« PreviousContinue »
company of some who are accounted very be marked at that office, with a view of its good men now—rather than any tendency being submitted at least to the attention of at this time to Republican doctrines-assisted the proper Law Officers—when an unlucky, us in assuming a style of writing, while the or rather lucky epigram from our pen, aimed paper lasted, consonant in no very under at Sir J -SM-h, who was on the eve tone-to the right earnest fanaticism of F. of departing for India to reap the fruits of Our cue was now to insinuate, rather than his apostacy, as F. pronounced it, (it is hardly recommend, possible abdications. Blocks, worth particularising,) happening to offend axes, Whitehall tribunals, were covered with the nice sense of Lord, or, as he then flowers of so cunning a periphrasis — as delighted to be called, Citizen Stanhope, Mr. Bayes says, never vaming the thing deprived F. at once of the last hopes of a directly—that the keen eye of an Attorney guinea from the last patron that had stuck General was insufficient to detect the lurking by us; and breaking up our establishment, snake among them. There were times, left us to the safe, but somewhat mortifying, indeed, when we sighed for our more gentle- neglect of the Crown Lawyers. It was about man-like occupation under Stuart. But this time, or a little earlier, that Dan Stuart with change of masters it is ever change made that curious confession to us, that he of service. Already one paragraph, and had “never deliberately walked into an another, as we learned afterwards from a Exhibition at Somerset House in his life.” gentleman at the Treasury, had begun to
BARRENNESS OF THE IMAGINATIVE FACULTY IN THE PRODUCTIONS
OF MODERN ART.
HOGARTH excepted, can we produce any reeling satyr rout about him, re-peopling and one painter within the last fifty years, or re-illuming suddenly the waste places, drunk since the humour of exhibiting began, that with a new fury beyond the grape, Bacchus, has treated a story imaginatively? By this born in fire, fire-like flings himself at the we mean, upon whom his subject has so Cretan. This is the time present. With acted, that it has seemed to direct him-not this telling of the story—an artist, and no to be arranged by him ? Any upon whom ordinary one, might remain richly proud. its leading or collateral points have impressed Guido, in his harmonious version of it, saw themselves so tyrannically, that he dared not no further. But from the depths of the treat it otherwise, lest he should falsify a imaginative spirit Titian has recalled past revelation ? Any that has imparted to his time, and laid it contributory with the present compositions, not merely so much truth as is to one simultaneous effect. With the desert enough to convey a story with clearness, but all ringing with the mad cymbals of his that individualising property, which should followers, made lucid with the presence and keep the subject so treated distinct in new offers of a god,-as if unconscious of feature from every other subject, however Bacchus, or but idly casting her eyes as upon similar, and to common apprehensions almost some unconcerning pageant—her soul undisidentical ; so as that we might say, this and tracted from Theseus-Ariadne is still pacing this part could have found an appropriate the solitary shore in as much heart-silence, place in no other picture in the world but and in almost the same local solitude, with this ? Is there anything in modern art—we which she awoke at day-break to catch the will not demand that it should be equal— forlorn last glances of the sail that bore away but in any way analogous to what Titian has the Athenian. effected, in that wonderful bringing together Here are two points miraculously coof two times in the “Ariadne,” in the uniting ; fierce society, with the feeling of National Gallery ? Precipitous, with his solitude still absolute; noon-day revelations,
with the accidents of the dull grey dawn to battle for indecorous mastery.—We have unquenched and lingering; the present seen a lardscape of a justly admired neoteric, Bacchus, with the past Ariadne ; two stories, in which he aimed at delineating a fiction, with double Time; separate, and harmonising. one of the most severely beautiful in antiquity Had the artist made the woman one shade'—the gardens of the Hesperides. To do less indifferent to the God; still more, had Mr. -justice, he had painted a laudable she expressed a rapture at his advent, where orchard, with fitting seclusion, and a veritable would have been the story of the mighty dragon (of which a Polypheme, by Poussin, desolation of the heart previous ? merged in is somehow a fac-simile for the situation), the insipid accident of a flattering offer met looking over into the world shut out backwith a welcome acceptance. The broken wards, so that none but a “still-climbing heart for Theseus was not lightly to be Hercules” could hope to catch a peep at the pieced up by a God.
