COLOUR.

Perhaps, if we can comprehend a species of coloured chiaro-scuro, or the addition of colour to the broad and soft principles of light and shade, we shall be able to form a clear perception of the effects of Rembrandt's colouring. Indistinctness of tint, such as colours assume under the influence of twilight, is a strong characteristic of his manner—the shadows never so dark that a black or blue cannot tell firmly in the midst of them; with the total absence of all harshness, from the outlines of objects melting into their adjacent grounds, or assuming an importance after emerging from a mass of indefinite corresponding hues. As he has a mass of shadow with a mass of light, so he has an accumulation of warm colours in opposition to a congregation of cold—every combination introduced conducing to the great principles of breadth. When such is the plan upon which a work is laid down, we can easily perceive how powerfully the smallest touch of positive colour will tell—as in the midst of stillness a pin falling to the ground will be heard. Cuyp has this quality in a high degree, only on another scale—a uniformity of unbroken tone, and in masses of half-tint only, like a few sparkles of light touches, dealt out with the most parsimonious pencil, producing a glitter like so many diamonds. This it is that prevents a work from being heavy, for by their fewness they require not the aid of black grounds to give them consequence, and by their being touched upon colours of the same quality, they avoid the appearance of harshness; in fact, the principles of these two great artists were the same; only from the general tone of Cuyp's pictures being light, his strong darks tell with great power, and Rembrandt's half tints being of a low tone, his high lights become more forcible. I may here mention not only the breadth of Rembrandt's shadows, but their peculiar transparency and clearness, loose in the handling, and filled with air and space, whereas his lights are solid and firm—possessing not only the characteristics of nature in distinctiveness, but also in variety; and though we see always, on a general principle, light upon light and dark on a dark ground, yet we perceive inroads made upon each by their several antagonists; hot and cold colours darting into each other's provinces. This practice is also conducive to breadth, for tints of different hues may be interspersed both in the darks and lights, provided they are of equal strength with those adjoining them. We may observe in Rembrandt—that those colours introduced into the shadows are more under the influence of indistinctness, while those in the light are brighter; this is quite a deviation from the Roman school, where the colours are pronounced so harshly as to set the influence of chiaro-scuro at defiance.

Barry, in his sixth lecture, speaking of colours, says—"The happy effects of those sure and infallible principles of light and colour which Rubens had so successfully disseminated in the Netherlands, were soon found in every department of art. Landscapes, portraits, drolls, and even the dullest and most uninteresting objects of still life, possess irresistible charms and fascination from the magic of those principles. Rembrandt, who, it is said, was never at Venice, might, notwithstanding, have seen, without going out of his country, many pictures of the Venetian school. Besides, he was about thirty years younger than Rubens, whose works were a general object of study when Rembrandt was forming himself. But, however it be, there is no doubt, for the colouring and chiaro-scuro, Rembrandt is one of the most able artists that ever lived. Nothing can exceed the beauty, freshness, and vigour of his tints. They have the same truth, high relish, and sapidity as those of Titian. Indeed, they have the closest resemblance to the hues of Titian when he had Giorgione most in view. There is identically the same attention to the relievo and force obtained by his strong shadows and low deep tones; and his chiaro-scuro, though sometimes too artificial, is yet often (particularly in contrasted subjects) productive of the most fascinating effects. In the tones of Rembrandt, though we recognise the same richness and depth as in Giorgione and Titian, yet there is a suppleness and lifelike character in his flesh unlike either, both from his manner of handling, and also his hot and cold tints being less blended."

The late Sir David Wilkie, in one of his letters, speaking of the death of Sir Thomas Lawrence, says—"I do not wonder at the impression made among you in Rome by the death of Sir Thomas Lawrence; here, it engrossed for a time every other pursuit. One of the last remarks he made to me indicated his extreme admiration of Sir Joshua Reynolds, who, he thought, had, with Rembrandt, carried the imitation of nature, in regard to colours, further than any of the old masters." In many of the higher qualities of colour and chiaro-scuro, Reynolds comes nearer to Rembrandt than any other artist who has succeeded him.

