« AnteriorContinuar »
It has been already stated that the principal object of these trials and alterations was to increase the number of prints for sale. Mr. Smith calls it an "innocent artifice," and adds, that whatever benefit Rembrandt may have derived from it, "he could little have foreseen the consequences of thus multiplying his etchings on the amateur world; nor could it have entered into his conception that a print of the value of a few stuivers would, in the cess of time, sell for sixty guineas; or a portrait of his friend Tolling, value perhaps five florins, fetch, at a public sale, one hundred and thirty guineas; or that the piece representing Christ healing the sick, which, for its singular excellence, sold on one occasion for one hundred guilders, (about eight pounds twelve shillings, the usual price being forty-five florins,) and thereby obtained the cognomen of the hundred guilder print, would at length sell for two hundred and fifty guineas.' Some years ago this plate was purchased by Alderman Boydell, who destroyed it after having taken a few impressions from it: hence the value of the prints became greatly enhanced.
These productions appear to have cost the artist_no previous study. "The plate appears to have been taken in hand, and to the superficial observer a confusion of lines made, crossing each other in all directions; out of this seeming chaos his ready invention conceived, and his dexterous hand embodied, the subject which a little labour afterwards carried to perfection." His skill in these works is illustrated by an anecdote related in connection with the celebrated print known as the landscape De la Moutarde. The Burgomaster Six was the only man of rank with whom Rembrandt associated, and with him he sometimes passed a few days in his house in the vicinity of Amsterdam, in which a painting-room was fitted up for the use of the artist. One day, being at dinner, Rembrandt could not relish his boiled beef without mustard; there was none in the house; and the burgomaster, desirous of pleasing his guest, immediately sent off one of his servants in haste to the city to procure some. Rembrandt, observing that he was rather a phlegmatic-looking person, offered to bet that he would make an etching before the man returned. The wager was immediately accepted, and Rembrandt forthwith having taken a prepared plate, commenced to sketch the landscape from the burgomaster's window, comprising a view of Amsterdam, which he finished in his happiest style, with that vigour and lightness of touch peculiar to him, just before the servant arrived with the mustard; hence it was called the landscape De la Moutarde. An original impression from this plate is now said to be worth from thirty to forty guineas.
Rembrandt made a great secret of his mode of etching, and would allow no one to see him at work. He was equally secret in the composition of his colours, which no one seems to have inherited. On this subject, Mr. Allan Cunningham remarks, "In the days of Raphael, and Rubens, and Vandyke, painters studied their colours as much as they did their compositions; they made frequent experiments, and to this much of the unattainable lustre of their pictures must be owing. On the contrary, the artists of this age allow other hands to prepare their colours, or, when they condescend to do it themselves, they refuse to bestow the study upon them which the applause bestowed upon mere force of colour shows to be quite necessary. Colour-making is now a trade by itself, and the splendour of our pictures is diminished."
In speaking of the portraits of Rembrandt, Pilkington says that they are confessedly excellent; but by his being accustomed to imitate nature exactly, and the nature he imitated being always of the heavy kind, his portraits, though admirable in respect to likeness and the look of life, want grace and dignity in the airs and attitudes. In regard to other particulars, he was so exact in giving the true resemblance of the persons who sat to him, that he distinguished the prominent feature and character in every face, his heads display such a minute exactness as to show even without endeavouring to improve or embellish it. Many of the hairs of the beard, and the wrinkles of old age; yet, at a proper distance, the whole has an astonishing effect; and every portrait appears as if starting from the canvas. Thus, house in Amsterdam, is said to have deceived the passengers a picture of his maid-servant, placed at the window of his for several days. De Piles, when he was in Holland, not only ascertained the truth of this fact, but purchased the portrait, which he esteemed as one of the finest ornaments
of his cabinet."
Rembrandt seems to have had so many commissions as a portrait-painter, that he could afford to indulge his humour or caprice towards his employers. It is related of him, that being one day engaged on a large family picture, which was nearly finished, the sudden death of his monkey was announced to him. Deeply affected at the loss, he caused the body of the animal to be brought in, and, without any regard to the feelings of the family whose portraits he was engaged on, painted the likeness of his dead pet in a corner of the picture. Nor would he afterwards listen to the remonstrances of his employers, but rather than erase the intruder, preferred to keep the picture.
