« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
express the piety of the charitable sisters, who, like St. Catherine, were consecrated and espoused to Christ, and were, like St. Barbara, dedicated to good works.” " The composition of the Sposalizio is symmetrical to a fault. The group of the Virgin and Child is admirable, and the countenance of the Infant Saviour the most beautiful ever depicted by Memling; and this, coupled with the mild resignation in the faces of the two St. Johns, combines to render the effect of the whole picture most powerful. Still, it is not easy to dismiss other impressions which are formed, at the same moment, by the lengthy shape of the neck and face of the Virgin and Saints around her, and an appearance of rigidity in some other figures. It is almost a pity that the playing Angel should have been retouched since Memling's time; for, were some modern blemishes not apparent, the figure might be called perfection,-the features being expressive beyond the usual measure. The fine head of St. John the Baptist is an instance of the painter's truth and attention to nature; and we can but regret that the general effect of his grave and pensive attitude should be marred by little episodes crowding the space behind him. Yet, if these little subjects be taken separately, they show how happy was the painter's handling in the finish of small figures. Herodias dancing before Herod—one of them—is a little picture by itself; but, standing where it does, mars the general effect, and wearies the eye. In the other wing, which figures the Vision of Patmos, this feature is less objectionable; but the restorer has been hard at work and destroyed the foreground, the water, and portions of the sky. * Mrs. Jameson, Legends of the Madonna, p. 97.
Painters of the present day may study with advantage the soft and truthful harmonies of which the colour is composed. They form a fine chord which throws into the distance the faults inherent in the master—want of chiaro'scuro and thinness of colour.
The restoration of a portion of the inner surface of this picture is nothing to that which the outer has suffered. Not only has the frame been repainted black, and a forged signature been placed upon it, but the figures of the donors and their patron saints have been extensively cleaned off and retouched."
The votive pictures, once attributed to Wan Eyck, in the Duke of Devonshire's villa at Chiswick, may be said, with tolerable accuracy, to have followed the Sposalizio. With the exception of some slight scaling of the surface, this tryptic, now united into one picture, is in perfect preservation. Round the Virgin, sitting in a porch, are the family of Clifford, the lord and lady and the children on each side, St. Barbara and St. Agnes supporting them. An angel kneels before the Infant Christ, offering a piece of fruit. The two St. Johns are placed upon panels which of old were portions of the wings: the Baptist, with the Lamb, austere in countenance; the Evangelist with mild and youthful countenance. The landscape background is finished with excessive care. It contains a water-mill, with a little miller, a man on horseback, a cow, and swans— the very landscape, in fact, which ornaments the Madonna of the Gallery of the Uffizi at Florence, the portrait by Antonello da Messina in the Gallery at Antwerp, and numerous small pictures by later imitators, who copied.
* This altar-piece, No. 1 of the Catalogue of the Hospital, is signed “Opus IoHANNIS HEMLING. ANNo McCCCLXXIX,”
Leonardo's Virgins and Memling's distances. The donors and the saints appear in costumes similar to those which people wore when Memling painted. The long-peaked cap—a sugar-loaf in shape-seems less awkward in this splendid picture than books of cotemporary costume have made it. A thin transparent veil falls gracefully to the ground; and this, with other peculiarities of dress, are wondrous instances of Memling's truth and delicacy. In St. Barbara and St. Agnes may be seen the tendency to sveltness or length of the human form, which Van der Weyden had in a greater measure, and which later painters afterwards were prone to copy and exaggerate. These two pictures—the Sposalizio and the Clifford altar-pieceappear to have been painted earlier than the Adoration of the Magi in the Hospital of Bruges, which is a work of 1479. In the composition of the latter subject, Memling followed Van der Weyden, and the groups are formed and the figures placed almost exactly as they stand in the Adoration of the Kings in the Munich Gallery. The only difference, in truth, is one of subject. In the wings, instead of the Annunciation we find the Adoration of the Virgin. The scene is more naturally arranged and less symmetrical than that of previous panels, the figures smaller, the tone more deep in harmonies, and more vigorous in chiaro-’scuro.
In no picture, however, did Memling develop greater nature, grace, or life in motion than in the shrine of
1 No. 3. Wood; centre 0.58 by 0.47. Wings, 0-25 by 0:47. Signed, “OPUS. JOHANNIS. HEMLING. Dit. Werck. dede, maken. broeder.Jan . Floreins. alias Van. der. Rüst. broeder. profes. van. de . hospitale van. Sint. Jans. in . Brugghe, anno . MCCCCLXXIX." . 3 Vide ante, p. 185. This Adoration is No. 35, 36, 37, third Cab. Pinak. Cat.