IT is customary to call the French people frivolous and vacillating. But they are showing at present a feeling which seems to be genuine and promises to be lasting. I mean their sympathy with those inhabitants of Alsace and Lorraine who remain faithful to France. The chief organ of this sympathy is a society established for the protection of the Alsace-Lorraine loyalists, and especially to promote their emigration to Algeria. A great exhibition of works of art, under the auspices of this society, was opened on the 23d of April last in the building which is commonly called the Palais Bourbon. It was entirely a loan collection, and embraced a large number of objects which were never before exhibited to the public. The list of contributors contained the names of many private persons who, unless under the stimulus of great interest in the cause, would never have been willing to submit their household treasures to vulgar eyes. The result was a collection of exceptional interest and importance. There were sixteen large halls and galleries, some of which were entirely furnished by single individuals or families. It is said that one of these, which was supplied by Madame de Rothschild and her son, alone contained statues, old furniture, and bric-a-brac, the value of which was estimated by experts, for the purposes of insurance, at several millions of francs. This great exhibition has now been closed and its contents dispersed, never again to be seen as a whole by the public.
It is with reluctance that I limit my remarks to a single department of it. I therefore pass over what are technically called the objets d'art — the tapestries, the bronzes, the plate, the porcelain, the faïence, the jewels, the ivories, the enamels, the miniatures, the terra-cottas, the Palissy ware, the majolica, the autographs, the armor, the illuminated manuscripts, the statuettes, and the thousand and one other curiosities which are more admired and more eagerly sought after now than at any previous period in the history of art. I am strongly tempted to say a word about some of these which have a historical value, such as the red jasper cups of Lorenzo the Magnificent, the dinner service of Madame du Barry, the orchestral bâton of Mozart and his autograph score of Don Giovanni, the scissors and the writingtable of Marie Antoinette, the parasol of Diane de Poitiers, the Livre d’Heures of Anne de Bretagne, and the watches of Louis XV. and of Queen Hortense. It is still more difficult to avoid dilating upon objects of this class which have an artistic value in addition to that arising from their associations or their extreme rarity: such, for instance, as some of the illuminations, which, falling within the province of the bibliographer rather than of the art critic, have not always, it seems to me, had justice done to their excellence in point of drawing, expression, composition, and color.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1875, by H. O. HOUGHTON & Co., in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
I shall also pass over the great mass of the pictures, although some of these were so choice and had usually been so carefully secluded from the public that it was a great privilege to find them here. Among the more precious of these was the famous Virgin by Raphael, which was originally in the Regent’s Gallery, and afterwards passed through those of Aguado and Delessert into that of the Due d’Aumale, its present owner, who is also the owner of many others of the most valuable pictures exhibited. Here were the Joconde of Luini, an Ecce Homo of Mazzolini of Ferrara, a striking Tribute Money by Van Dyck, a March of Silenus by Rubens, and several admirable Hobbemas and Ruysdaels. Here also was a remarkable Christ, by Rembrandt, in which the artist has attributed to his subject hair and beard and eyes so darkly brown as to be virtually black. The forehead is very low, and the fine expression of suffering in the face, and the dark ringlets, reminded me of the head of Joseph Meyer, who took this character in the Ober-Ammergau Passion Play of 1871.
The exhibition was particularly rich in works of the French artists, and gave perhaps almost as good an opportunity for study and comparison in this department as that of the Louvre, because here the pictures were fresh to the eyes, and thus their peculiarities were more salient and striking. The Classic and Romantic schools were each fully represented, and there were several of the best productions of the modern Realistic school, which has carried French art, in a technical point of view, to the height attained by Terburg and Metzu.
Of the one thousand and sixty-one numbers in the catalogue, more than one third were portraits; and of these about two hundred and fifty were of the French school. These French portraits were most curious and valuable, and it is of them that I shall have most to say.
Of the Italian school I was struck by a noble portrait by the Florentine Bronzino, a three-quarter length, of a young man, standing, dressed in black, with a black cap. The simple, manly beauty of the face and the natural grace of the posture are admirable, notwithstanding the conscience of the artist did not permit him to leave out the untidy condition of the finger nails of his subject, which probably, however, did not shock the connoisseurs of the sixteenth century. And this neglect of the toilet was also seen in a portrait of Luther by Cranach — one of the twenty-seven attributed to that artist. The great reformer has a soiled face. He had no time for shaving, and the stubble of the beard is apparent. There is a great deal of humor in the expression of the mouth, underneath the obstinacy which seems to have been its chief characteristic. There was a]so a beautiful portrait of a young man, attributed to Raphael; one of an old man, laughing, by Rembrandt; and two superb canvases by Van Dyck: one of a counselor, which for modeling and flesh tints was marvelous, and the other of Michel Le Blon, the Swedish agent in England (belonging to Baron Hottinguer), a man in a bluish black mantle with his right hand crossing his breast. I must dwell a little longer upon Franz Hals, the precursor of Rembrandt and the friend of Van Dyck, whom perhaps he excelled in genius. This is a master whose wonderful excellence seems to have only within a few years been fully appreciated. He is interesting to us in America because we have a capital specimen of his work in the Art Museum of New York. In the Alsace-Lorraine Gallery there were eleven of his portraits, several of them first-rate. They are executed in the manner of the New York picture, in streaks and splashes of paint without any blending or softening, but each touch so exact and indispensable that what seems close at hand to be a confused heap of jack-straws show at a little distance the perfection of flesh modeling. Here, for instance, was a collection of unblended dashes which resolved itself into a man in black with a large muslin collar and tall hat, sitting in a chair and looking as if he could rise and speak to you. In these pictures not one stroke is superfluous, not one touch is wanting to complete the effect. There are no timid pentimenti, no tentative, experimental lines. Hals knew from the first exactly what he intended to do, and he did it as if he were creating instead of imitating. I have no space here to speak of the Cardinal Fisher, by Hans Holbein the younger; of two superb works by Sir Antonio Moro, with colors as fresh as they were three hundred years ago; of a man sitting, by Rembrandt, which is life itself; of a Fornarina, by Giulio Romano, of wonderful grace and beauty: but I must stop for a moment before John De Witt, the Grand Pensionary of Holland, by Terburg. It is of cabinet size, but is so admirable in drawing, modeling, character, and color, that it seemed to me to be more valuable than the famous Congress of Munster in the British National Gallery by the same master, for which the Marquis of Hertford paid thirty-six thousand dollars. The Grand Pensionary is represented at full length, in a brown peruke and a straight black coat with arms short at the elbows, showing the fall white shirt sleeves below. He wears a sword attached to a broad baldric, and rests his right hand on a cane. This figure is life itself. It looks directly out of its eyes into your own, and in perfection of detail it anticipates the best works in photography, with a vast deal more power and character.
