Page images
PDF
EPUB

hands, might also be adduced as proofs of Hubert's manner. But, more than all, the dark and powerful colour of the general tone recal to mind the style of the first Wan Eyck, so vivid and rich is it in parts. A curious record, discovered not long since, has put us on the scent of a panel, produced by Hubert Van Eyck. M. Coremans, a Belgian author, lately published the accounts of Blaise Hütter, first “varlet de chambre” and confidential secretary of the Archduke Ernest, and the inventory of the treasures left by that prince at his death in 1595. In the latter is the following entry:-" Saint Mary with the Infant; near her is an Angel, and St. Bernard. By Rupert Wan Eyck.” This, probably, was a picture by Hubert, whose name is misspelt.” None of the pictures remaining under the name of Hubert can be assigned to him with any truth. They are very inferior productions, such as the “Virgin with the donor” in the Antwerp Gallery,”—a picture weaker in execution than those of Dieric Stuerbout, to whom some connoisseurs have lately given it. A charming modesty of look is all that marks “St.

* The first person who mentioned this picture, in connexion with Hubert's name, is Dr. Waagen, who, in his work entitled “Ueber Hubert und J. Van Eyck,” says, he can assign the panel described in the text “with certainty” to our artist. Mr. Passavant, in the Kunstblatt, No. 47, 1843, although he does not affirm that the picture is by Hubert Van Eyck, thinks that it was painted by Colantonio “entirely in the Van Eyck style.” The commentators of the last edit. of Vasari attribute this picture (note to p. 163, Introd. vol. i.) to John Van Eyck, supposing it to be the same mentioned by their author as belonging of old to Lorenzo de Medici.

* Coremans, ap. De Laborde, ut sup, vol. i. Introd. p. cxiii.

* No. 4 of Antwerp Catalogue, 0.29 met. by 0.19, French measure.

Catherine” of the Belvedere, at Vienna;' but the painting is unlike that of Hubert in style; nor is it like that of his brother John, but of a later date, and by an imitator;” the ornaments being coarse, the flesh tints grey, and modelled without delicacy. A picture by Hubert Van Eyck is described in catalogues as belonging to one M. de Kronstern, at Nembs, near Ploen, Holstein. We have not seen it. A tryptic in the Lichtenstein Gallery represents the Adoration of the Magi. The Virgin, in a blue mantle, holds the Infant on her knee, and the donor is at her feet, clothed in a red mantle, an old king near him. Two shepherds are looking through the window, and to the right are a few oxen and an ass. On the left wing are the young king and the Moor; on the right, a canon supported by St. Stephen. The work is highly finished and minute; but neither Hubert nor John Van Eyck are the painters of those cold grey shadows. This, we believe, is a picture of the Wan Eyck school, painted at the latter end of the fifteenth century.” A portrait, said to be that of Rollin, in the Museum of Dijon, is attributed to Hubert, but is clearly of a later date, viz. the close of the fifteenth century." An Ecce Homo, or head of the Saviour, in the Kensington Gallery, attributed to Hubert Van Eyck, is as distant from the style of that painter as from that of John

* No. 16, Catalogue of Vienna, Belv. 1845, chamb. 2. Wood,7" by 4\", Austrian measure.

* Wide infra.

* Mr. Passavant attributes this picture to John Van Eyck. Kunstblatt, 1841, p. 304.

* No. 284, Dijon. Cat. o. m. 81 centi, by o. m. 62 c.

Van Eyck. The type of the countenance, in itself repulsive, leaves everything to be desired as regards character and expression. Feeble in design and colour, it possesses none of the good qualities of the great master whose name it bears. It is one of the numerous dry imitations of the head of the Saviour painted by John Van Eyck, now in the Berlin Museum.?

That Hubert's latest pictures in Bruges or Ghent have all perished is due, no doubt, to the image-breakers of 1566, and the plundering habits of the Spanish troops during the wars of the Duke of Alva ; but his first productions have also disappeared ; and it is as difficult to find a picture by him previous to the first years of the fifteenth century, as to discover any executed previous to 1400. The loss of these must be assigned to the unsettled state of the Duchies of Brabant and Limburg and the Pays de Liège, during the whole of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the territory of which they form a part having fallen into the hands of Philip the Good on the failure of male heirs, the issue of Philip the Hardy, his grandfather. · As no succession in these times was peace. fully obtained, this, amongst the rest, was long contested between the warlike people of the cities on the Meuse, and the no less warlike will of the second Philip. Not long before his death, when old and hoary, this prince, too weak to lead an army, was present, with his son, at the overthrow of Dinant, of which not a single house was allowed to remain standing, that the Dukes might

1 No. 52, Gallery of Prince Wallerstein, Kensington Palace. On wood, 1 ft. by 7 in. English.

2 No. 528, Berlin Museum.

satisfy their truculent desire, and say they granted the request to found a city where “Dinant once had stood.” But this was not a solitary instance of revenge. Numerous towns were pillaged and destroyed on the same occasion; and, at a later period, a repetition of offence produced similar results; for when Charles the Bold succeeded in acquiring from Arnold, the parricide Duke of Gueldres, seignorial rights upon the people of the duchy, the latter rose against him ; and Maaseyck, with thirteen other cities, was destroyed. Liège is well known also to have braved the anger of the redoubted Charles, and to have suffered terrible retribution. Pictures and monuments, no doubt, perished at that period; and the loss of the early pictures of Hubert Wan Eyck may be assigned to that cause. John has suffered less severely; and we have many panels bearing authentic signatures and dates. Remarkable, however, yet unavoidable, on examining them, is the reflection that, after the completion of the altar-piece of St. Bavon, John Wan Eyck progressed in the secondary parts of his art only; minuteness and finish becoming more marked features in his productions, at the same time that he continued to improve, as we have previously had occasion to remark, in the handling of the new oil medium. A careful examination of the panels authenticated by his name, in the order of their dates, shows that the finest colour, the firmest outline, the most powerful whole are to be found in the first productions after the death of Hubert. Amongst these, the turbaned portrait of the National Gallery, painted in 1433, and signed with John's own name, is remarkable." In manner it resembles the Jodocus Wydts of the Agnus Dei of St. Bavon. Its preservation is good, execution firm, colour rich and powerful, and the marks of manipulation, which are found in later pieces, do not obtrude. A Newly Married Couple, in the National Gallery, is the next picture in years and beauty.” The pair are represented in state costume, with joined hands; the lady wearing a wedding-ring half way up the finger, according to the custom of this period. At their feet is a terrier of wondrous workmanship. Whilst in this wonderful picture we find, in a measure, harder outlines and clearer general tones than mark the painter's previous works, in no single instance has John Wan Eyck expressed with more perfection, by the aid of colour, the sense of depth and atmosphere. He nowhere blended colours more carefully, nor produced more transparent shadows. The carnation tints of the man's visage are extremely remarkable for these peculiar qualities, more so, perhaps, than any in other works of the master. On the other hand, the draperies have not a noble flow, and are even angular in parts. The movements of the figures want grace, and the hands, of the female figure especially, are small"and awkward. These, however, are but slight faults; the finish of the parts is marvellous, and the preservation of

1 No. 222, Nat. Gal. Cat. Wood, 10} in. by 7%, signed “Johès de Eyck, me fecit afio MCCCC 33 Oct. 21, Als ikh kan.” Bought of Lord Middleton.

* No. 186 of the Nat. Gal. Cat. This picture is signed “Johannes de Eyck fuit hic. 1434,” found by Major-General Hay, in his lodgings at Brussels, after the battle of Waterloo, in 1815. 2 ft. 9 in, by 23 ft. Wood.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »