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Adjuring me never to plunge my sword
Helper: for all but thou, thou seest, desert me.
Or live with thee: to me it is the same.
The pain and mortal weakness must be thine.
Tremendous Goddesses ! that spring
PICTURES AT OXFORD AND BLENHEIM.
ROME has been called the “ Sa- rounded with the monuments and cred City:"-might not our Oxford lordly mansions of the mind of man, be called so too? There is an air outvying in pomp and splendour the about it, resonant of joy and hope: courts and palaces of temporal power, it speaks with a thousand tongues to rising like an exhalation in the night the heart, it waves its mighty wings of ignorance, and triumphing over over the imagination. It stands, in barbaric foes, saying “ all eyes shall lowly sublimity, on the “ hill of see me, and all knees shall bow to ages ;” and points with prophetic me!”-as the shrine where successive fingers to the sky. It greets the ages came to pay their pious vows, eager gaze from afar, “with glister- and slake the secret thirst of knowing spires and pinnacles adorned,” ledge, where youthful hopes (an endthat shine with an internal light as less flight) soared to truth and good, with the lustre of setting suns, and and where the retired and lonely stua dream and a glory hovers round dent brooded over the historic or its head, as the spirits of former over fancy's page, framing high tasks times, a throng of intellectual shapes, for himself, high destinies for the are seen retreating or advancing to race of man—the lamp, the mine, the the eye of memory; and its streets well-head from whence the spark of are paved with the names of learning learning is kindled, its stream flows, that can never wear out, and its its treasures are spread out through green quadrangles breathe the si- the remotest corners of the land and lence of thought, conscious of the to distant nations. Let him then weight of yearnings innumerable who is fond of indulging in a dreamafter the past, of loftiest aspirations like existence go to Oxford and stay for the future Isis babbles of the there ; let him study this magnificent Muse, her waters are from the springs spectacle, the same under all aspects, of Helicon, her Christ-Church mea- with its mental twilight tempering dows, classic, Elysian fields !-We the glare of noontide, or mellowing could pass our lives in Oxford with- the shadowy moonlight; let him wanout having or wanting a single idea der in her sylvan suburbs, or linger - that of the place is enough. We in her cloistered halls; but let him inhale the air of thought, we stand not catch the din of scholars or in the presence of learning. We are teachers, or dine or sup with them, admitted into the Temple of Fame, or speak a word to any of the priwe feel that we are in the sanctuary, vileged inhabitants; for if he does, on holy ground, and hold high con- the spell will be broken, the poetry yerse with the mighty dead. The and the religion gone, and the palace learned and the ignorant are on a of enchantment will melt from his level, if they have but faith in the embrace into thin air ! tutelary genius of the place. We The only Collection of Pictures at may be wise by proxy, and critical Oxford is that at the Radcliffe Liby prescription. Time has taken brary (bequeathed by Sir William upon himself the labour of thinking, Guise). It is so far appropriate that and accumulated libraries leave us it is dingy, solemn, old; and we leisure to be dull. There is no oc- would gladly leave it to its repose ; casion to examine the buildings, the but where criticismi comes, affection churches, the colleges, by the rules “clappeth his wings, and straightway of architecture, to reckon up the he is gone.” Most of the pictures streets, to compare it with Cam- are either copies, or spoiled, or never bridge (Cambridge lies out of the were good for any thing. There is, way, on one side of the world)—but however, a Music Piece by. Titian, woe to him who does not feel in which bears the stamp of his hand, passing through Oxford that he is in and is “ majestic, though in ruins.”
no mean city,” that he is sur- It represents three young ladies pracNov. 1823.
