul in London. The exquisitely-lettered document which he holds in his hand is addressed to him in London. Petrus Cristus, indeed, may actually have travelled to England himself to paint it, for, besides this portrait, two others by him represent English people–one the portrait of ” Lady Talbot” in the Berlin Museum, the other that of ” Edward Grimston ” in Lord Verulam’s collection. Such a possibility cannot fail to give additional inter-est to this small panel, which, hanging in company with Jan van Eyck’s superb portraits, serves also to illustrate the relative inferiority of the pupil in finish, refinement and technique.
Cristus’s most important work, the ” Legend of S. Elegius,” in the collection of Baron Oppenheim at Cologne, introduces us to the interior of a fifteenth-century goldsmith’s shop, where the saint, seated at a table, receives a visit from a young couple. Here we have one of the first genre pictures of the type which Quentin Matsys and his followers afterwards secularised and made their own. If Cristus be really the author of the large “Deposition of Christ” in Brussels, there ascribed to him, he shows himself also a landscape painter of true skill and feeling.
In the large Venetian room of the National Gallery (VII.) we find a group of pictures which even a glance suffices to connect with the school of Flanders. Antonello da Messina, who is worthily represented here by four pictures, must be counted among Jan van Eyck’s pupils, though only indirectly. Vasari’s story, that he travelled to Bruges and learned the art from Jan van Eyck himself, has long been disproved by the fact that Antonello was only born some four years after Jan’s death. But that he somehow acquired the new method of painting, perhaps even in Italy, from some Flemish artist, and that both his technique and his early style bear strong evidence of Flemish influence, are undoubted facts. Indeed, the artistic traffic between Italy and the north was by no means inconsiderable. Flemish artists, and among them Hubert van Eyck and the great Roger van der Weyden himself, found their way to Italy. Flemish pictures, too, were frequently sent south, or bought by Italian merchants like Arnolfini in Bruges itself. Nor, indeed, is it by any means impossible that Antonello did actually find his way to Bruges, and learn from some pupil of the van Eycks, besides seeing the pictures of the master himself. The strong realism, the forcible directness of his portraiture, and even the somewhat dark tone of his flesh colours, seem to confirm this. From no other master of the Flemish school could he have acquired just these qualities.
Antonello is perhaps best known for having introduced the new Flemish method of oil painting into Italy, for he settled in Venice, where he learned as much from the Venetian painters in the direction of breadth and style as he could teach them of technique. His ” Salvator Mundi ” (673) is unmistakably Flemish in type and colour, recalling Jan van Eyck’s “Head of Christ” in the Berlin Museum. This picture, dated 1465, some eight years before he came to Venice, is the earliest we know by Antonello, and bears every trace of youth and inexperience. The hands have given the young painter peculiar trouble. He has painted them once, and then, dissatisfied at the result, altered the position of the right hand. Even now it is far from convincing, and, moreover, the original hand underneath has worked through the paint and betrayed the artist’s correction or, as the Italians call it, pentimento. The composition, too, is cramped, the figure seeming to fit with difficulty into the space allotted to it. And yet only ten years later Antonello achieved such a magnificent piece of work as his “Condottiere” in the Louvre, a bold, living portrait of one of those truculent swashbucklers so characteristic of the Renaissance in Italy. But we must not linger over his later works. The fine portrait of himself in the National Gallery (1141) is at least as much Venetian as Flemish, though here again the accurate drawing of the eyes recalls Jan van Eyck. The pathetic little ” Crucifixion ” (1166) is in bad condition, and in this too we see Antonello passing over to the Italians.
But the wonderful little ” S. Jerome in his Study” (1318) links Antonello to the school of Bruges in a very intimate way. It is probably the very picture mentioned by Vasari as a “S. Jerome” by van Eyck belonging to Lorenzo de’ Medici, and though this attribution to Jan is certainly erroneous, it is further evidence of the influence which his works produced on Antonello, by whom there is little doubt it was painted. The richness of detail in this beautiful little interior is far more Flemish than Italian. We look through a tawny – coloured marble archway into a lofty, well-lighted hall with tiled floor, in the middle of which a raised platform, surrounded on two sides by shelves, forms a kind of sanctum or study for the fine, dignified old gentleman who occupies it. There is little here to denote the saint, unless it be the hair shirt beneath his deep red robe and the cardinal’s hat on the bench behind him, but the long-legged lion lurking in the arcaded passage leaves no doubt as to his identity. What a peaceful existence, surrounded by his petshis lion, the sleepy grey, cat, the partridge and peacock, for which a copper bowl of water has not been forgotten ! Even the wild birds perch on the high window-sill in friendly fashion. We have only to look a little further in this same Gallery to find S. Jerome in far less enviable plight, gaunt and naked among the rocks, beating his breast with a stone in a very frenzy of penitence. Here in his well-appointed study he lacks nothing. The shelves round his writing-desk are well furnished with books, bottles and jars, and a towel hangs on a convenient peg ; while for decoration a vase of carnations and a plant in a pot adorn the platform, after the fashion of Italy to this day. Descending from his study by three little steps, at the foot of which his pattens lie ready, he has only to walk to one of the windows at the end of the hall to get a glimpse out into the country, where a green landscape stretches away to the hills. Minute as they are, mere specks of black and scarlet}. we can nevertheless distinguish tiny figures moving outside, some women and a dog, a man in red, and a rider on a white horse, a favourite motif with many Flemish painters of the fifteenth century. The enclosed building on the left looks like a monastery, where, among the more learned members of the community, S. Jerome would doubtless find congenial society.
( Originally Published 1904 )
German and Flemish Masters:The German And Flemish Masters In The National GalleryThe Van EycksThe School Of Roger Van Der WeydenGerard David And His FollowersThe German Painters Of The Fifteenth CenturyMatsys And The ItalianisersThe German Painters Of The RenaissanceRubensVan Dyck And The Painters Of Antwerp