I leave, however, these works of the other Continental schools, and pass to the two hundred and fifty French portraits, which were most of them of the greatest interest and value to historical students, and which, as I have already stated, will never probably again be united in a single exhibition.
These portraits included a period from the beginning of the sixteenth century to the present day. They embraced likenesses of Claude the wife of Francis I., of the Due de Guise, of Francis of Lorraine, by Clouet; of Henry IV., by Dumoustier; of the famous physician Ambroise Paré, and of Marie de Medieis, by Porbus; of Colbert, of Turenne, of Henrietta the wife of Charles I. of England, of Madame Guyon, and of Cardinal Richelieu, by Philippe de Champagne; of Molière, of Madame de Montespan, and of Madame de Sévigné, by Mignard; of the poet Corneille, by Charles Le Brun; of Madame de Sévigné in pastel, and of Molière, by Nanteuil; of Thomas Corneille, by Jouvenet; of Regnard the comic poet, and of Mlle. Duclos the actress, by Largilliere; of the Due de Broglie, of Louis XV. as a boy, of Samuel Bernard the rich banker, of Philip V. of Spain, and his wife, of Le Notre the famous landscape gardener, by Rigaud; of Louis XIV. receiving the Persian Ambassadors, by Troy; of several French princesses and fine ladies, by Nattier; of Rousseau, of Pompadour, and of Louis XV. again as a child, and of Adrienne Lecouvreur, by La Tour; of Louis Philippe the fifth Duke of Orleans as a baby, by Boucher; of Marivaux the novelist, by Van Loo; of Louis XVI., of Gluck, and of Marie Antoinette, by Duplessis; of Wille the German engraver, of Louis XVI. again, of Voltaire in pastel, and of several distinguished beauties, by Greuze; of Le Kain the actor, by Le Noir; of Madame de Pompadour and other ladies of the court, by Drouais; of the dancer Guimard, by Fragonard; of old Joseph Vernet, by Lépicié ; of Marshal Macdonald, of the dramatic poet Sedaine, of the actress Joly, of the Marquise d’Orvilliers, of the Countess de Sorcy, and of the great Napoleon, by David; of Baron Trenck, by Garneray; of Louis XVI., by Callet; of the Queen, of the Due de Berri the first Dauphin, and many ladies of social distinction, by Madame Vigée Le Brun; of Talleyrand and Gros, by Prud’hon; of Madame de Staël, of the King of Rome, of the actresses Georges, Duchesnois, and Mars, and of the famous beauty Madame Récamier, by Gérard; of De Tracy the philosopher, of Lamennais, of Arago, and of Cavaignae, by Scheffer; of the late Duke of Orleans, and of M. Bertin, by Ingres; of Rachel the actress, by Gérôme, and also by Müller; and various other most curious and interesting portraits of Madame de Maintenon, of Francis I., of Louis XIII. as a child, of Louis XIV., of Charles V. of Spain, of Henry IV., of the daughters of Louis XV., of Charles I. and James II. of England, of Louis XVII., of Madame Elizabeth, of Marie Antoinette, and of Robespierre, by unknown artists.
I do not intend to speak of all these portraits in detail. I mention them (and I might add many others) to show what a very interesting collection this was. I shall ask the attention of my readers only to such of them as from their rarity, their merit, or some other circumstance deserve especial consideration. Perhaps the least tedious way to do this will be to divide them into groups according to the classes of character they represent.