Reynolds, in his lectures, speaking of Gainsborough, observes—"We must not forget, whilst we are on this subject, to make some remarks on his custom of painting by night, which confirms what I have already mentioned—his great affection to his art, since he could not amuse himself in the evening by any other means so agreeable to himself. I am, indeed, much inclined to believe that it is a practice very advantageous and improving to an artist, for by this means he will acquire a new and higher perception of what is great and beautiful in nature. By candlelight, not only objects appear more beautiful, but from their being in a greater breadth of light and shadow, as well as having a greater breadth and uniformity of colour, nature appears in a higher style, and even the flesh seems to take a higher and richer tone of colour. Judgment is to direct us in the use to be made of this method of study; but the method itself is, I am very sure, advantageous. I have often imagined that the two great colourists, Titian and Coreggio, though I do not know that they painted by night, formed their high ideas of colouring from the effects of objects by this artificial light. But I am more assured that whoever attentively studies the first and best manner of Guercino will be convinced that he either painted by this light, or formed his manner on this conception."

How far Coreggio may have formed his principles upon the effects of lamplight it is impossible to decide, seeing that, though his shadows have great breadth, yet his lights have more of a phosphorescent character, tinged, as it were, with the coolness of moonlight; but Titian has all the glow of this property, or, as Reynolds remarks, "as if he painted with the sun shining into the room." The Italian pictures of Vandyke have much of this phosphorescent character—whereas many of those he painted in England have more of a daylight appearance. With regard to Rembrandt, he seems to have regulated the entire scheme both of his chiaro-scuro and colour, on this foundation: his many paintings, drawings, and etchings of candlelight subjects, show how much his taste led to this class of art; and his daylight pictures, from the warmth of colour and breadth of shadow, proclaim the source from which he derived the cause of their brilliancy and force. From the light being tinged with yellow, the half-tone partakes of the same warmth, which gives a greenish tint even to his grey tones. This conduct conveys an emanation of the principal light passing over the more delicate shadows. In his daylight subjects it is not so; the light being often comparatively cool, is allowed to extend its influence to the secondary lights, and then, as it subsides into the shadow, is led in by the dark being lighted up by touches of red and brown; thus the light touches in the dark are warm, though the high light and secondary are cool. In Coreggio we often find the shadows more hot than even in Rembrandt, from his principal light and secondary being more cool. Rembrandt never allows his lights, even though comparatively cool, to pass into the shadow without a few touches of warm colour; this was the practice of Rubens, to enrich, as it were, "the debateable land." When this principle of painting candlelight subjects fell into the hands of his pupils, the harmony and colouring of the whole were lost or changed. For example, Hoogstraten, his pupil, instructed Schalcken, as did also Gerard Dow; but the candlelight pieces of Schalcken are hot and foxy, without any redeeming grey tones. When he painted by candlelight, he placed his sitter in a dark room, with a light, while he painted in another apartment, having a hole cut through the door to communicate with his sitter; the consequence was, the effect gave exactly what we see in such cases—a red, dull treatment of colour. We know these facts by an anecdote told of William the Third. When Schalcken was over in England, the King wished to sit to him for his portrait, and hearing of his celebrity in candlelight pieces, wished it painted under that effect. The painter placed a light in his Majesty's hand, and retired into the outer room; the candle guttering, kept dropping on the King's hand, but being unwilling to disturb the artist, the King held on, while the painter, intent on his work, proceeded without noticing it. Many of our English artists paint by gaslight; but the tones of the flesh are not benefited, gas shedding a white cool light compared with lamplight.

The practice of painting by candlelight originated neither with Rembrandt nor Gainsborough; in fact, we find that all academies, from the time of Bacio Bandinelli to our own, were always opened at night, both for the purposes of drawing and painting. But these effects generally remain where they originated, and are seldom taken advantage of without the walls, the figure alone being considered, without reference to the background. Tintoret was one of the first to apply the principles to his practice. Fuseli, speaking of chiaro-scuro, says—"The nocturnal studies of Tintoret, from models and artificial groups, have been celebrated; those prepared in wax or clay he arranged, raised, suspended, to produce masses, foreshortening, and effect. It was thence he acquired that decision of chiaro-scuro, unknown to more expanded daylight, by which he divided his bodies, and those wings of obscurity and light by which he separated the groups of his composition; though the mellowness of his eye nearly always instructed him to connect the two extremes by something that partook of both, as the extremes themselves by the reflexes with the background or the scenery. The general rapidity of his process, by which he baffled his competitors, and often overwhelmed himself, did not, indeed, always permit him to attend deliberately to this principle, and often hurried him into an abuse of practice which in the lights turned breadth into mannered or insipid flatness; and in the shadows into a total extinction of parts. Of all this he has in the schools of San Rollo and Marco given the most unquestionable instances—'The Resurrection of Christ,' and 'The Massacre of the Innocents,' comprehend every charm by which chiaro-scuro fascinates its votaries. In the vision, dewy dawn melts into deep but pellucid shade, itself sent or reflected by celestial splendour and angelic hues; whilst in the infant massacre of Bethlehem, alternate sheets of stormy light and agitated gloom dash horror on the astonished eye."