Mr. Smith has some interesting observations on the portraits of this great artist.
Unlike the Italian artists, who too frequently sought to impress on the countenance the wealth and greatness of the individual by a proud and lofty expression, and a corresponding air and attitude; or, indeed, those of the Flemish school, in which may frequently be noticed an affected style and gesture, Rembrandt, eager only to obtain a faithful representation of nature, found it to consist in simplicity of action; hence his portraits possess so much the look of expression, individuality of character, and an unconstrained reality, that, without stopping to inquire as to the fidelity of the likeness, or whom it represents, we feel satisfied with the picture, and pay liberally for the portrait of a person whom we never knew or heard of, and of one that, perhaps, neither possesses grace or beauty to recommend it.
If Rembrandt was ignorant of the undefined forms of the beau-idéal, he knew how to fascinate by the more seductive ceeded in defining a goddess or a hero, he was not insensible appearance of reality; and although he may not have sucto softness and amenity in the one sex, and gentlemanly ease and demeanour in the other. That he may have sometimes sacrificed to picturesque effect more than pleased the generality of his sitters, is not unlikely; and this propensity may have in some measure abridged his commissions, and left him at leisure to indulge in what appears to have been a favourite amusement-the painting of his own porscrupled to subdue most important parts in his pictures in trait, and etching; for Houbraken observes, that he never order to obtain effect, and no entreaties could cure that propensity, his constant reply to the critic being, "A picture is complete when the painter has done with it;" and hence it has been critically said, "that he would sacrifice the face of a Cleopatra, to give effect to a pearl, or cast a whole figure into half-tone, in order to give force to a scroll or a letter which the person might have in his or her hands."
The same sentiment which gives such interest and value to his portraits is equally diffused throughout his historical and other subjects, with the addition of the most perfect unity of parts, and propriety of ordonnance, so that every individual present is not only essential to the composition, but also necessary to the passing scene; in reference, therefore to these qualities, it is not too much to assert that, among the whole catalogue of eminent painters, none embodied in his subjects greater strength of expression, both in look and gesture, than Rembrandt; and however much his glowing colour, and the matchless magic of his chiaroscuro, may tend to excite admiration, it is the presence of this soul of art-expression, which constitutes the chief excellence of his works, and must ever claim our unbounded applause.
His landscapes, which are the rarest of his works, owe much of their beauty to the skilful adaptation of this prinbroad shadows and strong half-tints, relieved partially but ciple. Large portions of his scenes are generally veiled in vividly with streams of light floating over the surface of the middle ground, or flickering tenderly on some prominent object. These estimable productions of his pencil may rather be styled reminiscences of nature in her grandest forms, than exact views of any part of Holland.
One of Rembrandt's choicest performances is the picture of "The Woman taken in Adultery," now in the National Gallery. This picture was painted in 1644 for the Burgomaster Six, in whose family it long remained,
and was preserved with the utmost care in a cabinet, of which the owner kept the key. At the time of the revolution it was offered for sale, and bought by M. la Fontaine, a picture-dealer, who, not finding a purchaser in Paris, brought it to London, and sold it to Mr. Angerstein for five thousand pounds. Mrs. Jameson says that as it is a chef-d'œuvre of the master, it would now be difficult to estimate its value.
In a critical notice of this picture in MRS. JAMESON'S Handbook to the Public Galleries of Art in and near London, the accomplished writer says, "Rembrandt has here made a remarkable use of his skill as a colourist, to render the subject intelligible. The eye falls at once upon the woman, who is dressed in white, passes then to the figure of Christ, (which, next to her, is the most strongly lighted,) and so goes on to Peter, to the Pharisees, to the soldiers, till at length it penetrates through the transparent gloom into the interior of the temple, with its high altar and worshippers, all teeming with a sort of fantastic mystical splendour, half veiled by a solemn obscurity."
