7 JANUARY 1865, Page 24


IT is a long stretch from the earliest Egyptian painting to that of England in the present century, but it is over no less a space that Mr. Woruum undertakes to conduct his readers in the volume before us. Having read his book, we cannot say that Mr. Wor- num is an exhilarating writer. His pages are singularly prosaic, and to us unsuggestive, and when we turn to them after perus- ing one of Mr. Ruskin's chapters, the sensation is like that which a sympathetic reader would experience in taking up a " skeleton" out of Mr. Simeon's theological bone-house after finishing one of Robertson's sermons. But if ponderous and dull Mr. Wornum's " Essay," or bulky catalogue, is a very respectable publication, and from beginning to end gives proof of the writer's great industry, wide experience in picture galleries, and accurate infor- mation. Indeed we may assert with truth that our author has put to together a quite reliable handbook, in so far as the outward histories of painters, and what may be called the materialism of pictorial art, are concerned.

" Educated ignorance will find Mr. Wornum a very convenient authority to have at hand, and will, for instance, find him very strong on all questions of "dates." Mr. Wornurn has discovered that " the dates of the birth and death of a painter are two of the most important facts of his life" — a rather Hibernian • The Epochs of Painting. A Biographical and Critical Essay on Pointing and Painters of all Times and Many Places. By Ralph Nicholson Wornum, eeper and Secretary, National Gallery. London: Chapman and Halt

discovery in its second element, we must confess—and he has accordingly been at much pains to ascertain when particular painters were born and when they died. His value for strict chronology, however, is not merely pedantic, but of a quite prac- tical kind, for it has occurred to Mr. Wornum that (Pref., ix.) by antedating or postdating a man's birth you make him either preternaturally active in old age, or " a phenomenon of precocity," while by want of accuracy in respect to the other " fact of his life," viz., his death, you appal weaker mortals by crowding into a brief term labours that extended over long years, or you are astonished by an artist's inactivity during a period when the man was really in his grave. Moreover, it is, we are further informed, very unjust to others to ascribe their pictures to a dead man, while from ignorance of dates the unhappy race of " deluded collectors are doating over imaginary Holbeins."

But the imaginary Holbeins are apparently outnumbered by the unauthentic Wouvermans, for of some "eight or nine hun- dred pictures" ascribed to Philip Wouverman probably not more than a hundred are in reality his workmanship. Born at Haarlem in 1620, and dying in 1668, Wouverman, can scarcely have more than thirty years allowed him for his pictorial activity, but if the elaborately finished pictures which pass under his name were indeed produced by him, then they must have been painted at the rate of one every fortnight, independently of studies and sketches—a quite monstrous supposition to Mr. Wornum. And accordingly he brings down the artist to the humbler figures of three pictures and a fraction of one per annum, while the credit of some 700 so-called " Wouvermans" is distri- buted among the painter's two brothers, Pieter and Jan, Pieter Leer, Hugtenburg, and De Vlieger. But even after this distri- bution, Mr. Wornum has in his distress to acknowledge that Wouverman's real work is in a " hopeless entanglement." To ourselves the question is not one of much moment. We would, however, make the not very recondite observation that humble-minded lovers of good pictures need not worry them- selves with fears of misplaced admiration in presence of the next "Wouverman" they chance to see, whether it be a " frost scene," or " a purple picture," or a " brown Italian-looking picture," or a "yellow work," or a "work conspicuous for its want of manner," inasmuch as the imitations of Wouverman—if imitations—are so good as to have deceived the very elect of the knowing ones for several generations.

Besides " endeavouring to attend especially to this matter of dates," Mr. Wornum tells us that be has " written of the ways of painters, not only as artists but of their ways as men also." If Mr. Wornum had said instead that he had been very diligent in his inquiries about the " means" of painters, he would, as it seems to us, have used more accurate language, for their "ways" are simply " conspicuous by their absence" from his book. No doubt we are duly informed respecting individual painters whether they were married or single. We read of the places and the persons they saw and knew. The old anecdotes, too, are repeated, but in a way which leads us to suspect that there are exceptions to Hazlitt's generalization that " man is the only animal that laughs and weeps," for Mr. Wornum never loses his gravity. When, however, we ask for more, Mr. Wornum sends us empty away; andhis book might be termed shadowy memorials of (emphatically) "dead men" whom the author d id not know. For example, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michael Angelo, andAlbert Darer pass before us as blood- less shadows. Mr. Woruum, however, says in his own way of Da Vinci, " He appears to have been a universal genius." He records correctly enough that he was not a painter merely, but an architect, engineer, botanist, anatomist, mathematician, astro- nomer, sculptor, poet, musician, as well, besides being one of the best extempore performers on the lyre in his day. Our author, moreover, brings relief to the reader by quoting the opinion of Hallam touching " the right of Leonardo Da Vinci to stand as the first name of the fifteenth century," and what is still more refreshing, supplies a translation of a very remarkable letter of Leonardo's, preserved in the Ambrosian Library at Milan, and which, like all the manuscripts of the great artist, is written from right to left. This letter, bearing date about the year 1483, whet Leonardo was scarcely more than thirty years of age, was ad- dressed to the reigning Duke of Milan, and contained an offer of the writer's manifold services. We regret we cannot quote Leonardo's own words in their integrity, but the following out- line of what on this occasion he professed his readiness to " under- take" will give our readers a tolerably suggestive conception of the self-reliance and many-sidedness of this great man of genius, Leonardo could construct all manner of "instruments of war," he could make " light and portable bridges for pursuit or re-

treat." His own should be fire-proof, while he could burn those of the enemy. In case of a siege he would remove the water from the ditches, make scaling ladders, "excavate even under a river," manufacture bombs, mortars, and "field-pieces of beauti- ful shapes quite out of the common method," or if bombs could

not be brought to bear, be could fashion cross-bows, ballistas- machines of offence "for any emergency whatever," while in naval operations, anticipating our iron-clads, he could build "vessels that should be bomb-proof." In times of peace, again, he would devise any public or private building, form aqueducts, or undertake any work in sculpture either in marble, bronze, or

terra cotta. Likewise, to use his own language, " in painting I can do what can be done as well as any man, be he who he may."