Rembrandt, like Tintoret, never destroyed the effective character of his chiaro-scuro by the addition of his colour, but made it a main contributor to the general character of the subject; hence that undisturbed and engulphing breadth which pervades his works. Fuseli, in the same lecture, defends the Venetian school from being considered as the "ornamental school." After selecting several of the pictures of Titian, as proofs of his grand and solemn specimens of colour, he thus proceeds—"But perhaps it is not to Titian, but to Tintoret and Paul Cagliari, that the debaucheries of colour, and blind submission to fascinating tints, the rage of scattering flowers to no purpose, are ascribed. Let us select from Tintoret's most extensive work in the Scuola of San Rocco, the most extensive composition, and his acknowledged masterpiece—'The Crucifixion,' and compare its tone with that of Rubens and Rembrandt of the same subject. What impression feels he who for the first time casts a glance over the immense scenery of that work? a whole whose numberless parts are connected by a lowering, mournful, minacious tone. A general fearful silence hushes all around the central figure of the Saviour suspended on the cross, his fainting mother, and a group of male and female mourners at its foot—a group of colours that less imitate than rival nature, and tinged by grief itself; a scale of tones for which even Titian offers me no parallel—yet all equally overcast by the lurid tone that stains the whole, and like a meteor hangs in the sickly air. Whatever inequality or dereliction of feeling, whatever improprieties of commonplace, of local and antique costume, the master's rapidity admitted to fill his space, and they are great, all vanish in the power which compresses them into a single point, and we do not detect them till we recover from our terror."

The picture of Rubens which we oppose to Tintoret was painted for the Church of St. Walburgha, at Antwerp, after his return from Italy, and has been minutely described and as exquisitely criticised by Reynolds: "Christ," he says, "is nailed to the cross, with a number of figures exerting themselves to raise it. The invention of throwing the cross obliquely from one corner of the picture to the other, is finely conceived, something in the manner of Tintoret." So far Reynolds. "In Tintoret," says Fuseli, "it is the cross of one of the criminals they attempt to raise, who casts his eye on Christ, already raised. The body of Christ is the grandest, in my opinion, that Rubens ever painted; it seems to be imitated from the Torso of Apollonius, and that of the Laocoon. How far it be characteristic of Christ, or correspondent with the situation, I shall not here inquire; my object is the ruling tone of the whole—and of this the criticism quoted says not a word, though much of local colour, and grey and ochry balance. Would so great a master of tone as Reynolds have forgot this master-key if he had found it in the picture? The fact is, the picture has no other than the painter's usual tone. Rubens came to his work with gay, technic exultation, and by the magic of his pencil changed the horrors of Golgotha to an enchanted garden and clusters of flowers. Rembrandt, though on a smaller scale of size and composition, concentrated the tremendous moment in one flash of pallid light. It breaks on the body of Christ, shivers down his limbs, and vanishes on the armour of a crucifix—the rest is gloom."

This is given with all the eloquence Fuseli was so well able to utter; but it displays, also, a severe castigation on those who would class Tintoret and Paul Veronese in the catalogue of ornamental painters. The observations which seem to have kindled his wrath are to be found in Sir Joshua's fourth lecture, in which he says—"Tintoret, Paul Veronese, and others of the Venetian school, seem to have painted with no other purpose than to be admired for their skill and experience in the mechanism of painting, and to make a parade of that art which, as I before observed, the higher style requires its followers to conceal." But, to understand the matter, the whole lecture must be read. With regard to the two pictures Fuseli brings into comparison with the Venetian, both are described in Reynolds' Tour to Flanders and Holland. Sir Joshua certainly criticizes the Rubens correctly with regard to colouring; but sentiment it has none. The Rembrandt is now in the Munich Gallery, and though one of his early pictures, it is very grand and striking. Of it Reynolds remarks—"There are likewise in this room eight Rembrandts, the chief merit of which consists in his peculiarity of manner—of admitting but little light, and giving to that little a wonderful brilliancy. The colouring of Christ in the elevation of the cross cannot be exceeded—it is exactly the tint of Vandyke's 'Susanna,' in the other room; but whether the ground of this picture has been repainted, or the white horse, which was certainly intended to make the mass of light broader, has lost its brightness, at present the Christ makes a disagreeable mass of light."