tising at a harpsichord, with their tured thought and expansive feeling, music-master looking on. One of such as is seldom to be met with. the girls is tall, with prominent fea- Rachel Weeping for her Children has tures seen in profile, but exquisitely a sterner and more painful, but a fair, and with a grave expression; very powerful expression. It is hethe other is a lively, good-humoured roic, rather than pathetic. The heads girl, with a front-face; and the third of the men are spirited and forcible, leans forward from behind, looking but they are distinguished chiefly by down with a demure, reserved, sen- the firmness of the outline, and the timental cast of countenance, but sharpness and mastery of the execuvery pretty, and much like an Enga tion. lish face. The teacher has a manly, Blenheim is a morning's walk from intelligent countenance, with a cer- Oxford, and is not an unworthy aptain blended air of courtesy and au- pendage to it. thority. It is a fascinating picture, to our thinking ; and has that care- And fast by hanging in a golden chain less, characteristic look, belonging This pendent world, in bigness as a star to each individual and to the scene, Of smallest magnitude close by the moon ! which is always to be found in Titian's groups. We also noticed a Blenheim is not inferior in waving dingy, melancholy-looking Head over woods, and sloping lawns, and smooth the window of the farthest room, waters, to Pembroke's princely do said to be a Portruit of Vandyke, with main, or the grounds of any other something striking in the tone and park we know of. The building is expression; and a small Adam and gothic, capricious, and not imposing, Eve driven out of Paradise, attributed a conglomeration of pigeon-houses, to Guiseppe Ribera, which has con
In form resembling a goose pye. siderable merit. The amateur will here find continual copies (of an in- But as a collection of works of art, different class) of many of his old (with the exception of the Marquis favourite pictures of the Italian of Stafford's,) it is unrivalled in this school, Titian, Domenichino, Cor- couritry. There is not a bad picture reggio, and others. But the most in it: the interest is sustained by valuable part of the Collection con- rich and noble performances from sists of four undoubted Heads cut out first to last. It abounds in Rubens's of one of the Cartoons, which was works. The old Duchess of Marldestroyed by fire about a hundred borough was fond of the historical years ago, and which are here pre- pieces of this great painter; she had, served in their pristine integrity. during her husband's wars and neThey show us what the Cartoons gociations, in Flanders, a fine opporwere. They have all the spirit and tunity of culling them, “ as one freedom of Raphael's hand, but picks pears, saying, this I like, that without any of the blotches and I like still better ;” and from the smearing of those at Hampton Court, selection she has made, it appears with which the damp of stables, as if she understood his genius well. and the dews of Heaven, have evi- She has chosen those of his works dently had nearly as much to do as which were most mellow and at the the painter. They are two Heads of same time gorgeous in colouring, men, and two of women; one of most luxuriant in composition, most Rachel Weeping for her Children, and unctuous in expression. Rubens was another still finer (both are profiles) the only artist that could have emin which all the force and boldness of bodied some of our countryman masculine understanding is combined Spenser's splendid and voluptuous with feminine softness of expression. allegories. H a painter among our The large, ox-like eye, “ a lucid selves were to attempt a SPENSER mirror," with the eye-lids drooping, GALLERY, (perhaps the finest suband the long eye-lashes distinctly ject for the pencil in the world after marked, the straight scrutinizing the Heathen Mythology, and Scripnose, the full, but closed lips, the ture History,) he ought to go and matronly chin, the high forehead, study the principles of his design at altogether convey a character of ma. Blenheim. The Silenus and the Rape of Proserpine contain more of the the felicity of execution, may rest asBacchanalian and lawless spirit of sured that they know as little of ancient fable than perhaps any two Rubens as of the Art itself. Vana pictures extant. We shall not dis- dyke, the scholar and rival of Rua pute that Nicolas Poussin could pro- bens, holds the next place in this bably give more of the abstract, me- collection. There is here, as in so taphysical character of his traditi- many other places, a picture of the onal personages, or that Titian could famous Lord Strafford, with his Se. set them off better, so as to “ leave cretary-both speaking portraits, and stings” in the eye of the spectator, with the characters finely diversified. by a prodigious gusto of colouringWe were struck also by the delight: as in his Bacchus and Ariadne : but ful family-picture of the Duchess of neither of them gave the same undu- Buckingham and her Children, but lating outline, the same humid, pulpy not so much (we confess it) as we tone to the flesh, the same graceful expected from our recollections of involution to the grouping and the this picture a few years ago. It had forms, the same animal spirits, the less the effect of a perfect mirror of same breathing motion. Let any fashion in “ the olden time,” than one look at the figure of Silenus in we fancied to ourselves the little the first-mentioned of these compo- girl had less exquisite primness and sitions, its unwieldy size, its reeling studied gentility, the little boy had drunken attitude, its capacity for not the same chubby, good-humourrevelling in gross sensual enjoyment, ed look, and the colours in his cheek and contrast it with the figure of the had faded-nor had the mother the nymph, so light, so giddy, so fair, same graceful, matron-like air. Is that her clear crystal skin and it we or the picture that has changed? laughing grace spread a ruddy glow, In general, our expectations tally and account for the tumult all around pretty well with our after-observaher; and say if any thing finer in tions, but there was a falling-off in this kind was ever executed or the present instance. There is a imagined. In that sort of licentious fine whole-length of a lady of quafancy, in which a certain grossness lity of that day (we think Lady of expression bordered on carica- Cleveland); but the master-piece of ture, and where grotesque or en- Vandyke's pencil here is his Charles I. ticing form was to be combined with on Horseback. It is the famous cream free and rapid movements, or dif- or fawn-coloured horse, which, of all ferent tones and colours were to be the creatures that ever were painted, flung over the picture as in sport or is surely one of the most beautiful. in a dance, no one ever surpassed the Flemish painter; and some of the
Sure never were seen
Two such beautiful ponies : greatest triumphs of his pencil are
Other horses are brutes, "to be found in the Blenheim Gallery.