It is scarcely necessary to say that the Duke of Milan did himself honour by taking Leonardo into his service, and that it was in Milan, in the refectory of a Dominican convent there, that Leonardo produced the marvellous picture of the Last Supper.

Of Michael Angelo Buonarotti Mr. Wornum is pleased to write that he was " distinguished as poet, painter, sculptor, and architect." We read further, that in consequence of a quarrel between him and his fellow-student Torregiano, the latter "so injured the nose of Michael Angelo by a blow he gave him in the face that the great Florentine bore the marks of it (sic ) for life." In due sequence comes the register of all that Michael Angelo

did, or designed, as sculptor, painter, or architect, and the date of his death, 1564, when he had nearly completed his eighty-ninth year, is faithfully set down; but if we knew no more of him than is written in this book, the grandeur of his moral character, which gives him rank beside such men as Dante and Milton, would be almost wholly hid from us, while we should be ready to charac- terize as the mere language of exaggerating sorrow and affec- tion the words of a physician who attended him during his last illness, and who, in a letter announcing his death, speaks of him

as a miracolo di natura, and calls him " the greatest man that ever lived."

But perhaps the most ghostlike of all the figures in this catalogue of dead men is that of Germany's great painter— great every way except, if it be to his dispraise, in the wisdom of the serpent--Albert Diirer. Of course we have notices of Albert's unwearied doings as painter, designer in woodcuts, and engraver on copper, but Mr. Wornum has, fortunately for his readers, passed over in silence Durer's " Melancholia." Dry-

asdust on that endlessly suggestive engraving would have been a tremendous infliction. We can only allude in the briefest way to this great creation of Albert Darer, whose meanings Mr. Ruskin confesses himself unable perfectly to apprehend. And indeed these meanings are vast and varied as are the spheres of human endeavour, amid the symbols of which sits the figure of "Melancholia," sorrowful, if not quite despairing. But it is surely a significant fact that the "Melancholia " was produced in 1514, the year in which Albert's heart and home were left desolate by the death of his good mother—the once "tall and fair" Barbara Hallerin. Married, as our readers know, Albert was, but there is a considerable differ- ence between a wife and a married woman. Albert's " Agnes " was merely the latter. He used to speak of her as his " mistress of accounts." She is reported to have been " sulky, irascible, avaricious, domineering, stupid, and proud." She " gnawed into

his very heart ;" and, as has been in part suggested by an Edin- burgh reviewer, we cannot but think that the "Melancholia" tells us that without love knowledge ie but labour and sorrow. It is Albert's suspiria de profundis, and his " In Memoriam " over his mother's grave.

Mr. Wornum asserts on the authority of Pirkheimer, the artist's abiding friend, that Albert died a member of the Roman Church. It may be so, but certainly all that we know of his " ways as a man " would lead us to doubt the fact. In 1521, for instance, when he heard at Antwerp that Martin Luther had been " traitorously imprisoned," there is found in his diary a pas- sage worthy, as we think, of Milton himself, in which he pours out his soul in most pathetic lamentation over the terrible cala- mity which, as he supposed, had befallen the cause of truth in the capture of the Great Reformer. He exclaims :—

* "Whether Luther still lives, or whether he is already slain by them, I know not. But this has he suffered for the sake of the Christian truth, and because he chastised that un-Christian Papacy which resists the freedom wherewith Christ has made us free, adding great burdens of men's laws. That which is ours by our sweat and our blood it steals * The entire passage in Dexer'm diary is given in the Eciin8urgh Review for July, 1861,

and draws from us, spending the same shamefully on a lazy and worth- less crew, while the thirsting and the sick among mankind perish for hunger Oh ! Highest, Heavenly Father, shed into our hearts by thy Son' (I. H. S.) 'such light that we may perceive to what com- mandments we are bound, and may with a good conscience lot the other burdens slip. Then to serve Thee, our eternal Father in Heaven, with

free and joyful hearts - But Lord, if it be thy will to judge us, that, like as Thy Son Jesus Christ died at the hands of the priests, and rose again from the dead, so that in like manner this Thy disciple Martin Luther (whom the Pope by money has treacherously betrayed) should lose his life, and that as Jerusalem, after my Lord was hanged on a tree, was destroyed, so do Thou annihilate this self-arrogated power of the Roman See. Ah ! Lord, give us then that new adorned Jerusalem that descendeth from Heaven, as it is written in the Apocalypse, Thy holy Gospel undarkened by any teaching of man.

Ah God, if Luther be dead indeed, what might he not have written for us in the next ten or twenty years ? Oh ! all ye pious Christian souls, help us to weep and bitterly to lament this man endowed with the Spirit of God.' "

It was some seven years after this season of prophet-like wrestling and strong crying that Albert finished his life-battle, his great powers chastened, and mellowed, and matured by suffering, by ceaseless toil, by the reverent beholding of the works of his artist brethren in Italy and the Netherlands. One of the latest efforts of his pencil was a " Christ Bearing the Cross," a sketch "shaded with grey on grey paper." His eye was not dim, neither was his natural force abated. He was only in his fifty-eighth year. It would be strange indeed if at the last his sympathies returned to what he had called the " un-Christian Papacy," but in any case we cannot doubt that for him to lay down the instru- ments of his mortal work was only to enter upon a higher life and still holier labours.