« PreviousContinue »
templating with a calm, cool, and self-involved look. But the chief merit of the work is one that is peculiar to the Greek statues of the best time of the Art-namely, a purity, simplicity, and natural truth of expression, which has never been approached by later artists, and scarcely attempted :--so much easier is it, and as a general principle so much more effective, to depict that which is not, than that which is and so many more admirers are there to be found for pretence and affectation, than for the bare simplicities of Nature. It may be doubted whether this statue represents Demosthenes ; and at all events it includes nothing peculiarly characteristic of that sublime declaimer. It is more likely to be one of the philosophers; and perhaps the best use the spectator can make of it is to regard it as a personification of what Philosophy itself ought to be, and of what it approached to in those days more nearly than it had done before, or has since.—Of the pictures in this hall the principal are three by Rubens, Jordaens, and Snyders. The Rubens is, for richness and force of expression, one of the artist's finest works; and for colouring inferior to few. It is a kind of triumph of Silenus ; in which the god is represented as reeling ripe with wine, and attended by a train who are administering to his pleasures in various ways. The face of Silenus I will compare, for the quantity of expression it includes, to that of the child in Wilkie's "Cut Finger." With the exception of that, I have seen no expression which so “o'erinforms its tenement of clay." The flesh seems literally melting away with the meaning that is flowing in upon it, and is ready to burst with over-much excitement. The excitement, however, and the expression which it gives rise to, are purely animal; and are perhaps on that very account more difficult to depict in the perfection that they appear in here, from the circumstance of mere animal expressions being much less frequently observable in the human countenance than intellectual ones. Accordingly, I am disposed to believe that it required a more vivid and realizing imagination in Rubens to paint this picture, and such as this, than it did in many of the Italian artists to give us those divine symbols of intellectual beauty which we are accustomed to look upon as higher efforts of the art. And, in fact, as far as regards the efforts themselves, they unquestionably are of an infinitely higher character ; but with respect to the artists who produced them, I can scarcely think that this is the case. It is on this principle I should say, of the Apollo Belvidere and the Venus de' Medici, that the former is the finest work in the world, as it respects the art and the spectator, and the latter the finest as it respects the artist—that the former is calculated to do most good in the world now it is produced, and is therefore the most valuable; but that the latter required, not only greater natural genius in the artist who produced it, but greater knowledge, taste, and practical skill. There is another face in the above picture which is almost equal to the one I have mentioned. It is that of the Satyr who stands behind Silenus, leering over his shoulder, and blowing two pipes. Without having any thing in it strictly human, there is an imaginative truth of expression that is wonderful.
To the right of the above picture hangs one by Jordaens, on the Finding of Moses, which exhibits a grace and chastity of style seldom to be met with in this rich and vigorous but unpoetical delineator of
natural truth. The principle female figure, in particular, has a courtly ease and elegance about it not unlike some of Vandyke's best figures of this kind.
The other picture which I have named, by Snyders, is one of those admirably spirited representations of animals, in which this artist has remained unrivalled, and even unapproached, till the present day,—when we have one among us who, notwithstanding his extreme youth, is already worthy to be named in the same page. It is to be hoped, however, that Edwin Landseer will not confine his exquisite talent to so very limited a sphere as that in which his predecessor moved. He who could paint such a picture as the one before us, or as many of those by the young artist I have just named, must be qualified to excel in any department of the art which requires bold and vigorous handling, and a quick sense of natural truth; for in this line of art, imagination can have little if any thing to do, except in the mere mechanical arrangement of the objects : a human face or form such as was never actually seen by the eye, may yet produce a very fine effect, and an effect of truth, on the spectator ; because in these we permit the imagination to judge of what the imagination has created. But in the animal world it is different. There, we can only recognize that as true which we remember to be true ; there the memory is the only judge, and the only admirer. In the mere mechanical arrangement, however, of Snyders's pictures, and of the one before us as an example, the imagination has inuch to do, and it is done with infinite skill and to very admirable effect. The different figures are so arranged with reference to each other, that every one of them produces its own individual effect, at the same time that it forms a necessary part of the whole group, and increases the effect of that. Each forms a whole of itself, and produces its effect accordingly; and each constitutes an essential part of the united whole, and cannot be separated from that without destroying its consistency and continuity. There is a convolution and an involution of parts in Snyders's best pictures, which is not the less effective for not being always obvious or obtrusive. There is, however, an occasional affectation and exaggeration in the attitudes and actions of his animals which is never to be met with in the works of his young rival; while there is a force, spirit, and boldness which the latter occasionally want. On leaving the great hall
, you ascend to the upper apartments by a staircase, the ornamental parts of which are worth a glance, notwithstanding their extreme rudeness—or rather, on that very account, as finely consistent with the primitive character of the whole building. They have evidently been restored; but it is equally evident that they have been only restored—not substituted in the place of others. I allude to the fresco paintings which cover the walls of the staircase, galleries, &c. and which may be looked upon as fair specimens of the state of ornamental art in this country, at a time when in others it had reached a pitch of comparative perfection.
