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National Gallery, and the pictures of Memling, in the late Mr. Rogers' Collection, to come to the conclusion that the “Bastard” is painted by a man combining the style of Van Eyck and Memling. A small panel in the Lichtenstein Gallery represents also the Elevation of the Host, and is attributed to John Van Eyck; but it has every mark of being a German production of the sixteenth century. A Virgin and Child, attributed to Van Eyck, in the Wallerstein Collection at Kensington Palace, is more in the style of Memling than in that of the founder of the school of Bruges." Two portraits of Hubert and John Wan Eyck, in the Museum of Dijon, are copies of those in the altar-piece at Ghent.” Of the genuine pictures by the Wan Eycks, there are old and valuable copies. That by Coxie of the Agnus Dei of St. Bavon, found its way back from Spain to Belgium, and is now in part at the Hague, in part at Berlin and Munich. Another copy on canvas is at Hadley, near Barnet. A fac-simile is also preserved at Antwerp, of Van Eyck's Virgin and Child, executed for Canon de la Pala, but it is considerably damaged.” Of one picture intimately connected with the life of John Wan Eyck, we have hitherto hesitated to speak; although many circumstances would lead to the belief that it was one of the earliest productions of the master. The signature is dated 1421, previous to which time we possess no panel bearing the author's name. The picture itself, however, does not show indisputable marks of his well-known hand; and we are reduced to conjectures as to the authorship in spite of the apparent authenticity of the signature. Thomas à Becket consecrated by Bishops, is, according to Mr. Dallaway's notes to Walpole, the subject represented; and if the traditions connected with this panel are worthy of belief, the subject was executed by John Van Eyck for the Duke of Bedford, Regent of France, and given by him to Henry W.' The date of 1421 coincides with the period of Bedford's rule in France; and additional force is given to the tradition by the well-known fact that Philip the Good, of Burgundy, was father-in-law to the Duke of Bedford, and that consequently a natural connexion might exist between Van Eyck and the Regent. From the consideration of the traditional authenticity of this picture, in so far as plausible historical data may conduct us, we now turn to that more reliable source which the intrinsic merits of the panel itself may afford. In the interior of a mediaeval church a solemn ceremony is proceeding. A bishop, supposed to be no less a personage than Thomas à Becket, is in the act of receiving consecration, standing in pontifical robes, and joining his hands in prayer. A priest, kneeling before him, holds up an open book; whilst three bishops, also in pontifical robes, surround him. Of these, two on each hand are placing the archiepiscopal mitre on his head. On the
* Wallerstein Collection, Kensington Palace, No. 53. 1 ft. 4 in. by 11 in.
* No. 225, Dijon Catalogue,
* No. 7, Ant. Mus. Cat. 1 m. 20 by 1 m. 54.
right of this group a king looks on, with crown and sceptre to mark his rank, and numerous attendants. This king is supposed to be Henry II. On the left of the principal scene are crowded groups of inferior clergy. Above the bishops hangs a canopy of an oval shape, on the borders of which are emblazoned, alternately, a coat of arms and two keys crossed. Behind the canopy a green cloth is suspended; whilst from the canopy itself hangs a medal, bearing a figure in its centre; then a crown or mitre, with another medal in the midst,and, lower still, the emblem of the Holy Ghost, a dove encircled by rays of light, floats above the head of the bishop. The scene is viewed from under an arch of the same style as the interior edifice, painted on the panel, at the base of which the following inscription appears :JOHES-DE-EYCK-FECIT * ĀNO-MCCCC - ŽÏ
OCTOBRIS: This picture, of the utmost importance, as showing Van Eyck's method of painting in oil, as far back as 1421, seriously disappointed our expectations. It was evident that the heads of all the figures had been in a great measure repainted, probably at a distant date, when the panel received repairs, now distinctly visible. But the composition is faulty, and the figures marshalled above each other contrary to all the sound rules of art. Add to this, the bad arrangement of the dove and rays, and the crown or mitre with the medal in the midst, all of which are so clouded by age as to be almost invisible. The dais which covers the whole, and the mass of the background, exhibit an absence of linear and aërial perspective, the latter one of the chief qualities of John Van Eyck. Of all the parts just mentioned, perhaps the dais alone is of the fine-toned red which characterises similar ornaments in other pictures of the master. But the figures do not stand as we are accustomed to see them, and they are long and thin, without that dignified bearing so remarkable in the “ Married Couple” of the National Gallery, and other capital productions of the painter. They remind us more of Van der Weyden than of Van Eyck ; their position, thinness, and rigidity being more characteristic of the followers of the master, than of the master himself. The utmost difficulty is encountered on the examination of the picture. The heads of the figures baffle all judgment, in consequence of their being repainted.
But were we to hazard conjecture, it might be said that the part most like Van Eyck, as regards character of features, is the countenance of the figure near the king, and to the right of the archbishop; and amongst the clergy, that on the left, bearing the cross. The remainder have indubitably the Flemish type, but not positively that peculiar to John Van Eyck. Whatever portions of the original design may remain, there is little to be seen of the original colour, which now appears reddish, dark, and monotonous, probably in part because of retouching, But from whatever cause this may be, we cannot discover the fine qualities remarkable in the great productions of the Lamb. Even in parts of the vestments we fail to find the force and vigour of colour to which we are accustomed, and in the dais alone it is slightly to be
traced. These remarks are not less applicable to the details than to the mass of the picture—the figures sinking under the weight of their long clothing, which falls in folds of that angular and unnatural fashion which is the failing of many followers of Van Eyck. In truth, had it not been for the signature of this panel, we should never have suspected it to be a production of the great Flemish master. We should have conceived it to be the feeble effort of an old painter, and not even the early picture of a promising artist; for in the latter one generally finds simplicity of composition, combined with poor or timid execution, and here are rather the failings of a man old in the exercise of his profession. This picture, indeed, is inferior not only as regards colour, but as regards design and composition, to the Petrus Cristus of 1417. In 1420 Wan Eyck had already excited the admiration of the artists of Antwerp, by the beauty of the picture exhibited to them; nay, so intense and so general was this feeling, that the mass gave the invention and perfection of oil-painting to him. It is difficult to conceive so much enthusiasm, if the performances were no better than this of 1421. The conclusion we feel inclined to come to, supposing the signature genuine, is, that the picture was begun by Wan Eyck, and finished at a later period by some other Flemish painter. We know that Van Eyck signed his name to pictures long before they approached completion; and we have a sufficiently striking example of the fact in the picture of St. Barbara of the Antwerp Gallery, which, though uncoloured, is still signed by the painter. It is for these reasons that we class this amongst the uncertain pictures of John Wan Eyck.