The Best Portraits in Engraving

A Funeral Panegyric pronounced at his death, now before me in the original pamphlet of the time,[5] testifies to more than family or office. In himself he was much, and not of those who, according to the saying of St. Bernard, give out smoke rather than light. Pure glory and innocent riches were his, which were more precious in the sight of good men, and he showed himself incorruptible, and not to be bought at any price. It were easy for him to have turned a deluge of wealth into his house; but he knew that gifts insensibly corrupt,—that the specious pretext of gratitude is the snare in which the greatest souls allow themselves to be caught,—that a man covered with favors has difficulty in setting himself against injustice in all its forms, and that a magistrate divided between a sense of obligations received and the care of the public interest, which he ought always to promote, is a paralytic magistrate, a magistrate deprived of a moiety of himself. So spoke the preacher, while he portrayed a charity tender and prompt for the wretched, a vehemence just and inflexible to the dishonest and wicked, with a sweetness noble and beneficent for all; dwelling also on his countenance, which had not that severe and sour austerity that renders justice to the good only with regret, and to the guilty only with anger; then on his pleasant and gracious address, his intellectual and charming conversation, his ready and judicious replies, his agreeable and intelligent silence, his refusals, which were well received and obliging; while, amidst all the pomp and splendor accompanying him, there shone in his eyes a certain air of humanity and majesty, which secured for him, and for justice itself, love as well as respect. His benefactions were constant. Not content with giving only his own, he gave with a beautiful manner still more rare. He could not abide beauty of intelligence without goodness of soul, and he preferred always the poor, having for them not only compassion but a sort of reverence. He knew that the way to take the poison from riches was to make them tasted by those who had them not. The sentiment of Christian charity for the poor, who were to him in the place of children, was his last thought, as witness especially the General Hospital endowed by him, and presented by the preacher as the greatest and most illustrious work ever undertaken by charity the most heroic.

Thus lived and died the splendid Pompone de Bellièvre, with no other children than his works. Celebrated at the time by a Funeral Panegyric now forgotten, and placed among the Illustrious Men of France in a work remembered only for its engraved portraits, his famous life shrinks, in the voluminous Biographie Universelle of Michaud, to the seventh part of a single page, and in the later Biographie Généralle of Didot disappears entirely. History forgets to mention him. But the lofty magistrate, ambassador, and benefactor, founder of a great hospital, cannot be entirely lost from sight so long as his portrait by Nanteuil holds a place in art.

Younger than Nanteuil by ten years, Gérard Edelinck excelled him in genuine mastery. Born at Antwerp, he became French by adoption, occupying apartments in theEdelinck. Gobelins, and enjoying a pension from Louis XIV. Longhi says that he is the engraver whose works, not only according to his own judgment, but that of the most intelligent, deserve the first place among exemplars, and he attributes to him all perfections in highest degree, design, chiaro-oscuro, ærial perspective, local tints, softness, lightness, variety, in short everything which can enter into the most exact representation of the true and beautiful without the aid of color. Others may have surpassed him in particular things, but, according to the Italian teacher, he remains by common consent "the prince of engraving." Another critic calls him "king."