I shall name the rooms in the order in which they are shewn to the casual visitor,-lingering in them, or not, as their contents may seem to demand. The first is called “ The Brown Gallery,” and contains a collection of portraits that would be invaluable, if they were but authentic; but, as it is, they are not without great interest, as affording at
least glimpses and imaginations of the distinguished people whose names they bear. It would be endless to name these portraits, as the Gallery is of considerable length, and the walls are entirely covered with them. They chiefly represent persons of the time of Holbein, and are almost all copies, and very indifferent ones, of that singular artist.
The next room is “ Lady Betty Germain's Bed-room." names of these places, even without the sight of them, carry one back half a score of generations. This room, and “The Spangled Bed
which follows, contain nothing worthy of remark, except some curious old faded tapestry, and a noble ebony wardrobe that seems to tell of fine old silk dresses that, in default of a wearer, could stand alone and go to court by themselves,--so stiff, stately, rustling, and alive does the very imagination of them seem.
In a dressing-room adjoining to the last-named bed-room there are two clever candlelight scenes by Schalken; but their light is nearly extinguished, in consequence of the scrupulous care with which the modern impertinencies of cleaning and renewing are avoided.-In “ The Billiard Room,” which we arrive at next, there is an excellent portrait of Sir Kenelm Digby, by Vandyke; and two copies of Titian's wonderful pictures, the Diana and Acteon, and Diana and Calisto-remarkable only for the extraordinary manner in which the painter has avoided all traces of a resemblance to his great originals.
We next reach “ The Venetian Bed-room," said to be in the state in which it was used by James the Second when he visited this mansion. In the dressing-room adjoining to this there is a very excellent and interesting portrait of Mistress Margaret Woffington, as she undoubtedly claims to be called while looking at her here-for she is as demure as a boarding-school miss that has just been produced, and as little realizes one's ideal of Peg Woffington. In this room there is also a fine sketch by Rubens, of Meleager and the Boar, replete with that spirit of motion which he gave in such an unrivalled manner. The whole scene seems as if it were passing before your eyes, and would presently disappear. In “The Bow-room," which succeeds the above, there are some good family portraits by Reynolds, Hoppner, &c. but none striking enough to attract one's attention from the delightful air of youthful antiquity which pervades this fine apartment. Observe, in particular, the noble fire-place, with its marble columns reaching almost to the ceiling; the brazen dogs, chafing-dish, &c.
In “ The Chapel Room,” which you are next shewn into, there is nothing worth naming connected with Art, except a very curious and admirable carving, said to be cut out of one piece of wood, of the Saviour bearing the Cross,&c. It consists of a great variety of figures, the expressions and attitudes of which are extremely well preserved. They tell you that this curious old relic belonged to Mary Queen of Scots.—The next room is called “The Organ Room,” on account of its containing the first organ that ever was constructed. This, too, is a most curious relic. It has the appearance of a large square box, with a few rudely cut finger-keys placed at the top outside ; and presents altogether a singular contrast to the elegant and elaborate instruments of which it claims the merit of being the venerable parent.--In this room there is also a portrait of Sir John Suckling. It is, as a work of Art, a wretched performance; as indeed the majority of those are which we
meet with in this state part of the Castle. But this would be no matter -or but little in many instances—if we could depend on their likeness to the originals. But I am afraid they will not bear us out in this. The above, at all events, is entirely different from two or three old engravings that are extant of that acccomplished scholar, courtier, wit, poet, and gentleman.