admired Ternary of Recluses. No convenWe have before us a fine rough print, tual porter could keep his eyes better than from a picture by Raphael in the Vatican. this custos with the “lidless eyes.” He not It is the Presentation of the new-born Eve only sees that none do intrude into that to Adam by the Almighty. A fairer mother privacy, but, as clear as daylight, that none of mankind we might imagine, and a goodlier but Hercules aut Diabolus by any manner of sire perhaps of men since born. But these means can. So far all is well. We have are matters subordinate to the conception of absolute solitude here or nowhere. Ab extra the situation, displayed in this extraordinary the damsels are snug enough. But here the production. A tolerably modern artist artist's courage seems to have failed bim. would have been satisfied with tempering He began to pity his pretty charge, and, to certain raptures of connubial anticipation, comfort the irksomeness, has peopled their with a suitable acknowledgment to the solitude with a bevy of fair attendants, maids Giver of the blessing, in the countenance of of honour, or ladies of the bed-chamber, the first bridegroom; something like the according to the approved etiquette at a divided attention of the child (Adam was court of the nineteenth century; giving to here a child-man) between the given toy, the whole scene the air of a féte champêtre, if and the mother who had just blest it with we will but excuse the absence of the gentle the bauble. This is the obvious, the first- men. This is well, and Watteauish. But sight view, the superficial. An artist of a what is become of the solitary mystery—the higher grade, considering the awful presence
Daughters three, they were in, would have taken care to
That sing around the golden tree ! subtract something from the expression of the more human passion, and to heighten the This is not the way in which Poussin would more spiritual one. This would be as much have treated this subject. as an exhibition-goer, from the opening of
The paintings, or rather the stupendous Somerset House to last year's show, has been architectural designs, of a modern artist, have encouraged to look for. It is obvious to hint been urged as objections to the theory of our at a lower expression yet, in a picture that, motto. They are of a character, we confess, for respects of drawing and colouring, might to stagger it. His towered structures are of be deemed not wholly inadmissible within the highest order of the material sublime. these art-fostering walls, in which the Whether they were dreams, or transcripts of raptures should be as ninety-nine, the grati- some elder workmanship—Assyrian ruins tude as one, or perhaps zero! By neither old—restored by this mighty artist, they the one passion nor the other has Raphael satisfy our most stretched and craving conexpounded the situation of Adam. Singly ceptions of the glories of the antique world. upon his brow sits the absorbing sense of It is a pity that they were ever peopled. On wonder at the created miracle. The moment that side, the imagination of the artist halts, is seized by the intuitive artist, perhaps not and appears defective. Let us examine the self-conscious of his art, in which neither of point of the story in the Belshazzar's the conflicting emotions - a moment how Feast.” We will introduce it by an apposite abstracted !-have had time to spring up, or anecdote.
The court historians of the day record, that anxiety for the preservation of their persons, at the first dinner given by the late King —such as we have witnessed at a theatre, (then Prince Regent) at the Pavilion, the when a slight alarm of fire has been givenfollowing characteristic frolic was played off. an adequate exponent of a supernatural The guests were select and adıniring; the terror ? the way in which the finger of God, banquet profuse and admirable; the lights writing judgments, would have been met by lustrous and oriental; the eye was perfectly the withered conscience? There is a human dazzled with the display of plate, among fear, and a divine fear. The one is disturbed, which the great gold salt-cellar, brought from restless, and bent upon escape. The other is the regalia in the Tower for this especial bowed down, effortless, passive. When the purpose, itself a tower ! stood conspicuous spirit appeared before Eliphaz in the visions for its magnitude. And now the Rev. ***
***, of the night, and the hair of his flesh stood the then admired court Chaplain, was pro- up, was it in the thoughts of the Temanite ceeding with the grace, when, at a signal to ring the bell of his chamber, or to call up given, the lights were suddenly overcast, and the servants? But let us see in the text a huge transparency was discovered, in which what there is to justify all this huddle of glittered in gold letters,
From the words of Daniel it appears that “ BRIGHTON-EARTHQUAKE-SWALLOW-UP
Belshazzar had made a great feast to a ALIVE!"
thousand of his lords, and drank wine before Imagine the confusion of the guests; the the thousand. The golden and silver vessels Georges and garters, jewels, bracelets, moulted are gorgeously enumerated, with the princes, upon the occasion! The fans dropped, and the king's concubines, and his wives. Then picked up the next morning by the sly court- follows pages ! Mrs. Fitz-what's-her-name fainting, “In the same hour came forth fingers of a and the Countess of * * * holding the smell- | man's hand, and wrote over against the ing-bottle, till the good-humoured Prince candlestick upon the plaster of the wall of caused harmony to be restored, by calling in the king's palace ; and the king saw the part fresh candles, and declaring that the whole of the hand that wrote. Then the king's was nothing but a pantomine hoax, got up countenance was changed, and his thoughts by the ingenious Mr. Farley, of Covent troubled him, so that the joints of his loins Garden, from hints which his Royal High- were loosened, and his knees smote one ness himself had furnished! Then imagine against another." the infinite applause that followed, the This is the plain text. By no hint can it mutual rallyings, the declarations that “they be otherwise inferred, but that the appearance were not much frightened,” of the assembled was solely confined to the fancy of Belshazzar, galaxy.