I will begin with the women, and I will speak first of a personage who from her beauty, her rank, and her misfortunes is entitled to more attention than any of the others. I mean Marie Antoinette, the ill-fated wife of Louis XVI. There were at least eight portraits of her in this collection. Several of these were hung together and exhibited the queen at various periods of her life, from her childhood, while she was yet an Austrian princess, up to the time of her captivity and death. One of the earliest is by Charpentier, and was painted in 1768, when she was only thirteen years old, and two years before her marriage. She looks here like a pert girl, in her narrow, tight bodice. She is very much rouged, and wears blue ribbons and a blue robe matching her deep grayish blue eyes. Another is by Duplessis, an oval painted in 1775, which is less flattered than the others and shows more individuality and a little of the characteristic Austrian lip. It is still very pert and girlish, but full of esprit and insouciance. Blue evidently was her favorite color. She wears a blue bodice trimmed with white gauze, ornamented with gold. Her eyes are deep blue, her cheeks are rouged, her lips are very red, and her hair is powdered. This is a lovely portrait, and represents her at about the time when she was seen by Burke. The most important portraits of the queen were made by Madame Vigée Le Brun. There is one in this collection representing her in a red bodice trimmed with fur, a red cap with aigrette and plumes, and a pearl necklace, which is ascribed to Madame Le Brun, and is said to have been given to the Comte de Vaudreuil in 1778. But as Madame Le Brun did not paint the queen until 1779, this is probably a mistake, and the picture was either of later date or painted by another artist. But there are two undoubted portraits by this lady. One is a very valuable sketch of the head, which I think must have been made for the great picture at Versailles. It represents the hair dressed very high, and is extremely dignified and noble in expression. The other comes from the collection of the Marquis de Biencourt, and is still more important and interesting. It is a three-quarter length, showing the queen in a large muslin cap trimmed with crimson ribbons, a crimson velvet bodice bound with fur, and a goldcolored skirt. Her hair is powdered, and her face is turned to the spectator. Her body is in profile, and her hands, holding a book, rest on a blue velvet cushion. This is a most lovely portrait, and more pleasing to me than the great full length at Versailles.
Madame Vigée Le Brun in her Souvenirs gives a delightful description of the queen as she appeared at that time.
“ It was in the year 1779,” she says, “ that I painted for the first time the portrait of the queen, then in all the freshness of her youth and beauty. Marie Antoinette was tall, admirably wellmade, and sufficiently stout without appearing to be so. Her arms were superb, her hands small and perfect in shape, and her feet charming Of all the women in France she was the most graceful walker. She carried her head very high, which showed she was the sovereign in the midst of all her court, but did not detract in the least from the sweetness and benevolence of her aspect. Her features were not regular. She inherited from her family that long, narrow, oval face which was peculiar to the Austrians. Her eyes were not large; their color was almost blue (presque bleu). Her expression was gentle and lovely, her nose refined, and her mouth not too large, although the lips were a little coarse. But what was most remarkable in the face was the éclat of her complexion. I have never seen one so brilliant; and ‘ brilliant ’ is the word, for her skin was so transparent that it did not take shadows, so I could never render it to my satisfaction. My colors failed to represent that freshness and those tones, so delicate that they seemed to be peculiar to her charming face, and which I have never found in any other woman.”
In addition to the portraits of the queen which I have already mentioned, there is a striking sketch by Kucharsky, an artist whose history I have been unable to ascertain, but who painted both the queen and the Dauphin. These sketches are sometimes more valuable than finished works because they record the fresh impressions of an artist. Another curious likeness here was a plaque of metal said to have been chiseled or hammered out by Louis XVI. himself, assisted by his friend, the locksmith Germain. It is a profile in bas-relief with an immense têle ornamented with flowers and feathers. It represents the nose as large and aquiline and quite unlike the flattering description given by Madame Vigée Le Brun. Finally, without enumerating all the portraits of the queen, let me come to one of the most interesting. It is a small cabinet piece, and it is described as having been made at the Temple after the death of the king, and given to the Comtesse de Béarn by the Duchesse d’Angoulême, the only daughter of Marie Antoinette. It comes from the collection of the Prince de Béarn, and its authenticity, therefore, may be taken for granted. It represents the queen with gray hair, in a white cap trimmed with a broad black ribbon which descends and is crossed over the breast. She wears a black robe and a white muslin fichu. There is an expression of tears in the eyes and of disdain in the mouth. The background is the stone wall of the cell. Delaroche, in his famous picture of the queen going to the guillotine, has evidently availed himself of this portrait, which is one of the most touching and interesting I have ever seen.
But I pass from the queens of the court to the queens of society; to the women who have always ruled Franee from the beginning by letters patent more authentic, perhaps, than any issued by heralds or kings at arms. These portraits are curious illustrations of the manners of their times. It is impossible to avoid noticing the immodesty of many of them, especially those which were painted during the Regency and in the time of Louis XV. The want of scruples in the matter of costume, whenever the point was to display the picturesque or the classic, was not shown for the first time by Pauline, the sister of Napoleon, when she sat to Canova. It is said that Boucher, the fashionable painter of the court, was permitted by the Duchesse de Chartres to finish after nature his famous portrait of her as Hebe offering the cup of nectar to Jupiter’s eagle, in which a garland of flowers and a light gauze were the only drapery worn by the goddess. There were several portraits in the Alsace-Lorraine Gallery representing fine ladies in all stages of the toilette, from that of the bath-room to that of the salon. One of them, by Watteau, was in the character of a river nymph, and was not encumbered by any drapery whatever. Another, Madame de Ludres, from the collection of the Duchesse de Fitz-James, had absolutely no clothing above the waist.
Another striking feature in all collections of female portraits of the eighteenth century is the influence of rouge and powder in giving what seem to be unnatural contrasts in flesh painting: any one who has seen the galleries of Versailles and the pastel rooms at Dresden will remember this, and the great works of Gainsborough and Reynolds in England are not free from the same drawback. It is curious to compare the portraits of the men and the women of those days. While the skin of the men is treated with great truth and naturalness, that of the women by the same artists appears forced and unreal. They look like dolls, and sometimes even like clowns in a pantomime, so violent is the contrast of the reds and the whites. May it not have been the necessity which this preposterous habit occasioned, that induced painters like Greuze and others to employ too much blue as a compensation in the half-tints? In some cases this was carried so far that his sitters look as if they had been under a medication of the nitrate of silver. Some women did not wear rouge, and among these was the famous Madame du Barry. Madame Le Brun was opposed to these artifices, and in 1786, when she was painting the queen, begged her to leave off powder and to part her hair over her forehead. The queen said: “ I shall be the last to do this; people will say that I invented the fashion to conceal the height of my forehead.”