After giving a detailed notice of six hundred and fourteen pictures by Rembrandt, Mr. Smith remarks that the list "sufficiently proves that he was a most ardent lover of his profession, and a diligent and industrious man; and if further attestation of this were necessary, a list of drawings of perhaps triple the number might be made from the public and private collections in England, France, and Holland; and then add to these a notice of his etchings, consisting of three hundred and sixty-five pieces, exclusive of the numerous examples of variations in the same plates. Surely no reflecting mind can contemplate such an accumuout-lation of objects of genius and application, without being struck with surprise, mingled with regret, that a man so gifted should have experienced the difficulties which he assiduously to his profession." appears to have undergone at the close of a life devoted so
We learn from the same authority, that the numerous beautiful drawings by Rembrandt, which were found in his sketch-books and folios at the sale of his effects, were lightly esteemed by his countrymen, and it was not until nearly a century had elapsed that they attracted much attention. Such is their value at the present time that in some cases they fetch prices little inferior to those of his pictures. "Most of these estimable productions appear to have been thrown off with a careless rapidity of hand, as if he feared that the fleeting idea would escape him, and probably were done during his leisure hours, after the labours of the day had ceased, and when, like most of his countrymen, he had sat down to enjoy the soothing pleasures of the pipe; it was then he sketched with a broadnibbed pen, in a bold, free, and hasty manner, whatever presented itself to his mind, or had occupied his previous thoughts. History, familiar life, landscape, and animals, were equally at his command; to these he afterwards gave breadth by a wash in bistre, and occasionally heightened them with white."
Hazlitt notices this picture thus:
A picture prodigious in colouring, in light and shade, in penciling, in solemn effect-but that is nearly all: "of ward show, elaborate; of inward, less exact." The Christ has considerable seriousness and dignity of aspect. The marble pavement, of which the light is even dazzling; the figures of the two rabbis to the right, radiant with crimson, green, and azure; the back-ground, which seems like some rich oil-colour smeared over a golden ground, and where the eye staggers on from one abyss of obscurity to another -place this picture in the first rank of Rembrandt's wonderful performances. If this extraordinary genius was the most literal and vulgar of draughtsmen, he was the most
ideal of colourists.
Dr. Waagen says, "Of all Rembrandt's cabinet pictures, this perhaps holds the first place. In general, we admire in the pictures of this master, the magical effect of the deep chiaro-scuro, the bold conception, and the admirable handling. Here, however, it is not only the bright, full, gold tone, by which the principal figures are relieved from the dark back-ground, that attracts us, but the beauty and intelligibleness of the composition, the manifold and just expression of the heads, the delicate execution, combined with the most solid impasto*. How much more powerful is this expression of the deepest compassion and sympathy in Christ, of bitter repentance in the woman, in spite of the ordinary, nay, ugly countenances, than the most beautiful forms taken from the antique, according to general principles of beauty, such as we see in Mengs, and so many highly-extolled painters, who have acted upon a theory of beauty, but whose figures are destitute of that life and soul which the genuine feeling of the artist, in accordance with the spirit of his subject, can alone breathe into them."
Somewhat similar in mode of treatment is the wonderful picture by the same artist now in the Dulwich Gallery, in which reality is given to the most unreal of all subjects a dream. In regarding Rembrandt's treatment of "Jacob's Dream," we feel that the artist has risen to the sublimity of the inspired idea: "And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it." (Gen. xxviii. 12.) We can scarcely imagine without trembling, the kind of picture which almost any other artist would have produced on this subject. Sublime indeed as is the idea, the realization of it in a picture, seems to be ridiculous: but Rembrandt's ladder is a gradated burst of light opening from the heavens, and occupied by floating winged figures, of a strange, mysterious, undefined form. The sleeping figure of Jacob is but dimly seen amid the obscurity which pervades the other parts of the scene. There is perhaps no other picture in which so much is left to the imagination, and which, at the same time, so completely satisfies it.
When, with the mind fully impressed with these two
productions, we turn to the full-sized portrait of a Jew
* Dr. Waagen makes frequent use of this term. It refers to the degree of thickness with which the colour is laid ou. In some of Rembrandt's pictures the impasto is so thick as to project in ridges from the canvas; while in the pictures of other artists, it is so thin that the threads of the canvas may be detected through it.
