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this last occasion he was employed for nearly eleven days, at a salary of fourteen sous per diem, taking a part in the production of what the stewards of the Dukes are pleased to call “les entremetz,” — a word intended, at that period, to denote certain ingenious exhibitions by which the attention of the guests was cleverly engrossed during the removal of the courses.
Although Sanderus says that Hugo was of Bruges,' we have documentary evidence, of incontestable authority, to prove that he was born at Ghent.2 A person of his name, called Mathias Van der Goes, a member of the Antwerp guild of painters, is supposed to have been a relative of Hugo, whom Vasari calls d'Anversa. Van Mander says that Hugo studied under John Van Eyck;* but he formed his manner as much from that of Hubert as from that of John; and the truth may be that he studied under both those brothers. He had the vigour and perfect finish that marked their style, without their noble sentiment, beauty of expression, or knowledge of the human form. Rising to eminence after the death of his master, he shared with Van der Weyden the patronage of the rich Burgundian court, noblesse, and citizens.
He painted for Thomaso Portinari the altar-piece of Santa Maria Nuova, which Vasari mentions as a proof of his ability;" and was besides permanently employed by the corporation of Ghent on those numerous occasions when they displayed their wealth and taste in public ceremonies, as at the Jubilee of 1473, and at the various
i Sanderus, Flandria Illustrata, vol. i. p. 13. 2 Vide infra, p. 132.
3 Vasari, vol. i. p. 163. 4 Van Mander, p. 203. 5 Vasari, vol. i. p. 163.
festivities which occurred between that and 1480. It is supposed that he retired early to a convent, in which he spent the latter days of his life.'
Hugo loved the daughter of Jacob Weytens, a gentleman of birth in Charles's time, as Marchantius tells us, depicting her as Abigail, and himself under the garb of David riding on a horse. A bevy of fair damsels accompanied the lady, which Van Mander and De Heere describe as graceful and pretty. Hugo's treatment by the fair Abigail is not recorded by historians, but his retirement and holy vows suffice to tell the tale. He took the cowl in Rooden Clooster, a convent of Augustine monks, near Brussels. There is every reason to believe that he was called to Paris by Louis XI., after his novitiate, to paint the Crucifixion of the chapel of the parliament-house. The only proof connecting Van der Goes with this Crucifixion is the style and finish of the picture; but the scene itself being laid in Paris, and the Louvre being represented in the distance, Hugo, if he painted it, must have come to Paris. Amongst the persons on the foreground are Charlemagne and St. Louis, whose statues were also placed, by order of the king, in the chapel of the parliament.2
1 Messager des Sciences et des Arts, 1826. Kunstblatt, 1826, p. 243.
2“ A Robert Cailletel pour employer es ouvrages de maçonnerie, menuiserie, tabernacle, verrières, peintures et autres choses ordonnées estre fait le plus honnêtement et richement que faire se peult en la chapelle estant au bout de la grant salle à Paris ou messieurs le parlement oyent la messe, en laquelle le roy a voulu estre mis et posez les images de Nostre Dame, de Mons. St. Charlemagne et Saint Loys, 11301. 11 s."- Compte de Pierre Lailly, 1479. De Laborde, La Renaiss. des Arts, ut sup. p. 54.
There is no improbability in supposing that Louis XI. sent to Belgium for the painter. His desire for a good production was evidenced on more than one occasion. In 1468, journeying to Peronne, he stopped for an hour at Noyon to visit the cathedral. There he saw a very ancient picture of the crowning of Charlemagne, so old and venerable that he expressed a desire to have a copy of it, and he requested that he might have “ung pourtraict de ce pourtraict.” The canons, but too anxious to do his pleasure, acceded to his wish, and record the act as follows: “Anno 1468, capitulo facto, die ultima Augusti, declaretur per operarios convocandos expensa pro imagine Caroli Magni collocanda in capella Sancti Eligii, retro chorum in fronte ecclesiae, et describatum in papyrum pro ostendendo domino regi (Ludovico undecimo) ut ipse petiit et voluit fieri.” His confidence in the painters of his country was slight, as we know from his efforts to obtain a good portrait of himself. He first tried Foucquet, a quaint old imitator of the Flemings, who failed. The task was then entrusted to a sculptor, who also failed. Michel Colombe was set aside as well as Foucquet, and Colin d’Amiens was chosen. “Mestre Colin,” says Gaignières, addressing an order from his master to the Amiens' painter, “you must make the portraiture of our sire the king; that is to say, you shall show him kneeling on a flag and his dog near him ; let him have his hat between his hands, and let his hands be joined in prayer, and his sword be hanging by his side. Let his cornet hang behind his shoulders, showing both its ends. You must let him have, besides, his feet in buskins
* Witet. Notre Dame de Noyon, fol. Paris, 1845, pp. 21, 22.
and not in hosen ; all this as honestly as is possible. Let him be dressed as a huntsman, with the finest face that you can give him, so as he shall be both young and plump, the nose a little long and somewhat high, as you well know, and you must not make him bald. Your order, therefore, must be this:—
The nose aquiline;
The hair a little long behind;
Evidently Louis feared to sit, lest the painter might not make him fat and plump, and might forget he must not make him bald. However, had a Fleming been chosen for the task, he could scarcely hope to have been flattered.
The picture of Wan der Goes is still in Paris, in the Cour d’Appel of the Palais de Justice.
In 1478, Hugo Van der Goes was chosen as umpire by the heirs of the painter Stuerbout, to settle what sum they might be entitled to for a picture left unfinished by their father.” He died soon after in the Roodendaele, and was buried by his brother Augustines. They placed an epitaph as follows on his grave:—
* Gaignières ap. De Laborde, Renaissance des Arts, ut sup., pp. 59, 60.
* Schayes, Archives de Louvain. “Daer voer hem ende zynen kinderen vergouwen ende betaelt kleft, ter estumacien ende scattingen van eenen der notabelsten scildere die men binnen denlande hier omtrent wiste te vindene die gheboren es van der Stad van 'Ghendt, ende nu voonechtiges inden Rooden Clooster in Zuemien de Somme van guldens worsereve III-XI gul. XXXVI. pl.”
“Pictor Hugo v. der Goes humatus hic quiescit
The death of Hugo was certainly a loss to the art in Belgium. He had upheld in a great measure the severe and manly style of Hubert, though he lacked the genius and powerful execution of that master. Austere expression, breadth and simplicity, deep and vigorous colour, marked his works, as they mark the masterpieces of Hubert Van Eyck. But he was also known for hardness of outline, a dark system of shadow, a certain want of chiaro-'scuro or relief and transparency in his carnations. These were symptoms of decline rather than of progress. He exaggerated one of Hubert's peculiarities, that of surcharging vestments and accessory parts with ornaments of various kinds; but a good feature in his manner was the drawing of the human face and head, which, like some masters of his time, he made stout and round; thus imparting somewhat of a happy though vulgar cast to them. His design was masterly, especially in portraits, or where he sought no ideal, and in the rendering of hands and feet. In his mode of colouring, he wandered sometimes to extremes, being dark and brown in one part, whilst he was clear in light and grey in shadow in another. These two extremes are even found to meet in the various portions of a single picture; for instance, in the altar-piece of the Portinari in Santa Maria Nuova. This, the painter's masterpiece, was once the ornament of
* Sweertius, Monum. Sepulca". Brabantiae, 12°. Antv. 1618, p. 323.