SALE OF CARDINAL FESCH'S PICTURES.
Rome, January 1845.
Sin-As considerable interest is attached to the sale of the late Cardinal Fesch's collection of pictures, at Rome, perhaps the following information may be welcome to -the readers of the Spectator. The voluminous descriptive catalogue of the Dutch, Flemish, and French pictures, has at last made its appearance. The distin- guished connoisseur M George of Paris has been engaged at this task for more an two years; it is therefore quite natural that he should describe nearly every work in the most enthusiastic language-besides, he has been paid most liberally to do so. Little reliance, however, is now placed on these advertisements : good paintMgs need no praise; and wise people judge with their own eyes, and not through the magnifying lens of interested parties. We have derived much plea- ses, fi-om the perusal of M. George's book; which is extremely well written, full of critical observation and graphic descriptions of the paintings. We will not quer- re/with the learned author for devoting nine pages to one picture, but we think he has fallen into the same fauh as his talented Countryman M. Thiers, who in his Histoire de la Revolution makes one hero succeed another until they become countless; so AL George discovers in nearly every picture a masterpiece of unri- valed art. Allowances must be made for French feelings; but at the same time these exaggerations are reprehensible, because they are likely to lead astray those who have not an opportunity of judging for themselves. The Cardinal's collec- tion is certainly very remarkable; and yet all the dealers and amateurs who visit it are disappointed at finding so few good paintings among so many hundred bad ones: and what would be their surprise if they could see six thousand others, which still fill the lumber-rooms of a large palace, and which are considered un- worthy of notice ? As far as numbers are concerned, this collection has probably never bean surpassed: it contains at present 1,837 pictures, while that of the Louvre has merely 1,406, and that of .Munich 673. It is a singular fact, that in such an immense and varied collection there should not exist one sample of British art I As M. George informs us that his catalogue was written for the in- struction of the absent, and for the Italians, who are not very conversant with the mecits of the Dutch school, we must blame him for endeavouring to pass off two of his Cieyps as original compositions : one is a poor copy of a picture belonging to the Duke of Bedford; the other (No. 55) is but a wretched imitation of that inimitnble master. The only Gerard Dow in the collection, which M. George has painted in such glowing colours, is considered by all the judges an unhappy at- tempt of some imitator: the picture is so hard, so wanting in feeling and in depth, so le in tone of colour, and so totally different from Gerard Dow's man- ner, that we cannot believe that M. George is always sincere in his opinion. M. George has very, kindly given the amateur a hint, that a Hermit, nearly the same size as the present one, by Gerard Dow, was sold in 1804 for 32,000 francs. The same may be said of the only Adrian Ostade in the gallery ; which, if ever painted by that great artist, is merely a proof that sometimes the best masters produce very. inferior works. The Rubens, which M. George strives so hard to prove an original is doubted by the generality of connoisseurs: it is probably like many hunched similar productions from his studio-it bears here and there a few slight traces of his surprising brush. The lovely little Metzu, which M. George assures us , is so perfect in preservation, has nevertheless received a severe injury in the face of the principal figure, which has deprived him of the left eye and damaged the half of his nose: and where is the bold painter who would presume to re- pair such a disaster? We hope the purchaser of this little gem will never have it restored, but admire and love it as it is. We could point out many other examples which are blemishes in M. George's perspicacity or historical veracity.; but we have said enough to caution the absent not to rot implicit confidence in what he hears or reads abou.t this gallery of pictures. The most important piece of information in
the catalogue is the 'nee announcement that the sale of the entire collection will begin on the 17th arch next, and be continued without intermission until
it& c lete disposal. Notwithstanding this promise, there are strong rumours abroad ere that this sale will again be but a partial one. Last year, an obscurely- warded advertisement induced several London and Paris purchasers to repair to Rcime, expecting to witness the sale of the whole gallery: Instead of which, they hat the mortification of seeing seven hundred daubs, with about half-a-dozen re- spectable pictures brought to the hammer. The excuse for putting off the Great Sale for two year; following, was the absence of M. George's " Grand Catalogue ": the very same reason still occurs for that gentleman has only just commenced his catalogue of the Italian masters, in number above a thousand; the completion of Svhich will require several months to accomplish. If any paintings need the sichof Id. George s kind and eulogistic pen, it is assuredly those dark and ever doubtful Italians: we cannot believe, therefore, that they will be sold without such assistance; much less will the Dutch and French pictures be disposed of without the Italians. How will it be possible to sell such a number of pictures iovone season? Who is to buy them ? The Roman nobility and gentry, unlike their great ancestors, have no taste for the arts-' the Roman dealers have no money; nine-tenths of the pictures are unfit for the French and English markets, where there is a glut of such productions: besides, if it took a month last year to sell seven hundred pictures which were frequently put up in large lots how many months will this sale last? It is also reported, and upon pretty sake au- thority, that the good pictures will be sold prowled they reach a certain value, which has been established by M.. George upon most exaggerated notions, especially. for Rome, where, independently of various and great expenses, the foreign [pur- chasers have to pay a heavy duty of 20 per cent to the customhouse before their pictures can be exported: some paintings are exempt from this duty' but the majority will have to pry it. M. George very properly appeals to his Govern- ment not to allow this opportunity to escape of purchasing some fine specimens of art, which are wanting in their public museums. We smeerely hope that our National Gallery is destined to receive some of these great works. We may wait long ere we meet with a finer or more undoubted Raphael; a more splendid 'Tinto- retto, almost worthy of Titian's name, which it bore for above a century ; a more lovely Fra Angelico da Fiesole; a truer sketch by Leonardo da Vinci; a finer Guide; samore beautiful Luini ; a grander Pierino del Vaga ; a more capital specimen of Hobbling, as fresh as a spring morning; a more surprising A. Vandervelde; a more perfect Metzu, a gem of art; a more spirited C. du Jardin; a more noble John ,perfect the prince of animal-painters; a more brilliant Pynaker, ever original, ever unlike every other painter; a more charming and tasteful Wouvermans; a more magnificent Backh- uysen, &c. &c. We cannot conclude this letter without assuring the heirs of the late Cardinal Fesch, that the past arrangements of their sales have met with the universal dis- pleasure of the public- and such is the effect of their tortuous proceedings, that their promiseaas regards the future inspire but little confidence.
I have the honour to remain, Sir, your obedient servant, A Lovas OF•rnit Ants