WE confess a strong dislike for that traditional method of exhibiting pictures practiced in the case of The Prodigal Son (lately shown at the Horticultural Hall, in Boston), which subjects them to the operations of systematic gas-light and temporarily reduces the spectators to a regiment of chair-holders. The attendant difficulty of changing one’s point of view always interferes with satisfactory examination of a work so situated; though in this instance it did not prevent our doing, as we think, justice to the carefully studied arrangement, the light, firm drawing, and the brilliant colors. Hardly more than a first glance was needed to reveal a radical and pervasive unspontaneousness in the whole performance. The artist is the son of that Monsieur Claude M. Dubufe, whose Les Souvenirs and Les Regrets have succeeded as engravings, and whose Temptation and Expulsion were exhibited in this country many years since. Dubufe senior was a pupil of David’s, and Edouard studied under his father and Paul Delaroche. If there is anything m heredity and association, one would say that the young man had only to lay his paints on his palette to become great. But is Mr. Edouard Dubufe really a great painter ? We have before us an immense stretch of canvas, divided into three compartments. The two smaller pictures, at either end, are carried out in gray and brown: they represent respectively the prodigal repenting amongst the swine, on a bleak hill-side, with a flock of birds despondently winging their way into the background, — a picturesque and pathetic conception, — and the prodigal received by his father. The latter is an exceedingly dry and uninteresting piece of work, in the academical cartoon manner. The large extent between is occupied by a typical revel of the prodigal’s, held on a sort of terrace, with a great flight of steps on the left, and on the right a loggia full of shadows, which supplies a shelter for the regular villains of the piece. On the step leading up to this pavilion stands the prodigal, prominent in crimson and holding a wine-cup, with riotous women on his left hand and a gently pleading one on his right, whose conflicting influences meet in his person. At their feet a poet recites verses; women sit or recline near him in voluptuous attitudes, and in the open space at the left a group of young girls are posed in graceful dancing attitudes; while within the loggia are seen the dark and lurid shapes of certain gamblers and driukers, male and female. By way of contrast, a pair of doves hover above them in the vault. All these persons are dressed in the rich and picturesque costumes of the Renaissance period. A blue sky, with long, idle white clouds, fills the background; and in fact the whole composition reminds one strongly of Paul Veronese. The choice of these costumes and accessories, instead of a true and praiseworthy boldness, seems to us a mere assumption of bravery with something of impudence in it. The Venetians might paint anachronisms of this sort with irreproachable innocence, but the best tendencies of modern art seem to indicate local truth and historical accuracy as indispensable in subjects of this sort. It is just as much out of our way to imagine the scene with these surroundings and this attire as it would be to the uninstructed mind to imagine it in its actual historic guise. Accordingly, it is a mistake to say that the artist has chosen not to “ hamper himself ” with the necessity of being true to the facts. He decidedly does hamper himself by the particular choice he has made, and at once reduces his work to the level of a quasi-imitation. It is putting the mint-mark of an accepted and historic genius upon his own fresher metal, which happens to contain too much alloy. The imitation is a brilliant one, to be sure. But the thin vein of patent puzzle invention which runs through the piece from left to right, and which is supposed to illustrate the passage from a free, sensuous delight in " music and sweet poetry ” to base and abandoned riot, fails as completely to take the place of that deeper and subtler imagination which belongs to real creative genius, as does the assumed bravery of throwing off historical accuracy. In The Prodigal Son we have, in short, nothing more than a brilliant and showy collection of bright colors, sheeny surfaces modulated with wonderful care and skill, and elaborately drawn figures ingeniously posed. But the latter are really quite wanting in movement, though professing a great deal of action. It is, as a New York journal has observed, “theatrical in the good sense,” and in this as in execution it is as much superior to Kaulbach as it ought to be, being the work of a Frenchman. But on the other hand, we look to it in vain for a single trace of profound thinking or of deep feeling, to which we might respond with pleasure.

— The Boston Society of Architects has lately succeeded, in spite of many obstacles, in getting together a very interesting exhibition of objects of decorative art. It was difficult to find suitable rooms that could be hired for a short enough time, and the best that could be had for the purpose were a little too much out of the current of common traffic to attract their full share of visitors, while the uncertainty of the return obliged the managers to be very moderate in the scale of their exhibition and its expenses.

A more needless impediment was the jealousy of manufacturers, which made many of them unwilling to exhibit their work, lest their fellows should profit by it to steal their ideas. This petty policy was encountered in some unexpected places, and banished from the exhibition several firms from whom a good deal of interest might fairly have been expected. The managers undertook, wisely, to make an exhibition of such things as the market of the day offers, rather than a collection of curiosities, and in spite of difficulties they got together material enough to fill their modest quarters pretty full of the best work that our community produces, and enough to give hopeful encouragement to those among us — and they become every day more in number and influence — who are interested in decorative art.