There were several portraits of princesses in this collection by the famous Nattier. One of them, a daughter of Louis XV., is beautifully drawn with a broad, firm touch. She is a full length, seated, in a white robe with a grayish purple velvet mantle, her bare feet in sandals. She is deeply rouged, and there is a background of classic architecture with an altar in the distance, upon which I suppose the vestal flame is blazing. This picture belongs to Sir Richard Wallace. Another, from the gallery of the Due d’Aumale, represents a Duchess of Orleans as Hebe — very décollelée, in a single white garment with blue drapery, which fails, however, to hide her bare limbs. She holds a pitcher in her right hand and a cup in her left. She is seated on a cloud and very much rouged. There were several others in the same style, but it is unnecessary to describe them. There were two portraits of the Pompadour, one in pastel by La Tour, very engaging, and a study perhaps for his great work in the Louvre, and the other in oils by Drouais, representing his subject as highly rouged, in a chintz dress, a lace cap tied under her chin, and looking out of her beautiful blue eyes in a most gracious, selfsatisfied way.
I have just mentioned La Tour. Perhaps some of my readers may not be familiar with the name of Maurice Quentin de la Tour, and yet he exercised in his time such a sovereign dominion in the world of art that when he was summoned to Versailles to take the likeness of Madame de Pompadour he dared to say: “ Tell Madame that I do not paint portraits out of my own studio.” His reputation, as well as that of Boucher and other artists, was overwhelmed by the terrible waves of the great Revolution, and it is only lately that his fame has emerged again and posterity are doing justice to his extraordinary abilities. He painted almost exclusively in pastels, and those who are curious about him can see thirteen of his works at the Louvre, conspicuous among which is his extraordinary full length of Madame de Pompadour. I will translate a few passages in regard to him from a work upon the art of the eighteenth century which has just been published in Paris (L’Art du Dix -huitième Siècle, par Edmond et Jules de Goncourt).
“ La Tour was called a ‘ magician ’ by Diderot, and he will keep that appellation. The work which he has left behind him is a kind of magic mirror in which, as in that of the Count de St. Germain, the dead return to life. Here are the princes, the seigneurs, and the fine ladies who gave all the splendor to Versailles. Here are the heads which embodied the philosophy, the science, and the art of that day, which the crayons of the artist, so feeble in the presence of imbeciles, have rendered with fervent love and enthusiasm. With the fugitive chalks of his pastel, as volatile as the hair powder of his period, he knew how to bestow a fragile and delicate immortality (une fragile et délicate immortalité) upon all that was graceful and beautiful and intellectual in the humanity of his time.”
Nothing could be more lovely than some of Greuze’s portraits, notwithstanding that blueness of the half-tints of which I have spoken; that of Madame de Courcelles, for instance, which is as fresh as if it were painted yesterday, with its shapely hands most gracefully disposed and on the right wrist a bracelet of pearls in a medallion clasp. Nobody ever painted young girls just entering upon womanhood like Greuze. Here was a lovely likeness of Mademoiselle de Courcelles, afterwards the Comtesse de Guibert, in a blue dress, and with her hair slightly powdered. The blue tones predominate in this picture, but in drawing and sentiment it is delightful. So the Marquise de Champcenetz is one of the most exquisite faces that was ever seen, beautifully modeled, but from the peculiarity of treatment I have mentioned seeming to be absolutely wanting in red blood. It is like a drawing in grayish blue with a faint flesh tint washed in. The head by Greuze in the New York Museum of Art shows much less of this peculiarity. It is stronger in the treatment of the skin, and is more valuable as a specimen of this master than many of the heads for which immense prices were paid, particularly some of those in Sir Richard Wallace’s collection, lately exhibited at Bethnal Green.
It is a wide step from Greuze to David. Not in point of time, for they were to a certain extent contemporaries, there being but twenty-three years’ difference in their ages; but in point of style, from the affected innocence of the one, which was only sensuality in disguise, to the stern and savage simplicity of the other. It is curious to see how the characteristics of each successive period in France are reproduced in its art. The grandiose turn of the language and manners and dress of the age of Louis XIV. appears in the portraits of Largillière and Rigaud, the elegant and graceful licentiousness of Louis XV. in the erotic decorations of Boucher; the coquetry which travestied the ladies of the court of Louis XVI. into dairy-maids gleams from the cunning ingénues of Greuze, while the inexorable severity of the Revolutionary epoch frowns upon you in the naked canvases of David. There is nothing in art so grim and terrible as David’s Assassination of Marat. A bath-tub, with the head of the victim thrown backward and his right arm falling outside of it; beside the bath the bloody knife, a block of wood, a leaden inkstand, and a broken pen: this is all, and yet how full and complete the impression it makes on the spectator!
