But if we are allured at times into this wonder-world of intimate nature, we are more often recalled to the sad world of weariness and disillusion, hearing the supersensuous, decadent, ennuyé poet crying, "O cessate! la musica mi stanca," or "Chi potrà darmi un qualche nuovo senso?" There is one thing inevitable for him who drinks too long and too deep from the cup of experience. If weariness and disillusion may inspire, they must also weaken the art of the poet who has thus drunken and not known when to throw the cup aside.

[blocks in formation]

It is the salutary part of this poetry of weariness, so characteristic, not only of D'Annunzio, but of all he stands for in that decadent phase of thought and literature and life of which, on one side at least, he is the foremost exemplar, that, when revulsion is at hand, the reader is almost always won back by some beautiful vision of the world we know and love, or by some deep and sincere cry from the poet's heart-"Allor che su 'l vento maestrale mi balzava la strofe . . . squillando annanzi, O mare, O mare, O mare!" 18

[blocks in formation]

love, from Catullus or Omar Khayyam to Leconte de Lisle and Carducci, Read, for instance, "The Triumph of Iseult" (itself a metrical triumph in the difficult manner of Lorenzo di Medici), recalling as it does Villon and Swinburne and William Morris, and yet so unmistakably the poet's own, with its monotonously sweet refrain, "for everything save love is vain":

Torna in fior di giovinezza Isaotta Blanzesmano,

Dice: Tutto al mondo è vano. Nè l'amore ogni dolcezza! 19

That, too, is the poet's own-the stanza of Death, as a beautiful woman, closing the procession, however much the Guinevere and other stanzas suggest comparison with familiar lines of the poets named above:

Chiude il gran corteo la Morte;
Non la dea de' cemeteri,
Ma una fresca donna e forte
Cui valletti lusinghieri
Sono i Sogni ed i Piaceri
Da 'l gentil volto pagano.
Dice: Tutto al mondo è vano,
Ne l'amore ogni dolcezza! 20

Perhaps one reason why D'Annunzio appeals more strongly than Carducci to the Italians of the North, to the French of the North, to the Germans and ourselves, is that he has more of the love of the mysterious. In one of his most beautiful short poems, the "Vas Mysteri," in the "Poema Paradisiaco" volume of 1893, he makes indeed a direct invocation to that veiled Muse: "Apriti al fine, O tu che l' urna sei del Mistero!" And, again, because

19 Cometh again, in her flower of youth, Iseult of the White Hands. She says: "All the world is vain: in love only doth all sweetness live."

20 At the end of the noble cortege, Death; not the sombre Lady of Graves, but a woman fresh and strong, whose flattering train-bearers are Dreams and Delights, each of a noble pagan beauty. And she too says: "All the world is vain: in love only doth all sweetness live,"

he is a prophet of "the joy to come" . . . that "far-off day of the travailing generations"—

Cantate, O venti! Ne l' ignoto mare
E l'Isola promessa:

La come in sommo d' un immenso al-

E la gioia promessa.

Gabriele D'Annunzio is now before his countrymen as a "national" poet. We do not think that his essentially lyrical and emotional genius is well fitted for a sustained flight; but of this perhaps no foreigner can properly judge. Meanwhile the lyrical epic of Garibaldi is in part given to the world." In judging this lyrical epic, or "epical series of lyrical chants," one must bear in mind the author's own comment that the poems should be recited aloud rather than silently read, "per vivere della sua piena vita musicale, ella ha bisogno di passare nella bocca sonante del dicitore." But it must be admitted that, with many fine lines, and frequent subtle and enchanting effects as in

Ei si ricorda nell' alba di Novembre:
Quando salpò da Quarto era la sera,
Sera di Maggio conridere di stelle,
The Quarterly Review.

there is also much mere rhetoric and at times a bathos sinking to the level of distinctly commonplace prose.

21 The "Canzone di Garibaldi," published in 1901, is not, as many imagine, a complete work. The present instalment is a poem of twentytwo sections, amounting in all to one thousand and four lines. The actual title of this section is "The Night of Caprera," and it is the third in

Here, as in matters of deeper import, it is to be wished that D'Annunzio had more of the intellectual pride and artistic control of his greater compatriot, Giosuè Carducci; the more so as his influence is becoming steadily more potent in Italy, despite obstacles of all kinds, and notwithstanding the animadversions, both wise and unwise, of perhaps the majority of the critics and of the reading-public. Carducci's high place is now beyond cavil. He for his part has ever thought of his to-morrow. Gabriele D'Annunzio has owed so much to French writers that it is to be wished he could more consistently have borne in mind, that he may henceforth bear in mind, the memorable words of Sainte-Beuve, "C'est à ce lendemain sévère que tout artiste sérieux doit songer." And what better watchword could he, too, have than that of his master, the vetCarducci, already adopted by Young Italy, fervent and hopeful: "O pochi e forti, all' opera!" "To the good work, then, O ye few and strong!"



