« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
the Baptist. These pictures, if they really are productions of Gerard of St. John, suffice to show that he was a painter, living as late as the sixteenth century ; painting with brownish tones, drawing with a certain firmness, yet without a good knowledge of anatomy, and following, apparently, the school of Quintin Massys, whose traces are distinguished in the ill-shapen faces and prominent noses of the principal figures. The tradition respecting these pictures is, that they were taken from the monastery of the Knights of St. John by the Spaniards. They were afterwards in the Collection of our Charles the First, as is proved by the following inscription :="This is the second piece, being one of the five pictures which were presented to the king at St. James's by the State, their ambassadors." !
Three pictures, forming one tryptic, «are exhibited in the Munich Pinakothek under Gerard's name. They are of the same late date as the others, but feeble in execution."
Whilst such was the state of art at Haarlem, its progress seems to have been slight also at Leyden, where we find no trace of oil-painting in the early part of the fifteenth century. Engelbert, an engraver, whose plates are found, dated 1466-7, lived at that time at Leyden, and was the master of Engelbrechtzen, who afterwards taught Lucas of Leyden.
1 No. 31, Belvedere Cat., and No. 34, room second; both 5' 6" by 4' 5". Wood.
2 Nos. 84, 85, 86, Munich Pin. Cat., Wood.—“Christ leaving his Mother," the “ Descent from the Cross,” and “ The Resurrection.”
It is a strange, but not unnatural result of the position held by painters of the fifteenth century, that very little interest attached to their personal history, though much was usually felt in contemplation of their works. The feelings, the enthusiam, the education of the painter, were beyond the ken of his employer. Artists had the countenance of their patron, to whom more praise and flattery accrued, perhaps, for fostering their talent, than was awarded to the humble owners of it. To this we may, in part, ascribe the want of records illustrative of the lives of early Flemish painters. As in the history of Venetian art, however, we find much more recorded of the Bellini than of Giorgione ; so in that of Belgian art, much less is known of Memling than even of his master. His pictures were admired and praised; but where he was born, or where he lived, were equally uncertain. Bruges, which should erect a monument in honour of his name, whose ancient buildings are adorned with his graceful pictures, knows nothing of his early life, and is the seat of a legend worthless to historians. So slight was the remembrance of a painter whose works were sought in Italy, and Germany, and Spain, that Van
Mander, a hundred years later, raised him from oblivion, by saying:—“Respecting some of our painters, whose existence is more known to me from looking at their pictures than from knowledge of the period in which they lived, I would mention first — of Bruges—a celebrated master in the early times, named Hans Memmelinck.” A few lines are given to his works; and Memling is dismissed from view, to make room for Martin Heemskerk or Van Orlay, men who made a trade of painting without much honour to their country. Posterity, however, recognised the talents of the painter; but spent its energies less in descanting on his merits than in useless arguments respecting the mode of spelling his name. No one doubts, at the present time, that his proper title is Memling. Not only was he called so by Van Mander, but by other authors, such as the Anonimo di Morelli, who turns him into Memelino;” and Golzius, a well-known painter and engraver of the seventeenth century, one of whose plates, representing a Crucifixion, contains the inscription—“Joan Memmlinck inv. Jul. Golzius fec. Wrindts excudit, 1656.” Descamps first asserted that the name was Hemmelinck, founding his assertion doubtless on the signatures of the panels in the hospital at Bruges." The first and third letters are certainly different in each of these signatures; but this can hardly be called
* Van Mander, ut sup., p. 205. The edition of Van Mander by De Yoogh, takes unwarrantable liberties with the text of the first edition. We quote from the first throughout this work. * Anonimo di Morelli, ut sup, p. 74–8. * Frenzel (J. G. A.), Sammlung der kupferstiche Sternberg, 8", Dresden, 1836-42, p. 13. * Descamps, “Voyage pittoresque,” 8°. Paris, 1753.
a proof; for we find the letter M written in both fashions in the records of the hospital itself, as weļl as in various coins and inscriptions of the period.
The Germans, who claim this painter as their own, are eager for the truth of Descamp's version. They possess the pedigree of a family of Hemlings who lived at Constance, and assume that Hans belonged to it. They found their theory, again, upon a passage in the “ Nieuw Tractat” of Vaernewyck,—a history of Belgium in the inharmonious tones of Low Dutch verse, in which the author says :" The houses of the town of Bruges are filled with paintings by der Deutschen Hans.'" “ Der Deutschen Hans," however, is not Hans Memling ; but, as Van Mander proves, Hans Zinger, a painter, born at Zinger, in Hessen, who was free master in the Guild of Antwerp in 1543.
Whether born at Bruges, as some infer from Van Mander's words, or at Damme, as Descamps asserts, without assigning his authority, Memling became the pupil of Van der Weyden, and, as such, seems to have spent his early days at Brussels rather than elsewhere. Vasari describes him as Ausse in one place, and Hauesse in the other—disciple of Rugiero ;1 and the Catalogue of pictures of Margaret of Austria, at Malines, mentions an altar-piece, of which the centre was by Roger, and the wings by “master Hans.”? Memling, therefore, laboured for a time, conjointly with his master, assisting him, and receiving his lessons. We have a picture said to be his
· Vasari, ut sup., Introd. vol. i. p. 163; vol. iv. Vit. d'Ant. da Mess. p. 76. Parte terza, Edit. of 1568.
2 Le Glay; De Laborde, “Inventaire des Tableaux, &c., de Marguérite d'Autriche,” ut sup., p. 24.
portrait, painted in 1462, where the person represented seems to have reached about his thirtieth year; but the execution of this work does not, in our opinion, belong to Memling; and we feel inclined to doubt the propriety of calling it his portrait.' We might also be led to doubt the statement of the Anonimo di Morelli, when he says, that the Gallery of Cardinal Grimani, at Venice, contained a portrait of Isabella, wife of Philip, Duke of Burgundy, executed by Zuan Memelino in 1450.” It was at this time that Van der Weyden was in his prime, and Memling's talent only rising. Why should the court have employed the pupil instead of the master to paint the portrait of the Duchess of Burgundy, whom Van Eyck had limned in her youth, and Roger might have transferred to canvas in her older time, and whom such men as Van der Goes and others might have had to sit for them $ We also doubt whether Memling went to Italy either as the pupil of Van der
* Passavant says of this portrait, lately in Mr. Rogers's Gallery, and once the property of Mr. Aders, “It should be the portrait of Memling himself as he appeared in the hospital. No one in Bruges knew of it; nor does Descamps mention it.’ It is painted quite in the style of Memling, and I doubt not from his hand. If it be admitted that it represents himself, the wounded arm and the date, 1462, determine when Memling was in the hospital.”—Kunstreise, p.94. It is necessary to observe that all authorities, from Descamps upwards, have fixed the date of Memling's illness as 1477. The dress of the portrait is not so much a costume peculiar to the Hospital of St. John as one common to the period. In the Adoration of the Magi, by Memling, a spectator is depicted with a long beard and an orange cap. This is said to be the portrait of Memling in the hospital dress—a different one from that of the portrait of 1462. Wide Bruges' Cat., p. 37.
* Anonimo di Morelli, ut sup., p. 75.