Our frontispiece is copied from an etching by Rembrant, dated 1639. This etching is known under the appellation of the "Gold Weigher." The principal figure is a portrait of Utenbogaerd.
I STOOD beneath a hollow tree.
I thought upon this hollow world,
All hollow, hollow, hollow!
And hollow heads oft wear it;
What hollow hearts oft bear it.
NATURAL HISTORY AND MANAGEMENT OF CAGE-BIRDS.
THE BLACKCAP. (Curruca atricapilla.)
Oh! fair befall thee, gay Fauvet,
Minstrelsy of the Woods.
THE song of the Blackcap is deemed scarcely inferior to that of the nightingale; it is, therefore, no wonder that this bird should be in great request for the cage. It has also many engaging ways, which prove that it becomes tolerably well reconciled to captivity, and which endear it to its owners. It is likewise more hardy, and not so exclusively a feeder on insects as many of the other warblers. With the exception of the redbreast, all the warblers leave our climate during winter, and reappear with the livery of spring. All these birds are, by some writers, included under the general term of Fauvette. Their return brings great animation and beauty to our summer scenery, while it is important to the welfare of our crops, on account of the number of insects destroyed by these birds.
The blackcap arrives in England about the middle of April. Towards the end of that month, or the beginning of May, it commences its nest. The male bird is most assiduous in his cares for his mate and his young brood. At intervals he pours forth his enlivening strains, from the top branch of a bush or tree in the vicinity. Here his appearance may be noted, and will be found to differ considerably from that of the female. The plumage is of a sober and uniform tint, but the bird is handsome and sprightly in his form. The head is of a dull black; the throat and breast are grey, fading into a paler tint in the under part of the body. The upper parts are also grey, but tinged with dull green inclining to black. The quills and tail feathers are dusky, inclining to green at the margins. In the female bird the head is of a reddish brown instead of black, and the whole of the plumage is of a darker tint, and more distinctly inclining to green. The female is also rather larger and heavier than the male.
On the first arrival of the blackcap, insect food is not to be had, and the birds are fain to content themselves with the ripe berries of the ivy. "By the time the ivyberries are over," says a faithful observer, "the little green larvæ of the small moths will be getting plentiful, rolled up in the young shoots and leaves: then is this their chief food until the strawberries and cherries become ripe; after that there is no want of fruit or berries till their return, and there is no sort of fruit or berry that is eatable or wholesome that they will refuse. After they have cleared the elder-berries in autumn they immediately leave us."
The song of the blackcap is rich, clear, and rapid The bird appears much excited while singing; the throat is inflated, the body obliquely inclined, and the head elevated. The trilling of this bird is remarkable for the swells and cadences given to the same trill, and these are accompanied by a strong convulsive motion of the throat. An able ornithologist says of this delightful bird, "It has indeed the wildest and most witching notes of all our warblers; it has not, certainly, the volume and variety of the nightingale, neither has it the ineffably sweet chant of the garden warbler; but its notes take one by surprise, and the changes, and especially the trills, are finer than those of any other bird. The song, when the bird is at rest, appears to be, by turns, like those of several birds; but it transposes them into a lower, or rather a minor key, and finishes off with variations of its own; and, as is the case with the works of the more impassioned musical composers, the very genius (so to speak) of the bird, interferes with the melody, and a sort of indescribable wildness is the
character of the whole."
The place chosen by the pair for building their nest is at no great distance from the ground, in a thick hedge, bush, or brake; they form it of loose vegetable fibres, lining it with the same, occasionally mixed with moss, or wool, or hair. The eggs are four or five in number, of a pale reddish brown, obscurely marked with a deeper shade of the same colour, and with grey. The young birds of both sexes, when first fledged, resemble the female. They leave the nest at an early period, especially if disturbed. Following their parents as well as they can, they hop from branch to branch, but gather closely together at the roosting time. The whole family may then be observed perched on one branch, the male at one end, the female at the other, and the little ones in the middle
The blackcap sings more constantly than most other warblers, yet it often escapes unnoticed, being a shy and retired bird; but in spots where it finds itself unmolested, it will often choose a conspicuous station, such as the topmost bough of a low tree, or the extremity of one of the branches, from which it pours forth its song, The sound of footsteps will cause it suddenly to drop from its elevation into the midst of the thickest bush, but there it will soon after resume its song, being apparently conscious of the security of its retreat. In the early part of the season, while the birds subsist on vegetable food, the song is less rich and powerful than at a later period.