But these macaronies. There are several others of his best pictures on sacred subjects, such as Its steps are delicate, as if it moved the Flight into Egypt, and the Illus- to some soft measure or courtly tration of the text, “ Suffer little strain, or disdained the very ground children to come unto me.” The it trod upon; its form all lightness head, and figure, and deportment of and elegance, the expression quick the Christ in this last admirable pro- and fiery; the colour inimitable; duction, are nobly characteristic (be- the texture of the skin sensitive and yond what the painter usually ac- tremblingly alive all over, as if it would complished in this department)—the shrink from the smallest touch. The face of a woman holding a young portrait of Charles is not equal; but child, pale, pensive, with scarce any there is a landscape-background, shadow, and the head of the child which in breezy freshness seems alitself (looking as vacant and satis- most to rival the airy spirit and defied as if the nipple had just dropped licacy of the noble animal. There from its mouth), are actually alive. are also one or two fine Rembrandts Those who can look at this picture (particularly a Jacob and Esau)--an with indifference, or without asto- early Raphael, the adoration of some nishment at the truth of nature, and saint, hard and stiff, but carefully designed; and a fine, sensible, grace from, classic sculpture, but that it ful head of the Fornarina, of which is more fleshy, more feminine, more we have a common and well-exe- lovely. The colouring, with the cuted engraving. There is not (thank exception already, stated, is true, God) a single Dutch picture in the glowing, golden,'harmonious. The whole collection!
grouping and attitudes are heroic, “ But did you see the Titian the expression in some of the faces room?"-Yes, we did, and a gloriæ divine-we do not mean, of course, ous treat it was; nor do we know that it possesses the elevation or puwhy it should not be shown to every rity that Raphael or Correggio could
There is nothing alarming but give, but it is warmer, more thrilling the title of the subjects—The Loves and ecstatic. There is the glow and of the Gods — just as was the case ripeness of a more genial clime, the with Mr. T. Moore's Loves of the purple light of love, crimsoned Angels—but oh ! how differently blushes, looks bathed in rapture, treated! What a gusto in the first, kisses with immortal sweetness in compared with the insipidity of the their taste-Nay, then go and see last! What streaks of living blood- the pictures, and no longer lay the colour so unlike gauze-spangles or blame of this unusual extravagance pink silk-stockings! What union, on us. We may at any rate repeat what symmetry of form, instead of the subjects. They are eight in sprawling, flimsy descriptions—what number. 1. Mars and Venus. The an expression of amorous enjoyment Venus is well worthy to be called about the mouth, the eyes, and even the Queen of Love, for shape, for to the finger-ends, instead of cold air, for every thing. Her redoubted conceits, and moonlight similes! lover is a middle-aged, ill-looking This is unfair; so to our task. It gentleman, clad in a buff-jerkin, and is said these pictures were discovered somewhat of a formalist in his apin an old lumber-room by Sir Joshuą proaches and mode of address ; but Reynolds, who set a high value on there is a Cupid playing on the floor, them, and that they are undoubtedly who might well turn the world topsyby Titian, having been originally turvy; 2. Cupid and Psyche. The sent over as a present by the King Cupid is perhaps rather a gawky, of Sardinia (for whose ancestor they awkward stripling, with eager, openwere painted) to the first Duke of mouthed wonder: but did ever creaMarlborough. We should (without, ture of mortal mould see any thing however, pretending to set up an comparable to the back and limbs of opinion) incline, from the internal the Psyche, or conceive or read any evidence, to think them from the thing equal to it but that unique pencil of the great Venetian, but for description in the Troilus and Crestwo circumstances; first, the texture sida of Chaucer? 3. Apollo and of the skin, and secondly, that they Daphne. Not equal to the rest. 4. do not compose well as pictures. Hercules and Dejanira. The female They have no background to set figure in this picture is full of grace them off, but a most ridiculous trellis- and animation, and the arms that work, representing, nothing, hung are twined round the great son of round them; and the skin or flesh Jove are elastic as a bended bow. looks monotonous and hard, like a 5. Vulcan and Ceres. 6. Pluto and rind. On the other hand, this last Proserpine. 7. Jupiter and Io. Very objection seems to be answered satis- fine. And finest of all, and last, factorily enough, and without im- Neptune and Amphitrite. In this pugning the skill of the artist; for the last work it seems as if increase pictures are actually painted on skins of appetite did grow with what it of leather. In all other respects, fed on.” What a face is that of they might assuredly be by Titian, Amphitrite for beauty and for sweetand we know of no other painter ness of expression! One thing is who was capable of achieving their remarkable in these groups (with various excellencies. The drawing the exception of two), which is that of the female figures is correct and the lovers are all of them old men, elegant in a high degree, and might but then they retain their beards serve as a model for, or be borrowed according to the custom of the good