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wise his arm, which has a short interrupted outline. The action of the malefactors has not that energy which he usually gave to his figures. Rubens, in his letter to Geldorp, expresses his own approbation of this picture, which he says was the best he ever painted: he likewise expresses his content and happiness in the subject, as being picturesque: this is likewise natural to such a mind as that of Rubens, who was perhaps too much looking about him for the picturesque, or something uncommon. A man with his head downwards is certainly a more extraordinary object than in its natural place. Many parts of this picture are so feebly drawn, and with so tame a pencil, that I cannot help suspecting that Rubens died before he had completed it, and that it was finished by some of his scholars.
Weeninx. — This picture is of great fame, I suppose,
from the letter of Rubens, where he says, or would be his best work. We went from Dusseldorp to Cologne on purpose to see it; but it by no means recompensed us for our journey. From Cologne we made an excursion to Bernsburgh, a hunting seat of the Elector Palatine, which we found
different from what we had been taught to expect. The three rooms painted by Weeninx, however excellent in their kind, are not better, nor even so good as what we had seen before of his hand, in the gallery of Dusseldorp. His figures as large as life, which he is fond of introducing, are very indifferent, if not bad. His dead game certainly cannot be too much admired; but a sample is enough : here is too much of it. His portraits are such as no one would hang up in his house, if they were not accompanied with his birds and animals.
The Frescos on the walls and ceiling are by Belluci
Pellegrino, and other late painters, not worth a minute's attention. We saw a picture of the Slaughter of the Innocents, by old Brueghel, the same as one I had seen before in some part of Holland ; and I have another myself. This painter was totally ignorant of all the mechanical art of making a picture; but there is here a great quantity of thinking, a representation of variety of distress, enough for twenty modern pictures. In this respect he is like Donne, as distinguished from the modern versifiers, who carrying no weight of thought, easily fall into that false gallop of verses which Shakspeare ridicules in “ As you like it.”
There is the same difference between the old portraits of Albert Durer or Holbein, and those of the modern painters: the moderns have certainly the advantage in facility, but there is a truth in the old painters, though expressed in a hard manner, that gives them a superiority.
LE BRUN. --- At Cologne, in the possession of one of the family of Jabac, is the famous picture, by Le Brun, containing the portrait of Jabac, his wife, and four children.* It is much superior to what I could conceive Le Brun capable of doing in the Portrait style. She is sitting on his left hand, with four children about her, and a greyhound, equally correct and well painted with the rest. Jabac himself is much in shadow, except the face. Le Brun is represented by his picture on a canvass which is placed on an easel; before him lie prints, drawings, port-crayons, and a large gold bust of Alexander. The portraits are equal to the best of Vandyck: but there is heaviness in
* This picture is now (1797) in the collection of Mr. Hope, late of Amsterdam.-M.
the effect of the picture, which Vandyck never had, and this is its only defect.
(RUBENS,) in the church of the Capuchins, is the Adorations of the Shepherds, by Rubens; it appears to be much damaged, but it never was a very striking picture. There is a print of it by
A Shepherdess, not a very poetical one, is making an offering of a hen's egg to the Virgin, having already given three eggs, which lie by the infant Christ, who is sucking the Virgin : neither of them take any notice of the shepherdess; if the Virgin may be said to be looking at any thing, it is at the egg in the woman's hand. A shepherd with his hand to his hat, as if going to pull it off, appears to be well painted; and the ox is admirably well done.
St. Francis receiving the stimata, seems likewise to be by Rubens, but is not much to be admired.
LAIRESSE. In the great church is the Ascension of the Virgin, by Lairesse. Parts of this picture are well painted ; but it has no effect upon the whole, from the want of large masses. His manner is not open, and appears too restrained for large pictures. The same defect is observable in pictures of Poussin, where the figures are as large as life, and in those of Vanderwerf. We are creatures of habit, and a painter cannot change his habits suddenly; he cannot, like the fallen angels of Milton, increase or diminish at pleasure.
Aux Dames Blanches.
RUBENS. - The Adoration of the Magi, by Rubens; a slight performance. The Virgin holds the infant but awkwardly, appearing to pinch the thigh. This picture is said to have been painted in eight days, and he was paid for it 800 forins, about 801. English. A print by Lauvers. The Virgin and Christ, and the principal of the Magi, are much the same as in my sketch, except that he kneels intead of standing.
In the church of St. Pierre are some pictures of the old masters; one said to be of Quintin Matsys; another, about the same age, representing some Saint, who appears to refuse a mitre, which is placed before him ; a composition of near an hundred figures, many in good attitudes, natural and well invented. It is much more entertaining to look at the works of these old masters, than slight common-place pictures of many modern painters.
CHARACTER OF RUBENS.
The works of men of genius alone, where great faults are united with great beauties, afford proper matter for criticism. Genius is always eccentric, bold, and daring; which, at the same time that it commands attention, is sure to provoke criticism. It is the regular, cold, and timid composer, who escapes censure, and deserves no praise.
The elevated situation on which Rubens stands in
the esteem of the world is alone a sufficient reason for some examination of his pretensions.
His fame is extended over a great part of the Continent, without a rival: and it may be justly said that he has enriched his country, not in a figurative sense only, by the great examples of art which he left, but by what some would think a more solid advantage, the wealth arising from the concourse of strangers whom his works continually invite to Antwerp, which would otherwise have little to reward the visit of a connoisseur,
To the city of Dusseldorp he has been an equal benefactor. The gallery of that city is considered as containing one of the greatest collections of pictures in the world; but if the works of Rubens were taken from it, I will venture to assert, that this great repository would be reduced to at least half its value.
To extend his glory still further, he gives to Paris one of its most striking features, the LUXEMBOURG GALLERY * : and if to these we add the many towns,
* This was written before France had been disgraced, and plundered, and desolate, by the unparalleled atrocities of those sanguinary and ferocious savages, who for seven years past (1798) have deluged that country with blood; while they have waged war against every principle that binds man to man: against all the arts and all the elegancies of life; against beauty, virtue, law, social order, true liberty, religion, and even humanity itself. The collection of the Luxembourg gallery, representing Henry IV., Mary of Medicis, and their children, with all the splendour of royalty, has without doubt long since fallen a sacrifice to their barbarous rage, and shared the same fate with his fine statue of that monarch, which formerly stood on the Pont Neuf, and which has been battered to pieces. — The other great collection of pictures, however, of which Paris formerly boasted, that of the Palais Royal, has not suffered among the numerous works of art which have been destroyed; having been fortunately saved from their merciless fangs by the necessities and precaution of the owner, the detestable author and fomentor of their iniquities ; who, happily for the world, though most cruelly, basely, and un