In bringing the opinions of these two great artists in contact, the truth is elicited, that the tone of colour has much to do in conveying the sentiment and pathos of the picture, and Rembrandt possessed this quality in a very high degree. In the infancy of the arts, when practised by rude nations, we find harsh and bright colours predominate in a very strong scale—in fact, the brighter the more effective on the uneducated eye; and it is only when the arts advance towards perfection that a subdued tone of colour is demanded as most compatible with refinement. Colour, both as an imitative quality, and also as an adjunct towards assisting the character of his subject, seems always to have been uppermost in Rembrandt's mind. His drawing, it is true, is open to censure, but his colour will stand the most searching investigation, and will always appear more transcendent the more it is examined. Reynolds, in his Journey through Holland, mentions a picture by Rembrandt, in the collection of the Prince of Orange—"a study of a Susanna, for the picture by Rembrandt which is in my possession: it is nearly the same action, except that she is here sitting. This is the third study I have seen for this figure—I have one myself, and the third was in the possession of the late Mr. Blackwood. In the drawing which he made for this picture, which I have, she is likewise sitting; in the picture, she is on her legs, but leaning forward. It appears extraordinary that Rembrandt should have taken so much pains, and have made at last so very ugly and ill-favoured a figure; but his attention was principally directed to the colouring and effect, in which it must be acknowledged he has attained the highest degree of excellence." The small picture in the National Gallery is a study of the same figure. Colour was the ruling principle with Rembrandt, the Alpha and Omega, in the same way that Richard Wilson designated the three qualifications for landscape painting, as contained in one—viz., breadth. The tones of colour with which Rembrandt clothed his subjects are always in the highest degree appropriate and conducive to the sentiment, whether within the "solemn temples," or the personification of some great supernatural event. As most of his historical subjects are from Sacred Writ, he never loses sight of those qualities which take them out of the page of every-day occurrences. I shall mention two, though one is sufficient for a master-key to them all. In the picture of "The Adoration of the Magi and Kings," in the Queen's Collection, the solemnity is carried to the utmost extent, like the mysterious leaf of a sybil's book; the only light shed over the scene seems to descend from the lurid rays of the star that stood over the place of the nativity, and guided them to the spot. To acquire the greatest breadth, he has placed the Virgin and child in the corner of the picture, and low down at the base, with the same feeling that impelled Shakspere, in his Constance, to utter, "Here is my throne, bid kings come bow to it." The presentation of incense and precious perfumes, of diadems and jewels, by crowned heads and venerable magi, not only removes the attendants to the background, but even Joseph is represented as wrapt in thought, and viewing from the shade the solemnity of the scene. The whole colouring of this work is in accordance with this feeling—subdued, except in the smallest portions of each hue, and these shine out like sparkling of jewels in a dark recess.

The other work I would particularize is, "The Salutation of the Virgin," in the collection of the Marquis of Westminster. This picture, though of small dimensions, yet exemplifies the peculiarity of Rembrandt's mode of treatment. Being less decided in the chiaro-scuro and tone of colour than the Wise Men's Offering, it is more difficult to describe; this also arises from the exquisite weaving in of the hot and cold colours. Having had it under my eye for a couple of months, I can easily recall it on the least effort of the memory; but to bring it before the spectator who has not seen it, and by no other art than the medium of words, is as difficult as it would be to bring an harmonious arrangement of music by a different means—one must be seen and the other heard to render an explanation evident, which even then can only be understood by connoisseurs in painting and music. I must therefore avail myself of technicalities, which may seem out of place, where we are investigating the general hue of the picture. It is divided into hot and cold colours, which are brought in contact in the centre—Elizabeth being clothed in red and yellow, the Virgin in blue, white, and cool grey. The hot colour is carried across by the red sleeve of Elizabeth, and part of her yellow shawl, and descends to the petticoat of a Negress who is removing the grey mantle from the Virgin, and is further extended by a few warm-coloured stones and touches in the pavement. The cool colour is carried past the warm tone of Zacharias and the porch above him by means of a grey green pillar, a peacock, and a few touches of cool colour on a bush at one corner of the warm side of the picture. The general tone of the work is of a low, deep hue, so that even the cool tints are not cold or raw, but a deep-toned brightness pervades the whole. Through the dark grey sky, that seems to descend to overshadow the group, a gleam of light darts upon the scene, as a connecting link between heaven and earth, and giving force and truth to the expression of Elizabeth, when she pronounces the words, "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb." The light that shoots through the gloom has roused a pea-hen and chicks, who shake off their sleep as if it was the dawn of day.

