BRITISH INSTITUTION-WORKS OF OLD MASTERS. THE call annually made on the private galleries of this country for a supply of works by "ancient masters" appears to make but little impression upon their resources. There are no symptoms of exhaustion visible in the exhibition which was opened to the public last Monday. The pictures are in no respect inferior to the average quality of previous years, and considering that the total number of pictures exhibited is only 192, and that one- third of the space is, as usual, allotted to the works of British artists, the range and variety, as well as the merit of the examples of older painters, is surprising. The schools of Rome, Florence, Bologna, and Venice-the Spanish, the French, and the Flemish, all find here some worthy representatives; the characteristic ex- cellencies of each differing as they do widely from the others, affording good illustration of almost infinite capabilities of art.
Titian's "Holy Family" (61) represents an entirely different phase of sacred art, not less dignified and discriminative in ex- pression, but incomparably greater in command of all the tech- nical resources of the painter's art. But this, though a magnifi- cent picture, is not one of the author's masterpieces, nor, I should think, in very good preservation. The golden glow is somewhat of the tawniest, and is probably reddened by varnish beyond its original hue. The portrait of the " Doge Gritti " (53) is a more satisfactory specimen of the same artist. Here, indeed, we have " assurance of a man "-one of the sort that made Venice great. And in the large and simple treatment of the rich dress may be seen how a master hand can use such materials to enhance, not Dverpower, the interest of the head.
There venal paintings of the, early part of the fifteenth cent v iich are interesting more as illustrations of the pro- ggiosof painting than as fulfilling the actual requirements of the
t; and there are others which, though by artists nearly con- temporary with the most consummate painters of the Renaissance, and agreeable in colour (e. g., " The Coronation of the Virgin " (47), by L. di Credi), appear yet to be halting among the ele- mentary impediments of the art-showing the suddenness of the climax by which it rose to the height which it has never again reached. Such are the portrait of "An Italian Lady " (52), by F. Lippi, in which the worldly monk displays more than usual severity of style, and the " Virgin and Child" (135), by his pupil, Sandro Botticelli, remarkable for its refinement and devotional feeling. F. Francia is the connecting link between these and the perfected artists who closely followed him. His "Portrait of a Young Man " (38) has all his usual refinement and more than his usual force.
Probably no portrait hero will attract more attention than that of the " Burgomaster Six" (26), by Rembrandt. It is, indeed, a noble picture, in the artist's best manner, lifelike and full of individual character. The painting is very luminous, and shows that depth of shadow and blackness are two different things. By the same artist is a portrait of the same Burgomaster's wife (34), characteristic, doubtless, of the clever, vivacious little woman who seems to be the exact mental supplement of her more sad- faced and contemplative husband; and portraits of the Flemish landscape-painter Berghein (126), and of his wife (130) ; a careful housewife she, with round, good-humoured face marvellously painted. There is also a striking portrait, by Moroni, of a stern and frowning gentleman (85), and a still better portrait (58) by a del Piombo of a man who ties his garter ; but the picture is not ruined by the action because the man's attention is fixed on something else. Da Champagne's portrait of time " Abbe de St. Cyran" (21), and Vandyke's family group of the " Earl of Cleveland and Family" (62), a small Holbein (88), and one by Raphael of " Monsignore Lorenzo Pucci" (65), are, with those
already mentioned, the principal portraits exhibited, except s, by the British school. ,,sse These, with Sir Joshua Reynolds and Romney in the van, re-1 mind us that there was once in England a school of portrait- r
painting as conspicuous for its excellence, as in these latter days its falling off has been lamentable. The natural ease and grace of Sir Joshua's portrait of "Mrs. Towneley Ward" (165) fully entitle its author to a place among his Italian and Flemish fore- runners, and the " Meditation " (156)-no doubt a portrait also- is equally remarkable for its charming simplicity and refinement of fancy. The lady attended by a black servant (164), and another lady (159) in a blue dress-the slimmest of her sex-- though not chefs d'reuvre of their author, possess much of his now unapproached qualities. The last, as well as the portrait of a lady (108) in the middle row, are noticeable for the more literal adherence to the costume of the day than was usual with Rey- nolds. Romney, though very inferior to Reynolds in executive skill, follows him with less unequal pace in the simplicity and easy grace of his portraits. Among these the brilliant vivacity of " Madame de Geniis" (145), the comely dignity of " A Lady" (111), and the thoughtful beauty of " Mrs. Trench" (137), chiefly deserve notice, not only for their distinct and well-marked cha- racters, but for a more than usual amount of care bestowed upon the painting. The two children, " Lord Stanley, afterwards thirteenth Earl of Derby, and his Sister" (180), are no less pleasing representatives of childish beauty ; and the picture of " Serena" (109), a girl reading her book with rapt attention, is an exquisite specimen of sculpturesque simplicity and graceful fancy.