With David, as with so many of the French school, form was everything. He disdained the delights of color, and that magic of chiaro - scuro which appeals to the imagination and makes the fancy of the spectator supplement and heighten the conceptions of the artist. Everything is made out with exactness and precision. There is not an inch in his canvases which will not illustrate the rules of perspective and the mathematics of art. In his figures he seems to have painted the bony structure first, then the muscular integuments, then the clothing. In that most extraordinary unfinished work which may be seen at the Louvre, the Oath of the Tennis Court, the figures are all naked, like so many statues, with some of the accessories, however, finished, such as the hats in some of the hands, which give the groups a most grotesque appearance. It is not often that one can see an important portrait by David. There were several in the Alsace-Lorraine Gallery, and it was curious to observe how in these, as in historic compositions, he had carried out his system. His women sit like statues completely detached from the backgrounds. Here was the Marquise d’Orvilliers in a white dress and white cashmere scarf. She might be put into marble without any change. Here was the Comtesse de Sorcy with her arms resting on a chair and her hands clasped. Over the back of the chair falls a drapery of lace. She wears a black dress with a scarlet sash at her waist, a lace kerchief of the times crossed on her bosom, and her hair slightly powdered. The background is gray and perfectly plain, the figure in the chair being the only object seen; but how individual it is!
But to leave women whose chief attraction was their beauty or their rank, let me come to those whose power sprung from charms still more lasting.
There were two portraits of Madame de Sévigné in this collection: one by Mignard in oils, representing her in a grayish satin dress, black mantle, and pearl necklace, with her right hand pointing across her bosom. The flesh in this picture is poor in color, but it is well modeled, and the expression is charming. We can easily believe it was a good likeness because it was painted for Madame de Grignan, the daughter of Madame de Sévigné, and it came to its present owner, the Comte de Lucay, by direct succession. The other portrait is a pastel by Nanteuil; and it shows this cleverest of all letter-writers full of smiling good-nature, with small gray eyes set in a fair expanse of face, and a pearl necklace clasped around her opulent throat.
Another woman of genius is Madame de Staël, by Gérard: a three-quarter length, wearing an ugly turban of orange and brown, a robe of the same colors with short sleeves, and a black mantle. She rests her right hand on a table and holds a sprig of leaves in her left. She seems to have had the habit of carrying something of this sort and shaking it in the excitement of conversation. She has a commonplace face, with dingy skin and stubbed features like a cook, and resembles her own Corinne as little as it is possible to conceive. When Madame Le Brun painted her at Coppet in 1808, she endeavored to infuse some poetic fervor into the expression of her sitter by making her recite passages from Corneille and Racine.
In striking contrast with Madame de Staël was the elegant Madame Récamier, also by Baron Gérard. This portrait was interesting because Madame Récamier seems to have owed her distinction as the queen of the society of her time (Madame Tallien perhaps being her only rival) rather to her loveliness than to her wit, and it was curious to see the counterfeit presentment of those charms which gave her such an influence in the world. This portrait certainly justifies all the admiration which was bestowed upon the original. It is the one at the final completion of which her admirers rushed in crowds to see the beautiful sitter in her charming pose, very much to the annoyance of the painter. A writer in Fraser’s Magazine says that he saw it in the antechamber of Madame Récamier’s apartments, about 1842, when she said to him, This is what I was forty years ago, when I was in England.”She is represented at full length, seated in a chair of classic shape. She wears a simple white robe, which clings to her figure and appears to be her only garment, except an orange-colored shawl which is thrown over her knees. Her hair is dressed like that of a Greek bust, and her feet are bare. This nudity of the feet was very much liked by the fine ladies of that day when they sat for their portraits; particularly when they represented mythological personages. Madame Le Brun says that when she painted the young Princess Lichtenstein as Iris, the husband and other members of the family were greatly scandalized to see her drawn without shoes or stockings. When the prince exhibited it in his gallery at Vienna, he placed beneath it a pretty pair of slippers, telling the grandparents that Iris had dropped them in her upward flight to heaven.
Baron Gérard had excellent opportunities for studying the celebrities of his time. He had among his sitters almost all the crowned heads of Europe of his day, almost all the members of the Boparte family, the emperors of Russia and Austria, the kings of Prussia and Saxony, Louis XVIII., Charles X., Louis Philippe, General Moreau, General Foy, Regnault de St. Jean d’Angely, Canning, Wellington, Isabey, Mademoiselle Brogniart, Dubois the surgeon, Ducis the poet, and the actresses Georges, Duchesnois, and Mars. Actresses have always been favorite subjects with portrait painters, and there were many portraits of them in this collection. Besides those I have just mentioned there were Adrienne Lecouvreur, Joly, Guimard, Duclos, Sainval, and Rachel. Adrienne Lecouvreur is in pastel by La Tour, and is represented as a Magdalen holding a golden vase. It is a miracle of grace and beauty. Some of my readers may remember with what spirit and feeling Rachel acted in the charming play of which Adrienne was the heroine. Rachel was here in the Alsace-Lorraine Gallery in two portraits, not in the character of Adrienne, but once by Müller in her every-day dress of black with a white collar, and again by Gérôme in one of her classic costumes, a red tunic with a white fillet; the latter portrait a good likeness, but as a work of art hard and metallic. Duclos is by Largillière, one of the great portrait artists of France. It is a three-quarter length in crimson velvet, her neck and bosom superbly modeled, and a Love hovering over her head with a crown of stars in his hand. Mademoiselle Georges, by Gérard, has a superb classical head and a charming expression, so that one can well understand how she might have captivated the great Napoleon. Her hair is dressed close, and the flesh tints of her neck and beautifully rounded shoulders are well brought out by the crimson drapery of the background. Mademoiselle Mars is taken in a white dress with short sleeves and a pearl necklace. She wears pearl ear-rings, and her hair is arranged compactly in small curls clustering over her forehead, with a high knot behind. This portrait scarcely does justice to the engaging beauty of Mademoiselle Mars, and of this I can myself vouch, for it is one of the compensations for an early date in the family register, that it gave me the great privilege of seeing this exquisite woman in several characters; among others in the Valerie of Scribe, and in Molière’s Tartuffe. She was nearly sixty years of age at that time, but her voice was like flute music, and her form was still so beautifully rounded and her complexion so smooth and delicate that she played in the successive acts of one piece the parts of a girl of seventeen, a wife of thirty, and a matron of fifty; all with equal truth and fidelity to nature.
