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The companion is Diogenes with a lantern looking for an honest man, among a multitude of insipid halflength figures: this is not in Rubens's best manner of painting
The Nativity, with many angels; admirably composed: the nearest shepherd is particularly well drawn and coloured. One of the angels, who has her arms crossed on her breast, with curled hair, like the Antinous, seems to be copied from Parmigiano: it is much out of Rubens's common manner.
RUBENS and SNYDERS. - Boys by Rubens, playing with or carrying a festoon of fruit, painted by Snyders ; some of the boys the same as those in the banquetinghouse: it is one of Rubens's best pictures both for colouring and drawing; it is indeed soft and rich as flesh itself.
Though the flowers are painted with all that beauty of colour which is in nature, yet Rubens has preserved such brightness and clearness in his flesh, though in contact with those flowers, as perhaps no other painter could have done. This picture is now engraving by Mr. Schmidz, who is an excellent artist, and there is no doubt of the print's being well done; but more than half its merit must be lost for want of Rubens's colour, though some of the boys, particularly that lying on the ground, are extremely well drawn.
We now come to the last four pictures of Rubens which are in this gallery, and which makes a considerable part of it. Two of these represent the Last Judgment, and the other two the expulsion of the rebel angels.
RUBENS. The largest of these four is the Last Judgment, which almost fills the end of the gallery. There is nothing very interesting in this picture : perhaps there is too great a quantity of flesh to have
an agreeable effect. Three naked women and a naked man join together to make the great mass of light of the picture. One of the women, who is looking out of the picture, has for that reason the appearance of a portrait, and is said to be one of Rubens's wives ; and a figure rising out of a grave, in the foreground, is said to be his own portrait; but certainly neither of these suppositions is well founded.
The next large picture is, Michael combating the Fallen Angels. — Michael is but an ungraceful figure; his red mantle has but a heavy appearance; it seems as if it were only laid in flat, to be afterwards finished. The picture has certainly suffered by cleaning: there wants upon the whole a solidity of effect.
The next is called the small Last Judgment. As in the large picture the blessed are the most conspicuous, here the damned make in a manner the subject of the composition : the blessed are faintly represented at a distance in the upper part of the picture, near Christ and the Virgin Mary. This picture is far superior to the large one on the same subject in every respect.
But there is another picture of the Fallen Angels, of the same size as this, which even exceeds it. It is impossible to form an adequate idea of the powers of Rubens, without having seen this picture : he seems here to have given a loose to the most capricious imagination in the attitudes and invention of his fallen angels, who are tumbling one over the other, 6 with hideous ruin and combustion, down to bottomless perdition."
If we consider the fruitfulness of invention which is discovered in this work, or the skill which is shown in composing such an infinite number of figures, or
the art of the distribution of the light and shadow, the freedom of hand, the facility with which it seems to be performed, and what is still more extraordinary, the correctness and admirable taste of drawing of figures fore-shortened, in attitudes the most difficult to execute, we must pronounce this picture to be one of the greatest efforts of genius that ever the art has produced.
Rubens's Room. Here are three large pictures; Laban reconciled to his brother, the Ascension of the Virgin, and the Cloven Tongues (both fine compositions), and St. Lawrence, the same as the print; the colouring of the latter appears raw.
The Battle of the Amazons (not much larger than the print), painted in varnish. The woman who lies dead at the bottom, with her head downwards, is beautifully coloured, in the manner of the women in the picture of fallen angels; and though not of a correct form, has a grand free open outline. This appears to be painted at the same time of his life that he painted the fall of the angels, which is in his best manner: it is a pity that the date is not known. Its companion is Samson and Delilah.
A small picture of the fall of St. Paul, much in the same style as his own picture. The horse of St. Paul is in a remarkable fine attitude, and there is great spirit and bustle through the whole picture. Tameness or insipidity is not the character of Rubens : in whatever he employs his figures, they do their business with great energy.
RUBENS and BRUEGHEL. — A Madonna and Bambino, by Rubens, with flowers by Brueghel, and eleven
boy angels surrounding the garland, who are beautifully coloured, equally brilliant with the flowers.
A landscape with a double rainbow quite across the picture very slight: the varnish seems to be off this picture likewise.
A finished small picture of the St. Christopher, the same as on the door of the Descent from the Cross at Antwerp.
Rubens and his wife, when he was a young man, for his portrait here appears not above two or three and twenty: his wife is very handsome, and has an agreeable countenance. She is by much the best part of the picture, which is rather in a hard manner. The linen is grey; he was at this period afraid of white.
Over the door is a portrait of a lady, whole-length, with her hand on a dog's head; a gentleman behind; a boy (her son) by her side, with a hawk, and a dwarf behind the dog. This is called Lord and Lady Arundel, but certainly does not contain their portraits. The arms on the curtain have a lion and unicorn for supporters, and the Garter as a label under.
On the right side is Castor and Pollux, with two horses carrying away two women: it is a fine piece of colouring, but the composition too artful.
Its companion is, Fame crowning Mars: the Fame is too red, as well as the rest of the picture.
Seneca dying, copied from the statue : it is much to be suspected that this picture was not painted by Rubens. The companion to this is, the four repentant sinners coming to Christ.
The battle of Sennacherib is the companion to the fall of St. Paul. In this picture there is a great repose of shadow in large masses: the figures and horses are full of animation.
About ten portraits by Rubens: the best are, De
Ney, a priest, with a skull in his hand, and Dr. Van Tulden in black, holding in his hand a book shut.
Rubens's wife, a head ; the same as that of Marlborough house.
Philip the Fourth of Spain, and his Queen.
VANDYCK. One of the window-shutters (if they may be so called), which open inwardly, on purpose to hang small pictures on them, and turn back like doors so as to place the pictures on them, in any light, is a portrait (three quarters), by Vandyck ; dressed in black, looking off with part of his right hand appearing, which holds his cloak. It is as finely drawn as that which we saw at the Prince of Orange's gallery, in as perfect preservation, and of a brighter tint; more like the colouring of Rubens ; it is finished, like enamel ; the nose and eyes remarkably finely drawn, and delicately marked. Mr. Kraye told me that there was a print of this portrait by Sandrart, and that he was a worker in silver.
JOHANNES DE HEMISSEN. An Ecce Homo on another window by Johannes de Hemissen, dated 1544; not mentioned for its excellence, but because we see many pictures of his, and particularly his children, which are attributed in every collection to Lionardo da Vinci.
RUBENS. St. Peter crucified with his head downwards, by Rubens; painted a little time before his death. The body and head of the Saint are the only good parts in the picture, which is finely coloured (broad light and shade), and well drawn: but the figure bends too suddenly from the thighs, which are ill drawn, or rather in a bad taste of drawing; as is like