This is a very imperfect description, but will, nevertheless, serve to show the fine feeling and deep intent of the genius of Rembrandt. To extend this investigation further would be perhaps superfluous, did we not know that, even in our own time, doubts are entertained of the proper introduction of pictorial arrangements of chiaro-scuro and colour; but the grand style, like all other modes of portraying a work, must be made subservient to affecting the feelings of the spectator. I shall only bring two pictures in contrast to elucidate this principle still further—"The Burning of the Books at Ephesus," by Sebastian Bourdon; and "The Martyrdom of St. Lawrence," by Titian. As Bourdon has been considered the French Raffaelle, it is but fair that he should be taken as a follower of that school, devoted to composition and correct drawing, to the absence of all inferior qualities; the consequence is, he has represented the scene in mid-day, where the flames are red without extending their influence to surrounding objects; consequently, they are not luminous, nor conveying the idea of destruction. Titian, on the contrary, has chosen the darkness of night to represent the horrors of the martyrdom—the red burning light of the living coal conveys a tenfold force to the torments of the saint, and the very reality of the colour gives a corresponding truth to the scene, which takes it completely out of the regions of apocrypha, and stamps it with the character of Holy Writ. The descent of the cool light from heaven upon the scorching body of St. Lawrence is like a rush of water to counteract his sufferings, and give him a confidence in his future reward, which the spectator fully enters into. These are the triumphs that appropriate chiaro-scuro and colour achieve for their introduction into historical works.

That we may more clearly perceive the rank which Rembrandt holds as a colourist, I shall endeavour to investigate the peculiar qualities that characterise the several manners of Titian, Rembrandt, and Reynolds—the one living before, the other after our artist, and of course confining the investigation to portraiture alone. I have selected Titian in preference to Vandyke, not that I consider him, in this branch, superior; on the contrary, I agree with Sir Joshua, in mentioning Vandyke as the greatest portrait painter that ever existed, all things considered—but I wish to confine myself exclusively to colour, and in this branch it is evident that these three great artists are more similar in their works than any other painters; but Titian, by the concurrent testimony of his contemporaries and all succeeding judges upon the subject, is the highest authority on the great leading principles of colour. Besides, his works are in many instances uninjured by the rough usage of uneducated men. With regard to the works of Rembrandt, which are in comparison as of yesterday, many of them remain in the same frames and on the same walls on which they were first hung. The works of Reynolds, though of a more recent date, have suffered more, not from the ruthless hand of the picture-cleaner, but from his making use of more perishable materials. Still, from the variety of his vehicles, changed from an anxiety to get a nearer approach to the look and appearance of nature, many of his pictures are sufficiently perfect to build an investigation upon. Previous to the appearance of Giorgione and Titian, this branch of the art differed but little from the treatment the several heads received in historical pictures generally; only with this exception, that when introduced as the component parts of a work where a story had to be told, they were imbued with action and expression; but when treated as simple portraiture, the higher qualities were left out, and a quiet map of the face, to use a familiar expression, was all that was desired to be transferred to the canvas. Neither did the head receive that superiority over every other subordinate part of the work which science and a long line of celebrated examples seem now so imperatively to demand.