Gainsborough's name does not appear among time portrait- painters ; but he is represented by a pleasing picture of a peasant girl with a pan of milk (184), somewhat heavy in colour, and several good landscapes, the best of which is the large one, called "A Sea-shore, with Fishermen going out" (185). It is full of breeziness and salt, life and action, and in colour is remark- able more for delicacy than richness. In this latter respect it forms a contrast to Constable's great picture, which hangs as its companion, " Hadleigh Castle" (181), to the detri- ment at first sight of the latter. But the Constable grows upon the spectator as his eye wanders over the sweetly-coloured slope in the foreground, and across the varied alternations of thicket, swamp, and sand of the plain below, to the broad estuary on which the sun is pouring down a flood of splendour in the dis- tance. Still, the picture might have been better for more quiet and repose, especially in the upper part of the sky, which is splotched and blurred with inky and undecided patches of heavy . purple, destructive of atmospheric space. This was a fault which R. Wilson never committed, and, in consequence, his pictures always produce an impression of largeness and freedom, which is equally conspicuous whether he hides his sky with angry storms or shows it as in the pictures of hill and lake here exhi- bited, bathed in the serene sunshine of a summer's afternoon. Take, for instance, "The Landscape, with Castle and Lake" (158), repeated with some variation in tone, in the lake scene (175).
"A Woody Scene" (162), by,Crome, shows that artist's power in handling homely materials. The cooler colours have vanished from the foliage ; but the open distance and pearly sky retain their charm of tenderness. Bounington's " View on the Garonne " (188), Milller's " Landscape, with Sheep " (113), and, strange to say, a park scene (146), by John Martin, each in its way shows its author's appreciation for time natural and unartificial beauties of landscape. Look at these, and then go to S. Rosa's pictures (60) and (64), and it is impossible to regret the change in treatment adopted by the moderns. Not that I would join in the modern cry against the older master, who was, after all, one of the origi- nators of landscape art, and the specimens of whose brush here exhibited are favourable ones, and in good condition. The inter- mediate space is partially bridged over by the Dutch landscape painters-by Cuyp, whose two " Sunsets " (70) and (78), especially the latter, are excellent examples of the artist's limpid evening skies ; by Hobbima and Ruysdael supreme, the one in wooded home scenery (74), the other in the wilder combinations of rock, tree, and water (9) ; by A. Vandevelde, whose river scene (13), is just such a subject as our own landscape-painters delight to paint; and others. There is also a sea-piece (106), by Ruysdael, which meets %V. Vandevelde in his own domain, and gains by the comparison. •
The close observation and literal rendering of nature which time Dutch practised in their landscape-painting were carried by them into other branches of time art. The interiors of cabarets and the smoking and drinking boors of Ostade, Tethers, and Mieris are familiar to most people, and time excellence of their art leaves no room
for; bjecting to their choice of subjects, until they seek to illustrate 1.6, the same scenes and actors such subjects as the "Adoration /of the Shepherds " (10), or the " Journey to Emmaus " (25). The incongruity of the treatment with the subjects suggested by these titles, intercepts all the pleasure which might otherwise be derived from the faithful representation of homely persons and scenes.
There is a humorous picture by Van Lundens of a mar- riage feast (103), in which, towards the close of the feast, the cook appears among the guests with dish-clouts tied round his arms for wedding favours, and complacently dances a hornpipe for the amusement (as he nothing doubts) of the company. In this class also must be noticed Wilkie's " Cardplayers" (118), and " Guess my Name" (170), both well known by the engravings; and a luminous little picture by Maes of a man who has fallen asleep over his drink and tobacco (76), while his daughter makes him the victim of a practical joke and picks his pocket.