The sleepy old town of Bruges has woke up to find herself, if not famous, at least once again for a brief moment the focus of attraction for art lovers all the world over. Rich as is this quaint medieval city in works of art, produced largely by her own burghers, the priceless collection of pictures gathered once again in their old home

from all quarters of Europe must enhance a hundredfold her interest for the student of early Flemish painting. Pictures which had not met since they left the artist's atelier in the fifteenth century now find themselves hanging familiarly side by side, as though the intervening centuries had been a bad dream, and gallery directors and pri

a series of seven. In time we are to have the other "books" or sections: (1) "The Birth of the Hero"; (2) "The Ocean and the Pampas"; (4) "From Rome to the Pontine Marshes"; (5) "Aspromonte and Mentana"; (6) "The Crown of Peace"; (7) "The Hero's End."


vate owners merely the spectres of a landish instinct for color is strongly disordered imagination. But the ravages of time go far to dispel the illusion, and old friends meet too of ten with changed countenances, some faded and withered to mere ghosts of their former selves, others so concealed beneath an artificial make-up as almost to escape recognition. This is fortunately by no means always the case. The Exhibition offers a striking testimony to the value and permanence of sound workmanship. Where later hands have not meddled, many a panel dating from nearly five centuries ago seems as fresh as though it had but just been painted.

That the Exhibition should be thoroughly representative, all the churches and institutions of Bruges have been temporarily despoiled of their treasures, and the famous Hospital of St. John has yielded up its priceless Memlincs. The museums of Brussels and Antwerp send their contingent; Glasgow and Liverpool and some of the smaller German galleries have contributed; while private collectors all over Europe have responded with that generosity which the prevailing fashion of loan exhibitions must tax somewhat severely. We are thus enabled to follow the rise and fall of the first period of Flemish painting, from its brilliant beginning with the Van Eycks to its decadence under the Italianisers of the sixteenth century.

Of pre-Van Eyck painting in Flanders only enough remains to force into bold relief the extraordinary artistic revolution effected by the brothers Hubert and Jan, and to give point to the suggestion that their origin must be sought elsewhere, perhaps in the school of Cologne. It is to this school also that the curious "Calvary" from the Cathedral of Bruges, one of the earliest examples of Flemish painting, shows certain resemblances, though already here the typically Nether

Of the veil of mystery that still hangs over the Van Eycks, as yet only the corners have been lifted. Authorities still differ as to the exact nature and extent of their discovery of an oil medium; but, thanks largely to Mr. Weale's indefatigable researches, some further light has lately been thrown on the relation of the two brothers, with the result that Hubert, who for centuries was supplanted in popular estimation by his younger brother Jan, is once more reinstated as the true father of Flemish painting and the author of by far the greater part of the Ghent altar-piece. It is more than a pity that this monumental work should be absent from the Exhibition, where for purposes of comparison alone its presence would have been invaluable. Could its now scattered members have been brought together from Ghent, Berlin, and Brussels, the world would have gained a unique opportunity of studying in its entirety this, the starting-point of Flemish painting. Only the "Adam and Eve" from Brussels, two panels forming part of the wings of the altar-piece, are to be seen here. They are without doubt the work of Jan the realist, whose share in the whole picture is now considered to be limited to these and to the grisailles on the back of the wings. It would have been interesting to compare the beautiful landscape of the central panel with that in the "Holy Women at the Sepulchre," lent by Sir Frederick Cook, a picture which excited so much interest at the New Gallery in 1899. This, believed to be the work of Hubert, breathes something of that idealism and poetic inspiration which are totally lacking in the younger brother. It is the moment when twilight, dispelled by dawn, melts away before the unutterable glory of a new-born

day. The sky is illumined with mysterious light, bathing the whole atmosphere and touching with golden brilliance the towers and mosques of the distant city. The empty tomb, the white-robed angel, the three women approaching with spices and ointment, are all in harmony with the peaceful setting. The clownish guards, lost in heavy slumber, are rendered with true Flemish realism, which often touches the borders of caricature. It is strange that with his wonderful feeling for atmosphere and lighting, Hubert should have possessed so elementary a knowledge of linear perspective. Both here in the drawing of the tomb and in that of the fountain in the Ghent altarpiece the painter has gone sadly astray. Indeed, perspective is by no means a strong point with the early Flemish school.