In drawing a comparison between the three great portrait painters, it is necessary, in the first instance, to refer to the several characters of their models, or sitters. The nobility of Venice were, at the time of Titian, men of long descent, dignified, and holding high rank in a city at that time the emporium of the merchandize of the East, and distributors of rich manufactures to the whole of civilized Europe; hence that "senatorial dignity" which characterises his works, and the style and richness of costume so necessary to grandeur, and the historical air in his portraits. His sitters also possessed countenance and figure well calculated to engender and support the noblest character of painting. The sitters of Reynolds, notwithstanding the pomatumed pyramids of the female hair, or the stiff, formal curls of the male, which set every attempt to beautify the features at defiance, either by extension of the forms or harmonizing the several parts of the countenance, (serious obstacles to pictorial beauty,) were still in possession of that bland and fascinating look which distinguishes people of high breeding. In contrast with these we have to array the models of Rembrandt's painting-room—fat burgomasters, florid in complexion and common in feature; Jews and attornies; shipbuilders, and hard harsh-featured master mechanics. Independent of the models themselves, there is a congenial feeling created in the artist who associates with and has to represent them; we imperceptibly imbibe the manners of those we are in contact with, either advantageously or injuriously. From these few remarks we may perceive that the dignified attitude, the broad general tone of the countenance, though deep, yet rendered bright and luminous by the jetty blackness of the hair and beard, were all conducive to the creation of the style of Titian—a style that swallows up the varieties of minute tints in a general breadth. So in Reynolds, the absence of everything strong in expression or harsh in colour gave a refinement to the heads of his men, and a beauty to the faces of his females; and to this treatment all his sitters were subjected—so that even those heads, however deficient in the originals, came off his easel ladies and gentlemen. A subdued delicacy of expression and colour removes them from the common look of familiar life. Now, on the contrary, the very character and colour of Rembrandt's heads are pronounced with the strong stamp of flesh and blood—an exact representation of nature in an unsophisticated state. His handling, his manner of leaving the various tints, and the marking of minute parts, all conspire to give his works that appearance of truth unfettered with the attempt to elevate the general character at the expense of individuality.

The peculiarity of Titian's portraits, independent of the high character and simple and dignified attitude of the figure, is a careful and distinct modelling of the features, with the half-shadows, though not dark, yet never slurred over—which in other hands would produce heaviness; but Titian counteracts this by the intense darkness of his dresses and backgrounds, so that the features, often modelled with the firmness of sculpture, are rendered comparatively gentle by the treatment of the other parts of the picture. The portraits of Sir Joshua have this peculiarity, that however loaded and enriched in every part of the work, the head is kept smooth, and often thinly painted. The whole-length of "The Marquis of Granby," and "The Portrait of Mrs. Siddons," two of his finest pictures, are examples of this mode of treating the head. This has given rise to an anecdote, that Mrs. Siddons, looking at the picture when unfinished, begged Sir Joshua not to touch the head any more—and having promised her, he refrained, notwithstanding the richness and depth of the fearless glazings would seem to demand a corresponding force in the head. The truth is, that Reynolds seems always to have depended upon the small dark shadows to give solidity to his heads, without clogging them with colour or dark half-tints. The importance of thus refining upon the head may be perceived in the portrait of himself, painted con amore, and presented to the Dilettante Society, of which he was a member. The features, and, indeed, the whole head, depend upon the extreme darks; the judicious arrangement of these shadows not only gives a pictorial dignity to the work, from the stamp of science, but also, where the features in nature are either blunt or mean in themselves, draws off the attention of the spectator to higher qualities. Shadows are never mean, but are the stamps of truth rendered beautiful by taste and feeling. Independent of the advantage of dark touches giving delicacy to the features that produce them, there is a motion and life given by the vivacity and freedom of the handling, which cannot with safety be taken with the features themselves. This quality seems very early to have been Sir Joshua's greatest anxiety to acquire. In a remark respecting the pictures of a rival, John Stephen Liotard, whose only merit was a strong likeness, with great neatness of finish, Reynolds says—"The high-finished manner of painting would be chosen if it were possible with it to have that spirit and expression which infallibly fly off when the artist labours; but there are transient beauties which last less than a moment, and must be painted in as little time; besides, in poring long the imagination is fatigued, and loses its vigour. You will find nature in the first manner—but it will be nature stupid, and without action. The portraits of Holbein are of this high-finished manner; and for colouring and similitude what was ever beyond them? But then you see fixed countenances, and all the features seem to remain immoveable."

Northcote observes, "Of mere likeness in portraiture Reynolds thought very little, and used to say that he could instruct any boy that chance might throw in his way to paint a likeness in a portrait in half a year's time; but to give an impressive and a just expression and character to a picture, or paint it like Velasquez, was another thing. What we are all," he said, "attempting to do with great labour, he does at once."

