PAINTING IN FLANDERS, HOLLAND, AND GERMANY.

There is a large collection of the pictures of Vandyck at Windsor Castle; there are many also in the private galleries of Great Britain and other countries, besides a goodly number in the public galleries of Europe. He executed at least thirty-six portraits of Charles I., as many as twenty-five of Queen Henrietta Maria, and he also painted several groups of the children of the royal pair. Prince Rupert of the Rhine and Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, were also frequently portrayed by him, and one of his most important large works was a family picture of the Earl of Pembroke and his household. It is called the Wilton Family, as it is in a salon at Wilton House; it contains eleven figures, and has been called “the first and most magnificent historic portraiture in the world.” Again, it is said to be stiff, wanting in harmony, bad in color, and so on, but after all it still remains a splendid monument to the skill and genius of Vandyck. The picture is twenty feet long by twelve feet high.

Vandyck painted no portraits of the Puritans nor popular leaders of his day; neither did he of the literary men who flourished at that time, with the exception of the court poets, Sir John Suckling and Thomas Carew.

I shall not give a list of Vandyck’s historical and religious pictures, though they are quite numerous. They are not as interesting as his portraits, and we have not space to give them. His ambition, however, was never satisfied, for he wished to do some great historical work. At one time his opportunity seemed to have come, for the great banqueting-room of Whitehall Palace, the ceiling of which Rubens had painted, still remained with plain walls. Vandyck desired to paint on them the history of the Order of the Garter. The project was laid before the king, and he desired sketches to be made for the work, and one of them, the “Procession of the Knights of the Garter,” was sold after the execution of the king for five pounds. It was owned by Sir Peter Lely and Sir Joshua Reynolds, and is now at Belvoir in the collection of the Duke of Rutland. We cannot help being sorry for Vandyck’s great disappointment when he knew that his work could not be done. He was weak in health and much in debt, for the king could not pay him his pension nor what he owed him for pictures. The artist grew sad and discouraged. He sought relief in the study of alchemy, and indulged the vain hope of discovering some chemical means of making gold from base metals. All this wasted his time and means, and it is to be regretted that he was less wise than his master, for when an alchemist tried to interest Rubens in the same subject, that great artist replied: “You come too late, my good fellow; I have long since discovered the philosopher’s stone. My palette and brushes are worth far more than any other secret.”

The king and all Vandyck’s friends were troubled by his state of health and mind, and a marriage was brought about for him with the hope that he would be a happier man. His wife was Maria Ruthven, a lovely Scotch girl who held a high position among the attendants of the queen. Not long after his marriage Vandyck took her to Flanders, where he enjoyed much the honorable reception which he met with in revisiting the scenes of his childhood and youth. But having learned that Louis XIII. was about to adorn a large gallery in the Louvre, Vandyck hastened to Paris hoping to obtain the commission. He was too late—the work had been given to Poussin, and Vandyck returned to London greatly disheartened.

While at Antwerp he had received much attention, as, indeed, had been the case before, for in 1634 he had been elected Dean of the Confraternity of St. Luke and a great feast was held in his honor. When he came now to London the social atmosphere was full of sadness. The political troubles, which were finally so terrible in England, had already become alarming. In a few months the Earl of Strafford was executed, and Vandyck saw the royal family, to whom he was so much attached, surrounded with danger and at last separated.

His physical health was already delicate, and his sorrows brought on a disease from which he soon died. He continued to work until the very last days of his life. Eight days before his death his daughter was born; she was named Justiniana, and when she grew up married an English baronet, Sir John Stepney.

A short time before Vandyck died the king came from the North to London, and though he was overburdened with his own cares and griefs he found time to sorrow for the condition of his friend and artist. He offered his physician three hundred pounds if he would save the life of Sir Anthony; but nothing availed to baffle his disease, and he died December 9, 1641. Two days later he was buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral. It is said that many nobles and artists attended his funeral, which was conducted with impressive ceremony. The fire which destroyed St. Paul’s made it impossible to say exactly where Vandyck was laid, but his coffin-plate was found at the time of the burial of Benjamin West.

There were no artists of importance after the time of Rubens and his followers whom we call Flemish artists. There were good painters, certainly, belonging to the schools of Flanders; but these schools had reached their highest excellence and were on the decline, and so we pass to the Dutch school, or the painters of Holland.