Turning from this romantic rendering to the pictures of the younger brother, we find ourselves in a wholly different atmosphere. Jan's curious lack of all sense of beauty in type and feature is nowhere more strikingly displayed than in the celebrated "Pala Madonna," his largest if not his greatest work, which occupies a place of honor in the first room. Magnificent as it is in technique, color, and lighting, the ill-chosen models, copied with an almost blind fidelity, mar what would be otherwise a chefd'œuvre. In many of these Flemish pictures the most interesting personage is the donor, whose portrait is introduced in a more or less conspicuous position. Here old Pala is a triumph of vigorous and faithful characterization. Jan's skill in portraiture is again displayed in the admirable if by no means flattering portrait of his wife from the Bruges Museum, a picture rescued from its menial office of eelskinning board in the Bruges fish market, and in the portrait of a young man from Herrmannstadt, signed, as

are many pictures in the Exhibition, with the forged Dürer monogram. Baron Oppenheim contributes also a delightful portrait of a benevolent old gentleman, toothless and wrinkled, painted in one of the artist's most genial moments. He is framed with a fine portrait by Thierry Bouts of a stern, hard-featured man of middle age, and that of a self-indulgent looking young dandy ascribed, though scarcely with justice, to Memlinc. The three, brought together thus promiscuously, form a kind of Three Ages of Man.

The student of Flemish art must anticipate at once a treat and a disappointment in the rare opportunity of seeing the "Enthronement of St. Thomas of Canterbury" from Chatsworth, attributed to Jan van Eyck, a picture which, if its date 1421 were correct, was painted some nine years before the completion of the Ghent altar-piece. This must have been a fine piece of work, for which Jan's genius would be admirably adapted. Now, alas! it is almost entirely covered with a thick coat of repaint, so that we can only guess at its original condition, and mentally reconstruct it with the delicate finish, the luminous glowing depth and glossy surface, which we are accustomed to find in the painter's better preserved pictures. Interesting too, though again hopelessly overrestored, is the large triptych lent by M. Helleputte of Louvain, which recent research confirms as being Jan's last work, left unfinished at his death. The Virgin of the central panel, standing under a vaulted portico with the Child in her arms, recalls the Carthusian Madonna in Berlin; but crude repainting, and above all the glaring pink flesh tones smeared on by a later hand, leave little but the design of the original. The curious symbolism of the subjects on the wings recalls the mystical intention of the "Adoration of

the Lamb," and must surely have been invented for the matter-of-fact Jan.

Petrus Cristus, Jan van Eyck's one acknowledged pupil, is well represented in the Exhibition by several portraits, the "Pietà" from Brussels, formerly ascribed to Ouwater, and by his best work, the "Legend of Saints Eligius and Godeberta," signed and dated 1449, from the Oppenheim Collection. In this interior of a goldsmith's shop we have an anticipation of the class of genre subject which later Quentin Metsys and his follower Romerswael made peculiarly their own, the typical example being the "Bankers" by Metsys in the Louvre. The commonplace types, hard outlines, and heavy coloring in the Oppenheim picture are characteristic of Cristus, a somewhat uninteresting but painstaking painter. The convex mirror on the table, reflecting personages not seen in the picture, was a favorite studio property with Flemish painters. We find it in Jan van Eyck's portrait of Arnolfini in the National Gallery, in Memlinc's delightful virgin of the Nieuwenhove diptych, now at the Exhibition, and in Metsys's "Bankers."

The beautiful little "Pietà" by that impassioned painter of Tournai, Roger van der Weyden, recently acquired by the Brussels Museum, is one of the gems of the Exhibition. By his dramatic interpretation of this scene, in which no detail of anguish has been omitted, the painter forces upon us a vivid realization of what he has conceived. No smiling landscape relieves the tension, and the ghastly light from the lurid yellow sky serves to enhance the sense of gloom and tragedy. We see the artist in another phase in his portrait of Peter Bladelin, the donor of the Middleburg altar-piece at Berlin, in the central panel of which he appears again. It is a more than usually attractive face, with its deeply sunk

brown eyes, tightly compressed lips, and tense, eager expression.

Roger's pupil, the ingenuous Memlinc, is represented by almost half his known works, and there is no doubt that the section devoted to them is the most popular in the Exhibition. Memlinc is indeed the most lovable of all the Flemish painters. His sense of beauty carries him safely over those pitfalls of downright ugliness and horror into which Jan van Eyck and Bouts so frequently fell. His blithe temperament forbade him to see the world except in sunshine, or to treat tragedy with anything but the most gently sympathetic naïveté. His renderings of Madonna and Child are full of playful humor, into which his favorite little attendant angel enters with a wholly unangelic grin of delight, handing the Christ Child an apple or watching him play the fascinating game of crumpling the pages of His Mother's book. This motif occurs in the famous triptych of the Donne family, lent by the Duke of Devonshire, Memlinc's earliest known work and the type of many to follow. The wellknown Memlinc landscape background with its clear sky, and blue water dotted with swans, its green fields and winding paths on which one may expect to meet the renowned white horse and its rider, adds immeasurably to the idyllic atmosphere of these peaceful scenes.

The most attractive of the less wellknown Memlincs is the wonderfully pathetic "Pietà" from the collection of Prince Doria. Comparing this with Van der Weyden's tragic rendering, the difference of temperament between the older painter and his pupil is strikingly apparent. Here, though the pathos of the subject is profoundly felt, there is no touch of gloom, no hint of unutterable tragedy, but a sense of peace brooding over the exquisite landscape. The kneeling donor is the

« VorigeDoorgaan »