that his single brain was troubled. Not a The point of time in the picture exactly word is spoken of its being seen by any else answers to the appearance of the trans- there present, not even by the queen herself, parency in the anecdote. The huddle, the who merely undertakes for the interpretation flutter, the bustle, the escape, the alarm, and of the phenomenon, as related to her, doubtthe mock alarm; the prettinesses heightened less, by her husband. The lords are simply by consternation; the courtier's fear which said to be astonished ; i.e. at the trouble and was flattery; and the lady's which was the change of countenance in their sovereign. affectation ; all that we may conceive to Even the prophet does not appear to have have taken place in a mob of Brighton seen the scroll
, which the king saw. He courtiers, sympathising with the well-acted recals it only, as Joseph did the Dream to surprise of their sovereign ; all this, and no the King of Egypt. “ Then was the part of more, is exhibited by the well-dressed lords the hand sent from him [the Lord), and this and ladies in the Hall of Belus. Just this writing was written.” He speaks of the sort of consternation we have seen among a phantasm as past. flock of disquieted wild geese at the report Then what becomes of this needless multionly of a gun having gone off!
plication of the miracle ? this message to a royal But is this vulgar fright, this mere animal conscience, singly expressed—for it was said,
“Thy kingdom is divided,”—simultaneously which reduces confusion to a kind of unity, impressed upon the fancies of a thousand and when the senses are upturned from their courtiers, who were implied in it neither proprieties, when sight and hearing are a directly nor grammatically?
feeling only? A thousand years have passed, But admitting the artist's own version of and we are at leisure to contemplate the the story, and that the sight was seen also by weaver fixed standing at his shuttle, the the thousand courtiers—let it have been baker at his oven, and to turn over with visible to all Babylon--as the knees of Bel- antiquarian coolness the pots and pans of shazzar were shaken, and his countenance Pompeii. troubled, even so would the knees of every Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon, and man in Babylon, and their countenances, as thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon." Who, of an individual man, have been troubled ; in reading this magnificent Hebraism, in his bowed, bent down, so would they have re- conception, sees aught but the heroic son of mained, stupor-fixed, with no thought of Nun, with the outstretched-arm, and the struggling with that inevitable judgment. greater and lesser light obsequious ? Doubt.
Not all that is optically possible to be less there were to be seen hill and dale, and seen, is to be shown in every picture. The chariots and horsemen, on open plain, or eye delightedly dwells upon the brilliant winding by secret defiles, and all the circumindividualities in a “Marriage at Cana,” by stances and stratagems of war. But whose Veronese, or Titian, to the very texture and eyes would have been conscious of this array colour of the wedding garments, the ring at the interposition of the synchronic miracle? glittering upon the bride's fingers, the metal Yet in the picture of this subject by the artist and fashion of the wine-pots ; for at such of the “Belshazzar's Feast”—no ignoble seasons there is leisure and luxury to be work either--the marshalling and landscape curious. But in a “day of judgment,” or in of the war is everything, the miracle sinks a “day of lesser horrors, yet divine," as at into an anecdote of the day; and the eye the impious feast of Belshazzar, the eye may “dart through rank and file traverse" should see, as the actual eye of an agent or for some minutes, before it shall discover, patient in the immediate scene would see, among his armed followers, which is Joshua! only in masses and indistinction. Not only Not modern art alone, but ancient, where the female attire and jewelry exposed to the only it is to be found if anywhere, can be critical eye of fashion, as minutely as the detected erring, from defect of this imaginadresses in a Lady's Magazine, in the criticised tive faculty. The world has nothing to show picture,—but perhaps the curiosities of ana- of the preternatural in painting, transcending tomical science, and studied diversities of the figure of Lazarus bursting his graveposture, in the falling angels and sinners of clothes, in the great picture at Angerstein's
. Michael Angelo,have no business in their It seems a thing between two beings. A great subjects. There was no leisure for them. ghastly horror at itself struggles with newly
By a wise falsification, the great masters apprehending gratitude at second life beof painting got at their true conclusions ; by stowed. It cannot forget that it was a ghost. not showing the actual appearances, that is, It has hardly felt that it is a body. It has all that was to be seen at any given moment to tell of the world of spirits.-Was it from by an indifferent eye, but only what the eye a feeling, that the crowd of half-impassioned might be supposed to see in the doing or hy-standers, and the still more irrelevant suffering of some portentous action. Sup-herd of passers-by at a distance, who have pose the moment of the swallowing up of not heard, or but faintly have been told of Pompeii. There they were to be seen the passing miracle, admirable as they are houses, columns, architectural proportions, in design and hue—for it is a glorified work differences of public and private buildings, -do not respond adequately to the actionmen and women at their standing occupa- that the single figure of the Lazarus has tions, the diversified thousand postures, been attributed to Michael Angelo, and the attitudes, dresses, in some confusion truly, mighty Sebastian unfairly robbed of the but physically they were visible. But what fame of the greater half of the interest ? eye saw them at that eclipsing moment, Now that there were not indifferent passers
by within actual scope of the eyes of those ferences beyond that of a He Goat and a present at the miracle, to whom the sound of Cornuto; so from this subject, of mere meit had but faintly, or not at all, reached, it chanic promise, it would instinctively turn would be hardihood to deny; but would away, as from one incapable of investiture they see them ? or can the mind in the con- with any grandeur. The dock-yards at Woolception of it admit of such unconcerning ob- wich would object derogatory associations. jects; can it think of them at all ? or what The depôt at Chatham would be the mote associating league to the imagination can and the beam in its intellectual eye. But there be between the seers, and the seers not to the nautical preparations in the shipnot, of a presential miracle ?