I shall conclude what I have to say of the female portraits of this collection by mentioning that of Madame Vigée Le Brun. This was a charming picture by herself, representing her in a white dress, with scarlet ribbons at the neck and waist, a black mantle edged with lace, and a black hat and plume. It belongs to the Comte de Greffulhe, and it seemed to me more agreeable even than the celebrated likenesses in Florence and at the Louvre. Madame Le Brun is one of the best of the second class of portrait artists. She turned off a good many pictures, some of which were uninteresting. But whenever her heart was in her work she was admirable. Like all favorite portrait painters, — like Titian, Rubens, Van Dyck, and Sir Joshua,— she knew the most distinguished persons of her time, and under circumstances too when they were in their most charming moods. She painted all the royal family of France; Marie Antoinette picked up her brushes for her, as Charles V. did those of Titian. While she was still young she made the acquaintance of the most brilliant personages in Parisian society, and being obliged by the Revolution to leave France, she visited Italy, Germany, and Russia; where she met the warmest welcome, and resided until the course of events enabled her to return to her native country. At Naples she painted the queen, who was the sister of Marie Antoinette, and her children. In Vienna she had for sitters the most famous beauties of the court; in Berlin, the Queen of Prussia; in St. Petersburgh, the Emperor Alexander and the empress, the wife of the Emperor Paul, and the flower of the nobility; in England, the Prince of Wales and Mrs. Fitzherbert. The great Catharine of Russia was only prevented from sitting to her by a stroke of apoplexy, and Pope Pius VI. by the rule that all women must be veiled in his presence, which she thought would interfere with her success. She painted Madame Du Barry three times. Madame Catalani sang at her concerts in Paris, and Mrs. Billington and Signora Grassini in London. She dined with Buffon and the great actress Clairon. She arranged the clever Duchesnois’s costume for her first appearance. She passed many evenings with Doctor Franklin at the house of his intimate friend, Madame de Brion; she supped with Paul Jones at Madame Thilories’s. She posed Lady Hamilton in her tableaux vivants, and was astonished afterwards to see that graceful creature drink two or three bottles of porter at supper. She witnessed a performance of Semiramis at Coppet, in which Madame Récamier failed from fright in the part of the heroine, and Madame de Staël was occasionally successful in that of Azéma. She attended the séances of Mesmer, and was only prevented from joining hands in his magnetic circle by her suspicions as to the state of her neighbor’s fingers. She found out, with her professional penetration, that one of the eyes of the beautiful Duchess of Devonshire was imperfect, and finally she saw the crowning of the great Voltaire at the Comédie Française. She narrates all these things and many more, which I have not space to quote, with great vivacity, and with that extraordinary power of seeing personal peculiarities which belongs to clever artists.
I come now to the male portraits in this collection, with which, however, I will not detain my readers long, as they were by no means so interesting as those of the women.
The great dramatist Pierre Corneille appeared in the picture copied from the original of Charles Le Brun, for use by Caflieri in his extraordinary bust, which may be seen in the foyer of the Théâtre Français. It is somewhat wanting in color, but it is strong in modeling. A much more vigorous work was the grand, individual, life-like representation, by Mignard, of Molière in the dress of Cæsar in the play of La Mort de Pompée. This also belongs to the French Theatre. He has thick eyebrows and a small mustache. He wears a scarlet mantle, a truncheon, and a vast, full-bottomed, gray peruke surmounted by a laurel crown tied with red ribbons. It was one of the most striking works in the gallery.
The famous actor Le Kain was represented in a portrait by Le Noir, a threequarter length, in a Turkish character, and full of spirit. Madame Le Brun, who saw him when she was a child, says that he was so exceedingly ugly in plays of this sort that he gave her a fright. In striking contrast to this head was that of Regnard, the comic poet and dramatist, by Largillière. It is broadly painted, with a firm hand, and represents a noble head framed in an immense blonde wig. He had dark eyes, a well-shaped mouth, and a face somewhat sensuous in its beauty, like that of Lord Byron. It was a high privilege to see so many of Largillière’s works. There were at least eleven in this gallery. He was a man of great genius, and well able to represent the ostentatious and what may be called the “ flamboyant ” style of his time. There was a superb portrait by him here of a grand seigneur: a half length, in a full-bottomed brownish periwig, in orange drapery, and a collar open to the breast; one hand thrust in the waistcoat and the other at the side. The nobility of the forms in this picture, the play of light and shadow on the white shirt sleeves, and the harmony of color were most striking and beautiful.
