29 OCTOBER 1831, Page 25



WE have not for a long time seen a publication of such sterling excel- lence, both in the subjects chosen and the execution of the plates, as the First Part of this truly national work. It is the production of an asso- ciation of the most eminent line engravers, and is intended to embrace the choicest specimens of painting in the National Gallery. The en- gravings are of that medium size which renders them susceptible of the highest finish, and at the same time enables the engraver to do ample justice to the expression of the faces and the minute details of the pic- tures. The plates are four in number ; and as the originals are so fami- liar to most of our readers, we shall confine our remarks to the execu- tion of the engravings.

The Italian Seaport of CLAUDE is engraved by GOODAT.L, with a delicacy and truth of effect that leaves nothing to be wished for. The haze of light that invests the different objects, except where the sun tracks his golden path across the waves—the repose, the freshness, and the subdued brightness of the pictures—are preserved with rare fidelity. It is not a print to catch the vulgar eye by a meretricious brilliancy o.r startling effect, but its quiet beauty must satisfy the most fastidious taste.

The Nativity of REMBRANDT, by BURNET, is remarkable for the feel- ing with which the shadowy chiaroscuro of the great master of light and shade is represented in black and white, without any exaggeration or forced contrasts. The gradations of tone are admirably preserved, and the gloom has that mysterious character which REIIIIRANDT felt and intended to convey in his pictures. The light shining from the infant Saviour is of a pure brightness, not like that of a flame, and its shadows are mild and suffused. The dim rays thrown from the lantern and the chequered reflections are rendered so successfully in the plate, that their transient nature is apparent. The head of the man holding the lantern is very grand; the rest of the picture is only valuable for its wonderful effects. We could have wished for a somewhat different and a little more delicate texture in the flesh ; but it may be better as it is—we are quite sure the effect could not be improved.

The Portrait of Gevartius, by VANDYKE, has been properly intrusted to Mr. Doo, who is unrivalled for boldness, freedom, and delicacy of line, as well as for fidelity and skill in modelling the features. The play of the lines in the flesh is beautiful, and the head, taken altogether, is en- graved in a masterly style. We think, however, that it hardly comes up to the original in brilliancy (speaking, of course, comparatively), and that the eye in shade is too sunken in appearance. We also miss the glistening of the eves and the moisture of the lips, so vividlyrepresented in the original. The hair, likewise, appears too wiry, and the beard is hardly distinguishable enough from the face; the vigour with which the flesh is rendered making it necessary for a proportionate degree of force to be given to the hair. These exceptions may, at first sight, appear hypercritical ; but in a work of such superior excellence, we cannot avoid detecting even slight defects—and we would not pass over the minutest beauties. We must further protest against the hardness of outline and texture in the drapery, and we do not admire the Working of the back. ground. lirnacti's " Village Festival"—perhaps the most pleasing of his pic- tures—is engraved by FINDEN with singular clearness, fidelity, and spirit. The truth of expression, and the keeping and effect of the ori- ginal, are happily preserved; and it is a most successful and interesting plate. Such is the commencement of a work which bids fair to surpass in beauty any other of a similar kind. It will be an honour to the British school of engraving, which is acknowledged to be the first in the world ; and as it is published by the artists themselves, cannot fail of being equally profitable ; it deserves the support of every admirer of art.