Too often do we hear the blackcap described as the gardener's enemy, on account of the currants, raspberries, &c., that it consumes; but without the labours of this very bird, those currants and raspberries would probably have never come to perfection. The number of caterpillars destroyed by the warblers in the spring, would have prevented the coming to maturity of ten times the quantity of fruit destroyed by these birds. Nevertheless, it must be owned that the blackcap is a very frequent visitor of fruit gardens in retired spots, and that its depredations are by no means inconsiderable. It swallows currants with rapidity, and with much apparent satisfaction. Raspberries and other soft fruits are equally acceptable, and its bill may frequently be seen stained with the juice. So intent is it on its feast among the fruit trees, that it may be approached at such times, and better observed than in any other situation. Its fondness for vegetable food is a chief cause why this bird may be kept, in a healthy state, in a cage, with better success than some of the other warblers, whose propensities are more decidedly insectivorous. It is for the same reason, probably, that some few blackcaps generally linger in the warmest spots in the south of the kingdom during winter. In such places they meet with plenty of wild berries, and contrive to subsist on them while their fellows are seeking more luxurious fare in another climate. The blackcap has been seen in Surrey in December, and shot in Kent in January.
The occurrence of this bird in winter is, however, very rare, or very little noted in England. The main body of blackcaps leave our islands in September, but do not
appear to extend their winter migrations very far to the southward. These birds are found throughout Europe, and in the isles of the Atlantic. In the northern parts of Europe they are merely summer visitants, and according to Temminck, they are rare beyond the Apennines and Pyrenees. In the south of Italy they are permanent residents, as also at Madeira. The Italian name of the blackcap is Caponera d'edera, in allusion to its fondness for ivy-berries, and the bird is ranked among the Becafico, or fig-eating birds, so much prized for the table in Italy. Among the Germans, the blackcap has the name of the Monk or the Moor on account of the black or brown cap which covers the top of the head, and which they thus liken to the cowl or the turban. The French give it the title of La Fauvette à tête noir.
In confinement, the blackcap is lively and interesting: it is more easily preserved than some other warblers, and sings almost uninterruptedly the whole year round. The song is often prolonged, like that of the nightingale, to a late hour, and is commenced at dawn. The female sings also, though in an inferior degree. On account of her song, as well as from her having a brown, instead of a black cap on the head, she has been mistaken for another species. The affection of these birds, not only for each other, but for those that have the care of them, makes them pleasing inmates of a cage. The blackcap will utter a peculiar note when his master approaches the cage, and will flutter towards the bars as if anxious to break through the obstacle. When allowed the run of a room, this bird will equally display its familiarity. "A young male," says Bechstein, "which I had put in the hot-house for the winter, was accustomed to receive from my hand, every time I entered, a meal-worm; this took place so regularly that immediately on my arrival he placed himself near the little jar where I kept the meal-worms. I pretended not to notice this signal, he would take flight and passing close under my nose, immediately resume his post; and this he repeated, sometimes striking me with his wing, till I satisfied his wishes and his impatience."
There are various ways of procuring these birds for the cage. The young ones, taken towards the months of August and September, are generally preferred. Their song is said to have more melody, and they are also more easily obtained than old birds, which are extremely wary, and will often resist the most tempting bait. To accustom young birds to a cage, the extremities of the wings are tied, and they are fed with the paste used for nightingales, which is rendered more attractive if mixed with elder-berries or meal-worms. If young birds are to be brought up from the nest, they will be found rather a troublesome charge, requiring extreme cleanliness, and much care in their management. They are taken when half fledged, that is, when they are about nine days old, and fed in the same manner as young nightingales. Their cage must be covered with dry moss, regularly renewed twice a day. A liquid paste, composed of yolk of egg, bruised hemp-seed, and crumbs of bread, is sometimes given to them, and when they can eat alone, a little minced parsley is added to it. This diet must be used with caution, for it is apt to fatten them too quickly. As a corrective, they are supplied with fruit, such as mellow pears, or apples, figs, grapes, and the lesser fruits. When established as a cage-bird, the blackcap may be fed on bruised hemp-seed and bread as its ordinary fare; but a variety of other food must be used to keep it in health, such as the fruits above-mentioned, and a supply of caterpillars and other insect diet. A supply of elderberries, dried for winter use, will be found a valuable addition to its food. The bird is very fond of them, and when soaked in water, they recover their freshness, and afford wholesome diet. Facility for bathing is also
essential in warm weather.