Of Voltaire there was no important portrait; only a small work in gouache attributed both to Greuze and to Carmontel. The figure is seated at table, in a red coat trimmed with fur, and black breeches. Of Rousseau there were two pastels by La Tour, which I believe are the standard likenesses; at any rate they were those which Rousseau himself preferred. One is in powder, in a drab coat and white cravat, and the other in a gray cap trimmed with brown and black fur, a light gray coat edged with the same material, and a red waistcoat. The last is a study in bluish chalks, with the flesh tints lightly rubbed in. Both of these heads seemed to me to be commonplace and wanting in elevation. There was a spirited portrait of Marivaux the novelist, by Van Loo, and a well modeled head of De Tracy the philosopher, by Scheffer. There were others of Lamennais and Arago by the same artist, in respect to which I find no notes in my catalogue. I have marked there two cabinet portraits of Gluck, the composer, by Duplessis, as cleverly painted. He is represented in a coat of changeable silk and a powdered wig, and in one of them he is shown improvising at the piano. But I have no desire to present a mere list of names.
Of revolutionary personages there were not so many portraits as I expected to find; not so many as I had seen a short time before in the Queen of Holland’s Collection at the palace in the Wood at the Hague, where were displayed the miniatures of Danton, Robespierre, Marat, Fouquier-Tinville, La Fayette, and, strangest of all, a wax medallion of the head of Charlier severed by the guillotine, with the raw and bloody flesh! In the Alsace-Lorraine Gallery there were two likenesses of Talleyrand, one by Greuze and the other by Prud’hon. In the former portrait he appears as a charming young man with his hair parted in the middle, a dark blue coat, white double-breasted waistcoat, yellow breeches, and topboots. In the other he is quite fat and plethoric, and his chin is nearly swallowed in a huge white cravat. The most curious of all the revolutionary portraits was a three-quarter length, by an unknown artist, of Robespierre. His skin is soft and smooth as that of a child. There is an infantile smile on his placid countenance, and his expression is the most gentle and innocent that can be imagined. He is standing with his left hand on the hilt of his dress sword, and his right touching the broad brim of his cocked hat, which he holds under the other arm. He is in a full suit of black, with lace jabot and wrist ruffles, and a couple of watch chains.
Of the great Napoleon, whether from political reasons or otherwise, there were only four or five portraits. Two of these were drawings, and another was a cabinet piece by Charlet, which was not so much a portrait as a bit of melodrama. It represents the emperor on the evening after Waterloo. He is sitting perfectly still and alone on his white horse in a wood, with an outlook of ruddy sky. The head of the horse catches the sunset light. Everything else is in shadow. The head of Napoleon declining upon his breast suggests the humiliation of his fall. It was well for the painter to keep it in the shade and to trust to the imagination of the spectator to supply the details of that sublime despair which no artistic power could satisfactorily render. There was one portrait of Napoleon here, however, from the collection of the Duke of Bassano, which amply made up for the small number contributed. It was a sketch in oil of the First Consul, by David, only the head and part of the bust, and even these portions unfinished. The skin is wanting in flesh tints, and the color of the hair and the blue aud red of the uniform barely indicated; but it is one of the noblest heads I ever saw, and full of a sort of melancholy grandeur which is unique and striking. I believe the French critics consider that Baron Gros’ likeness of Napoleon at the Bridge of Areole is the best. At any rate M. Burger, who was one of the cleverest of them, said in his extravagant way that the nineteenth century had perhaps produced only one fine portrait, la têle d’aigle, the eagle head of Napoleon by Gros. But this head by David must be considered nearly equal to the other. It is much finer than that in the Bonaparte Crossing the Alps, by the same artist. It is extraordinary how popular this last-named composition became. David repeated it four or five times, receiving twenty-five thousand francs for each copy. Even now we see it constantly in paintings and engravings, in bronze and in plaster: the horse rearing among the Alps, with the general’s orange-colored cloak blown out before him by the wind of those airy regions. “ Paint me,” said Bonaparte to David, “paint me calm upon a fiery horse.” The popularity of the pose shows that he knew how to have his portraits painted as well as to have his bulletins written.
These heads by Gros and David are very different from the standard head of Bonaparte. That was his head later in life, after he had gained flesh, and when the artists, either intentionally or not, began to attribute to him the characteristic physiognomy of the Roman emperors. There was a most interesting collection of the miniatures of the Bonaparte family in the Bethnal Green Exhibition of Sir Richard Wallace’s treasures, lately closed in London. The difference between Napoleon First Consul and Napoleon Emperor was very marked: the first haggard and anxious; the last rotund, although thoughtful. Some of my readers may have visited the curious Soane Museum in London. There may be seen a portrait of Napoleon at the age of twenty-eight, painted in 1797 by Goma, at Verona, and beside it another, by Isabey, painted at Elba in 1814. One can scarcely imagine that they represent the same personage. The Italian picture shows a square, projecting forehead, thin face, sunken eye, and head of great intellectual power; the other a soft, flabby countenance, under which much of the intellectuality is buried out of sight. And strangely enough, all of these likenesses are different from the mask of the face taken after death by Dr. Antommarchi, at St. Helena. In this the forehead seems much smaller, proportionally, than it appears in any of the paintings.
The last series of portraits which I shall mention is that of the royal children of France. These were not placed together, but it will be convenient to treat them as a group. They were Louis XIII., by an unknown hand, in crown and ermine robe; Louis XV., represented twice, by Rigaud and La Tour respectively; Louis Philippe the fifth Duke of Orleans, as a baby with his toys, by Boucher; the King of Rome, by Gérard; the Duke de Berri the first Dauphin, by Madame Le Brun; and the Duke de Normandie the second Dauphin, painted twice, once by Kucharsky, and again by an unknown artist.