Passing through the chapel, we reach “The Crimson Drawing-room," in which there are several pictures of various degrees of merit ; but none first-rate. Some of them which bear first-rate names are evidently copies; and others have been greatly injured by time and accident. Upon the whole, the pictures in this room, though they are more numerous (with the exception of portraits) than those collected in any other apartment, do not call for particular mention.
The only other works of art necessary to be named in this part of the Castle are a set of copies, by Mytens, of the Cartoons of Raffaelle. These are capable of giving a general notion of those sublime works to such as do not choose to seek the originals; but to such as are acquainted with the latter, or ever intend to be so, they had better be passed over with a mere cursory look. It is scarcely possible to copy the general grouping and arrangement of those works without producing a certain grandeur and solemnity of effect; but the detail (in which more than half their power consists) must be contemplated in the originals alone: and those who do not see these, had, in fact, better not see any imitations or hints of them, but keep the mere name of “ The Cartoons of Raffaelle" to produce their own impression on the imagination. The above-named copies occupy an apartment called “The Cartoon Gallery." The only other apartment belonging to the state or show part of the Castle is “ The King's Bedroom.” It does not contain any of those objects of which we are immediately in search; but as we are to pass through it, it may be worth while to mention what many will consider as more than an equivalent for their absence. Here is the bed of gold and silver tissue, made exprès, at a cost of eight thousand pounds, for the monarch (James I.) to pass a night in-here are tables and looking-glass frames formed entirely of that fine rich old chased silver which gives such a splendid antique effect to some of the rooms in Windsor Castle--and above all, here is the identical key used by Charles Earl of Dorset, when Lord Chamberlain to William the Third ; and that used by Edward Earl of Dorset, when holding the same post in the court of Charles the First. I have always thought it childish enough to feel any interest in the mere sight of relics of this kind. The name has always seemed to me quite as good as the thing. The idea of more tangible objects of this kind answers all the purpose that the sight of them can be made to do, by calling up all the associations connected with them just as effectually. And yet I question whether the most determined philosophiser on such subjects as these ever entered the room containing the above objects without not only looking at them with a feeling of interest and curiosity, but without taking them up and handling them—so much, by another species of association, does the sight and touch seem to bring home to one, ideas, images, and feelings, that can be compassed in no other way. And, in fact, the seeming is in this case every thing : so that it is but a spurious philosophy after
all, and what is worse, an affected one, to endeavour or pretend to do without any of those aids which nature (or habit, which is the same thing) has placed in our way in cases of this kind. Let every visitor, then, to this curious old apartment—young or old, gentle or simple, rich or poor,-take up these keys, and make them, if he can, serve as the “ Open sesame !" to the doors of by-gone times ; and while he turns them in his hand, and hears in imagination the bolts fly back which answered to them, let him, if he pleases, fancy himself in the actual presence of those in whose presence they have frequently been.
The remaining apartments in this fine old monument of antiquity, are those which the family occupy. They are only remarkable generally for the delightful air of comfort which breathes through them, arising from the total absence of all pretensions at modern ornamental splendour,—which cannot by any art be made to blend consistently with the real results of antique taste. The only objects of fine art to which I shall refer in this part of the Castle, are those which I alluded to in the commencement of this paper ; namely, a collection of portraits, which, in point of extent at least, is perhaps unique. In order to avoid a mere enumeration of these (which their extent will not admit of in my limited space), it may be said that there is scarcely a celebrated name belonging to the last three hundred years, connected with literature, science, and the fine arts, whose effigy may not be found in this most interesting collection. I will add, that if the mansion of Knowle Park had contained no other objects of art than these portraits, they alone would have entitled it to be noticed among our British Galleries.
THE LAST MAN.
WRITTEN BY T. CAMPBELL.
All worldly shapes shall melt in gloom,
The Sun himself must die,
Adown the gulf of Time!
As Adam saw her prime!
The Earth with age was wan,
Around that lonely man!
In plague and famine some!
To shores where all was dumb!
With dauntless words and high,
As if a storm pass'd by,