23 DECEMBER 1854, Page 31


There is something eccentric about this handsome volume. The de- signs are the work of a lady known as J. B., and doubtless an amateur ; but they are published not as engravings, but as photographs—taken, we preaipme, from designs in Indian-ink or sepia. They are essentially illus- trations of animal-life, but a Scriptural aspect is given to them,—some- times by actual representation of an incident from the Bible, sometimes merely from their treating animals mentioned there. The "Naturalist" who supplies the letterpress, J. W., of Woodville, Edinburgh, does not confine himself either to natural history or to Bible-elucidation, but adds, in a spirit of impartiality, quotations from Byron, from Macaulay's Ro- man Lays, and anything else which turns up. As regards this part of the book, we think by far the best thing to do would have been to give simply all the passages, or all those of peculiar importance, in which the animal selected is mentioned in the Bible ; which would be reading at once curious, valuable, and pertinent.

Apart from singularity of scheme, the book is remarkable in an artistic sense. The great quality of the designs is the extreme seriousness with which they are done. J. B. has worked her very best; delineating with accuracy, finishing every part of her subject carefully, and displaying observation, capacity, and thought, in a quite uncommon degree. Fancy and subject-spinning are discarded ; the object is to give thorough studies of the animals with an interesting association. The manner is firm, free, and definite—masculine in the right way for a lady's productions to be so. We have no doubt that J. B. is a woman of strong sense ; she is certainly an able artist.

The series consists of twenty designs. It commences with the return of the Dove to the Ark ; in the background the raven feeding on some carrion, while mountain-tops begin to appear above the flood. The Raven himself forms the sulject of the second design; the truth with which the drifting of corpses of man and beast is represented being noticeable. The Scape-goat is portrayed carrying off the people's sins "into a land not inhabited," through a solemn darkening twilight. In the Plague of Frogs, two or three of the human figures—a point of which J. B. is not mistress in the same way as of animals—have well-considered action. These figures are children, whom, both here and elsewhere, the artist does better than grown men and women. It appears a mistake and a weakening of the subject to confine the swarming reptiles to the floor of the palace. Goats and Coneys are a capital study—strictly in the line of natural history ; and so are " the two Young Roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies"—only that they want the vivacious beauty of expression which would suit the subject. Apes and Peacocks are full of life, and present briniest( y and softness in the rendering of plumage without the least vestige of trick. Jezebel eaten by Dogs is one of the most remarkable of the set for drawing, and equally BO for deep truth of canine expression. It is repulsive, but so gravely and simply done as not to be disgusting. In the drawing of desolated Rabbah, classic details of architecture are a mistake. The Babylonian houses "full of doleful creatures" has a brace of wonderful owlets ; while lizards dart between the ivy-leaves, a jackal moans, a hyrena grins, vultures perch, a raven swoops, and a couple of wild-goats butt in grim good-fellowship. The Stork, the Crane, and the Swallow, is the reverse of this : the domestic creatures nesting in man's habitation, and feeding their young on his roof. The scene here is Dutch, and everything is lighted with a quiet happiness. Still better—perhaps the best in the book—is the Hen gathering her chickens under her wings. It may be called perfection of its kind; as minutely true as Wolf s things of the same sort, and broader in feeling. The vegetative accessories are as good as the bipedal principals. The Herd of Swine at Gadara which "ran -violently down a steep place into the sea" was a very difficult subject to • Illustrations of Scripture by an Animal-Painter. With Notes by a Naturalist. Photographed by Thomas Constable and Co., Edinburgh. Published by Hamilton, Adams, and Co., and Ackermann and Co. treat—verging on the artistically grotesque, and even ludicrous; but J. B., without sacrificing a tittle of characteristic truth makes one feel the typical uncleanness of the brutes rather than attend to their sprawling, huddling carcases, or hear their grunts and squeaks. It is another in- stance of the saving power of resolute unquestioning fidelity in an ugly subject.

Some of the designs we have omitted to mention individually—mostly because of their less merit, though a portion of these also deserve careful examination. Of a few previous productions by J. B. we saw two about Christmas-time last year, and recognized in her something above com- monplace. Those, however, gave little idea of the maturity developed in this series, which is as we started with saying remarkable. We are glad also to see photography tried, as we had before heard it suggested, as a medium for placing designs before the public. The experiment is conclusive of its agreeable propriety, as well as of its necessary and en- tire exactness to the original.