This bird becomes exceedingly restless at the period of the autumnal migration of its species. It is especially
agitated during the night and at the period of full moon and often becomes sickly in consequence. The most formidable disease of the blackcap is decline, to which it is more subject than nightingales, though in other respects the ailments of these birds are similar. The treatment for decline in the blackcap is to feed it with a quantity of meal-worms and ants' eggs, and to impregnate the drinking water with iron, by putting a nail into it. An attack of apoplexy or paralysis in this bird is sometimes cured by making it swallow two or three drops of olive oil. Bechstein says, "I lately had the pleasure of seeing the success of this remedy on a bird of this species, suffering from an apoplectic fit, and which dragged his little paralysed foot about the room where he lived uncaged; he is now quite recovered, very gay, and active; his song was never before so delightful to me."
The blackcap has been preserved in a cage for ten years; but the ordinary duration of its life is reckoned at five or six. It is said that the song of this bird may be improved by placing it within hearing of a nightingale, but probably most persons would prefer its own natural
MULTITUDES of penguins were swarming together in some parts of the island (Noir Island, on the coast of Tierra del Fuego), among the bushes and "tussac" (a thick rushy kind of grass) near the shore, having gone there for the purpose of moulting, and rearing their young. They were very valiant in self-defence, and ran, open-mouthed, by dozens at any one who invaded their territory, little knowing how soon a stick could scatter them on the ground. The young were good eating, but the others proved to be The manner in which black and tough, when cooked. they feed their young is curious and rather amusing. The old bird gets on a little eminence, and makes a great noise (between quacking and braying), holding its head up in the air, as if it were haranguing the penguinnery, while the young one stands close to it, but a little lower. The old bird, having continued its clatter for about a minute, puts its head down, and opens its mouth widely, into which the young one thrusts its head, and then appears to suck from the throat of its mother for a minute or two, after which the clatter is repeated, and the young one is again fed; this continues for about ten minutes. I observed some which swallow what they thus supplied themselves with; so in were moulting make the same noise, and then apparently this way I suppose they are furnished with subsistence during the time they cannot seek it in the water.-Voyages of the Adventure and Beagle.
WOLVES howl more frequently when the weather is about to change to wet. They grovel with the nose in the earth, instead of digging with their paws, when they wish to conceal a part of their food or the droppings about their lairs. The parent wolves punish their whelps if they emit a scream of pain; they bite, maltreat, and drag them by the hunters commonly assert, that the animal is weak in the tail, till they have learned to bear pain in silence. Wolfloins, and when first put to speed that his hind-quarters seem to waver; but when warmed, that he will run without halting from the district where he has been hunted, taking a direct line for some favourite cover, perhaps forty miles or more in distance. On these occasions he will feap upon walls above eight feet high, ross rivers obliquely with the current, even if it be the Rhine, and never offer battle unless he be fairly turned; then he will endeavour to cripple the opponent by hasty snaps at the fore-legs, and resume his route. The track of a wolf is readily distinguished from that of a dog, by the two middle claws being close together, while in the dog they are separated; the marks, however, when the wolf is at speed and the middle toes are separated, can be determined by the claws being deeper and the impression more hairy; the print is also longer and narrower, and the ball of the foot more prominent.
Inferior in wily resources to the fox, the wolf is nevertheless endowed with great sagacity. His powers of scent are very delicate, his hearing acute, and his habits always cautious. The European variety is naturally a beast of the woods; those of the arctic regions and of the steppes of Russia and Tartary have different manners, probably from necessity, not choice.-COL. H. SMITH'S History of Dogs.