It was as well, perhaps, considering how small the rooms were, that furniture and other bulky wares did not abound, and that the exhibition was mainly of works of decoration pure and simple. There were a good many specimens of stained glass, showing a considerable variety in treatment, and giving a fair example on a small scale of the best English and American work. The most ambitious pieces were two goodsized church windows, designed by Mr. John A. Mitchell and executed by Messrs. Cook and Redding. One contained a full-sized angelic figure, drawn with skill, but not quite successful, to our thinking; the other, of conventional ornament, showed some passages in mosaic of great beauty and splendor, though it lacked coherence and unity. Messrs. W. J. McPherson & Co. exhibited some charming Japanese outlines on rolled glass, in delicate tints, and a beautiful and luminous rendering in transparent antique glass of the picture of the Good Shepherd. We noticed a lovely small panel from the famous Morris & Co. in rich and sober coloring, a trifle opaque, representing Ruth in the cornfield ; and a piece of so-called fifteenth century work by Hardman, of Birmingham, of great beauty and refinement, both in color and in treatment.

There was some clever ornamental sculpture by Mr. Holmes and Mr. Evans, that of the former full of dash and élan — especially a series of small heads modeled in plaster — but somewhat lacking in discipline ; Mr. Evans’s work was more selfrestrained, not wanting in spirit, and on the whole more satisfactory, though of narrower range and less ambitious.

One of the most hopeful things in the exhibition was to us the unpretending collection of “ antiquarian ware,” in common yellow clay, from the pottery of Mr. C. A. Lawrence, of Beverly. It included a great variety of forms of jugs and basins, with no attempt at fine molding, but well-shaped, and freely and vigorously handled. Many of the shapes have considerable beauty, and would lend themselves to a better studied decoration than was sparingly shown on one or two of them. Fictile art has held such a contemptible place among American manufacturers that we are very thankful for this reasonable, unpretentious, and successful attempt to improve it. There is no branch of ornamental art, we believe, which more readily rewards any honest and intelligent endeavor; none in which the material answers more obediently to any artistic power in the workman, none more universally influential, and none more sensitive to the imprint of pretense and vulgarity.

Mr. Wellington’s collection of English tiles, with the Messrs. Turner’s fine array of rich draperies, and the paper-hangings from Bumstead’s and from Robinson’s, showed how the foreign market has enlarged our means for decoration in the last few years.

Of metal work there was not a great deal in the exhibition. Messrs. Bubier contributed some wrought - iron finials and grills of straightforward solid workmanship and good design. Messrs. William H. Jackson & Co., of New York, sent some finely wrought and rather pretentious fireplaces and grates ; one a very handsome fireplace with apparently a cast-iron lining in imbricated plates and facings of rich bronze and nickel plating. Messrs. Murdock & Co., of Boston, showed among other things a pair of nickel-plated andirons of elaborate design, and admirable finish, except in the modeling of the sculptured ornament, which might have been better. With these may be classed Mr. Rogers Rich’s specimens of metallized plaster, with which, however, we are not yet enough acquainted to speak of them to any purpose.

A very interesting and significant feature of the exhibition was the collection of decorative work furnished by various ladies. This department shows very distinctly the influence of our recent importation and study of Japanese art, and indeed it is noticeable that throughout the exhibition the predominating influences are either Japanese or mediæval. In truth, exceptiug in the furniture, of which there is not much, and in some of the metal work, we can think of little that show’s classical, Renaissance, or modern French feeling, and little that does not betray more or less of one of the other influences we have mentioned. This may be partly the result of an accidental predominance among a limited selection of objects; partly, perhaps, of some prepossessions of the committee to whom the selection is mainly due; but also iu great part to actual tendencies which prevail in this part, at least, of our country, and which are, in our judgment, hopeful tendencies, inasmuch as they are toward sincere and manly treatment, and not as yet toward pedantry. And these tendencies are not as incongruous as might be fancied, for the Japanese and the mediæval workmen, apart from the greater technical skill of the former in the rendering of natural form and the management of color, have much that is alike in their feeling for decorative treatment; and the ardent mediævalist of our time may do well to temper his exuberance with the disciplined power of the Japanese.

In this collection of decorative work by ladies were painted silk fire-screens, embroidered bell-ropes, table-cloths, cushions, — many of them of the richest and most ingeniously tasteful sort, — boxes decorated with pen-and-ink, decorative tiles, sumptuous laces, and carved wood, all the achievement of persons who have labored, if to some degree for fashion’s sake, yet also in a good measure for the sake of beauty. Among these Mrs. O. W. Holmes, Jr., stood easily foremost, we think, by virtue of her remarkably rich and graceful embroideries on silk. One of these was of a light - brown ground over which were scattered fine pink and white blossoms in a cloud, with a few large brown or purple oak-leaves; another was in a graver tone, a black embroidered growth of some sort, in which a crescent moon was tangled, with many gold-beads for stars, while below lay a mystic breadth of large white daisies spanned and surrounded by fine strands of green silk. These, in frames, might serve for fire-screens, or with their mimic glimpses of conventionalized (not pictorially presented) natural objects would admirably adorn many wall - spaces. Put to whatever use, they are certainly wonderful achievements in their way, and open a charming vista of possibilities to the feminine artistic genius, which almost always includes a high capacity for decoration.