yards of Civita Vecchia did Raphael look for Were an artist to paint upon demand a instructions, when he imagined the building picture of a Dryad, we will ask whether, in of the Vessel that was to be conservatory of the present low state of expectation, the the wrecks of the species of drowned manpatron would not, or ought not be fully satis- kind. In the intensity of the action, he fied with a beautiful naked figure recumbent keeps ever out of sight the meanness of the under wide-stretched oaks ? Disseat those operation. There is the Patriarch, in calm woods, and place the same figure among forethought, and with holy prescience, giving fountains, and falls of pellucid water, and directions. And there are his agents—the you have a~Naiad ! Not so in a rough print solitary but sufficient Three-hewing, sawing, we have seen after Julio Romano, we think every one with the might and earnestness of —for it is long since—there, by no process, 'a Demiurgus; under some instinctive rather with mere change of scene, could the figure than technical guidance ! giant-muscled ; have reciprocated characters. Long, gro- every one a Hercules, or liker to those tesque, fantastic, yet with a grace of her Vulcanian Three, that in sounding caverns own, beautiful in convolution and distortion, under Mongibello wrought in fire-Brontes, linked to her connatural tree, co-twisting and black Steropes, and Pyracmon. So work with its limbs her own, till both seemed the workmen that should repair a world ! either — these, animated branches ; those, Artists again err in the confounding of disanimated members—yet the animal and poetic with pictorial subjects. In the latter, vegetable lives sufficiently kept distinct—his the exterior accidents are nearly everything, Dryad lay—an approximation of two natures, the unseen qualities as nothing. Othello's which to conceive, it must be seen ; analogous colour—the infirmities and corpulence of a Sir to, not the same with, the delicacies of John Falstaff-do they haunt us perpetually Ovidian transformations.
in the reading ? or are they obtruded upon To the lowest subjects, and, to a superficial our conceptions one time for ninety-nine comprehension, the most barren, the Great that we are lost in admiration at the reMasters gave loftiness and fruitfulness. The spective moral or intellectual attributes of large eye of genius saw in the meanness of the character ? But in a picture Othello is present objects their capabilities of treatment always a Blackamoor; and the other only from their relations to some grand Past or Plump Jack. Deeply corporealised, and Future. How has Raphael-we must still enchained hopelessly in the grovelling fetters linger about the Vatican-treated the humble of externality, must be the mind, to which, craft of the ship-builder, in his “Building of in its better moments, the image of the highthe Ark ?" It is in that scriptural series, souled, high-intelligenced Quixote the to which we have referred, and which, judg- errant Star of Knighthood, made more ing from some fine rough old graphic sketches tender by eclipse-has never presented itself of them which we possess, seem to be of a divested from the unhallowed accompanihigher and more poetic grade than even the ment of a Sancho, or a rabblement at the Cartoons. The di of sight are the timid heels of Rosinante. That man has read his and the shrinking. There is a cowardice in book by halves; he has laughed, mistaking modern art. As the Frenchman, of whom his author's purport, which was-tears. The Coleridge's friend made the prophetic guess artist that pictures Quixote (and it is in this at Rome, from the beard and horns of the degrading point that he is every season held Moses of Michael Angelo collected no in- up at our Exhibitions) in the shallow hope of