By far the most interesting of these children’s heads were those of Louis XV., and of that poor boy his descendant, who may be said also to have been his victim, and to have been murdered on account of the prodigality and excesses of his great-grandfather. Louis XV. was painted by Hyacinthe Rigaud, at a time when men still wore those enormous periwigs which gave them such an imposing aspect, and the artist treated the natural hair of the child to make it look as much like a wig as possible, frizzing it out in profuse curls. His left hand rests on a globe, while his right presses the blue drapery of his robe to his breast over his white satin underdress. It is curious to see how that air of theatrical majesty which pervades all the portraits of the time is conspicuous also in this. The other likeness of Louis XV. as a lad is a pastel, by La Tour. Oh, le beau jeune homme ! The head, with its beautiful hazel eyes, and its arch and lively expression, is perfectly charming. It was taken at a later date than the other, and when the hair was worn more closely to the head, and powdered. The boy looks like a hero of La Clos or of Louvet de Couvray, and one sees how easily he might have fascinated the ladies of the court, even if he had not had his royal privileges to help him.
How inexpressibly sad and touching is the contrast between this Cherubino, this gay gallant of sixteen with all the world at his feet, and his descendant, that poor little child of ten, who was kicked and buffeted by his jailers, and died at last, covered with rags and vermin, in the prison of the Temple!
I was interested, many years ago, in the attempt made by Mr. Hanson and Dr. Hawkes, and afterwards by Dr. Frank Vinton, to show that Eleazer Williams, the half-breed Episcopal clergyman, was really King Louis XVII. It appeared to me that in this discussion too little was said about the personal appearance of the Dauphin, and that if this had been exactly ascertained it would have effectually stopped all the pretensions of Mr. Williams’s friends that he was the same person.
The description of Mr. Williams, as gathered from Hanson’s book, from Mr. Fagnani’s portrait, and from a daguerreotype of which I have a copy, shows that he had dark hazel eyes, a short nose, a receding forehead, black hair, long lips, a very dark complexion, a large mouth, and a long chin.
Now, what were the personal characteristics of the Dauphin ? I took the trouble to consult all the authorities I could find on this subject, particularly M. Simeon Depreaux, who wrote only twenty-two years after the Dauphin’s death; the deputy Harmand, who visited the child officially in prison; Madame Rambaud, who was in his service until he was seven years old; Cléry, the valet of Louis XVI.; M. Gruan, the advocate of Naundorf who claimed to be Louis XVII., and who founded his pretensions upon his personal resemblance to the Dauphin; M. Beauchesne, who has written the most exhaustive work on this subject, and finally M. de La Martine, the historian. It appears from these authorities that the Dauphin had blue eyes, curling hair of a blonde chestnut color, a long nose, a very white and pale complexion, a forehead broad and projecting at the top and narrow between the temples, a short neck, and a small mouth. In all these particulars he was as unlike Eleazer Williams as possible.
I have taken some trouble upon repeated visits to Europe to confirm these literary descriptions of the young prince, the substance of which I have just given, by an inspection of authentic portraits. Several of these are at Versailles. Many of my readers will remember the superb group in the gallery there, by Madame Le Brun, representing the queen holding the Due de Normandie in her arms, with the Due de Berri the first Dauphin, and the Duchesse d’Angoulême standing beside her. Louis XVII. was then a child of two years of age, and is represented with reddish, golden blonde hair, eyes dark blue, and a very fair skin.
In one of the grand apartments of the palace he appears again in an allegorical picture, with blonde hair and blue eyes.
The most satisfactory portrait at Versailles is a pastel, over the mantel-piece of Marie Antoinette’s bed-chamber at the Petit Trianon. It shows the Dauphin with a cane in his hand, his lace collar open, and the star of the Order of the Holy Ghost on the breast of his little coat. His hair is brown in this portrait, and his eyes are deep blue, like his mother’s. This picture is attributed to Madame Le Brun, and is one of the most charming I have ever seen.
There were two portraits of the Dauphin in the Alsace-Lorraine Exhibition. Both of them are classed among those by unknown artists, but one of them is also attributed to Kucharsky. I think it is a copy from Madame Le Brun’s pastel. It represents the prince with blonde hair, thin eyebrows, and dark blue eyes. He wears an open collar and a shirt frill trimmed with lace. He has two orders on his breast, and a broad blue ribbon underneath his coat.
The other portrait, although not so elaborate, is perhaps of more importance in this discussion. It was given by the sister of the Dauphin, the Duchesse d’Angoulême, to the Comtesse de Béarn, and therefore we must presume it was correct, at any rate in such important points as the hair and the complexion. This picture confirms in every respect the literary authorities which I have quoted in regard to the Dauphin’s personal appearance, and represents him as unlike Eleazer Williams as it is possible to imagine.
There is a picture in the New York Historical Society which forms a part of the Bryan Collection and is called Louis XVII. It is not a work of much pretension, and it seems to have been hastily finished. Mr. Hanson caused it to be engraved for his work. It has a small nose, dark hazel eyes, and dark hair. I have no doubt that it represents the Due de Berri instead of the Due de Normandie. There is a portrait by Madame Le Brun, in the Alsace-Lorraine Collection, of the Due de Berri, which, so far as I can recollect it, must have been the original of this Bryan picture. At any rate, both these portraits are entirely unlike all the descriptions and all the authentic portraits of the second Dauphin, Louis XVII.
W. J. Hoppin.