Barry, speaking of Reynolds as a portrait painter, mentions the wretched state the art was in before his time, and how elevated it became from the manner Sir Joshua treated it. In continuation, he says—"In many of Titian's portraits the head and hands are mere staring, lightish spots, unconnected with either the drapery or background, which are sometimes too dark, and mere obscure nothings; and in Lely, and even in Vandyke, we sometimes meet with the other extreme of too little solidity, too much flickering and washiness. Sir Joshua's object appears to have been to obtain the vigour and solidity of the one, with the bustle and spirit of the other, without the excess of either; and in by far the greatest number of his portraits he has admirably succeeded. His portrait of Mrs. Siddons is, both for the ideal and the executive, the finest portrait of the kind perhaps in the world; indeed, it is something more than a portrait, and may serve to give an excellent idea of what an enthusiastic mind is apt to conceive of those pictures of confined history for which Apelles was so celebrated by the ancient writers. But this picture of 'Mrs. Siddons, or the Tragic Muse,' was painted not long since, when much of his attention had been turned to history; and it is highly probable that the picture of Lord Heathfield, the glorious defender of Gibraltar, would have been of equal importance, had it been a whole length; but even as it is—only a bust—there is great animation and spirit, happily adapted to the indications of the tremendous scene around him; and to the admirable circumstance of the key of the fortress, firmly grasped in his hand, than which imagination cannot conceive anything more ingenious and heroically characteristic. It is, perhaps, owing to the Academy, and to his situation in it, to the discourses which he biennially made to the pupils upon the great principles of historical art, and the generous ardour of his own mind to realize what he advised, that we are indebted for a few expansive efforts of colouring and chiaro-scuro which would do honour to the first names in the records of art." And speaking of the large historical work he painted for the Empress of Russia, he adds—"Nothing can exceed the brilliancy of light—the force and vigorous effect of his picture of 'The Infant Hercules strangling the Serpent;' it possesses all that we look for and are accustomed to admire in the works of Rembrandt, united to beautiful forms and an elevation of mind to which Rembrandt had no pretensions. The prophetical agitation of Tiresias and Juno, enveloped in clouds, hanging over the scene like a black pestilence, can never be too much admired, and are, indeed, truly sublime."

After such commendations, and from so high an authority, we might feel a diffidence in bringing forward the great founder of the Dutch school in competition with such artists as Titian and Reynolds, did we not know that the qualities of the chiaro-scuro and colour of Reynolds are founded on the deep tones of Rembrandt, who, as a colourist, takes his proper place between the two heads of the Venetian and English schools. How far Rembrandt was indebted for his principles of colour to the works of Titian, it is impossible to say; but many of his pictures bear a greater affinity to the last style of this great colourist than to any other painter. We perceive by the catalogue of his effects, that folios containing drawings by Titian, also prints after him, were in his possession. The luminous, rich tones of his flesh are more like Titian than Rubens or Vandyke, whose works he must have been familiar with; and while his backgrounds are less black and inky than those in the portraits of Titian and Tintoret, they are also more broken, both in colour and execution, which prevents heaviness. His handling—which conveys from its dexterity and touch so lifelike an appearance—is not unlike that of Frank Hals, of whom Reynolds speaks so highly:—"In the works of Frank Hals, the portrait painter may observe the composition of a face, the features well put together, as the painters express it, from whence proceeds that strong, marked character of individual nature, which is so remarkable in his portraits, and is not found in an equal degree in any other painter. If he had joined to this most difficult part of the art a patience in finishing what he so correctly planned, he might justly have claimed the place which Vandyke, all things considered, so justly holds, as the first of portrait painters." There is, however, this difference in their works—independent of the flesh of Rembrandt's being much richer in tone, it is produced by glazing and fresh touches of transparent colour, whereas the tints of Hals seem to have been mixed in the first instance on his palette; hence that undisturbed dexterity of handling which gives so much the appearance of life in his best works. The distinctive characteristics between a portrait painter and a historical painter, is "that the one paints man in general, the other a particular man;" hence, to ennoble the work, it is necessary to make it conform, as much as can be done with safety to the likeness, to the great principles that guide the highest branches of the art—that is, by softening down those features that overstep the boundary of general nature, and assisting those parts that fall short, or are defective. Therefore, when Lawrence painted Mrs. Siddons, the Duke of Wellington, or Lord Brougham, he chose a front view of the face, that their peculiarities might not be too apparent. Now Sir Joshua carried these generalizing principles to so great an extent at times that his sitters did not recognise the striking likeness that some people look for as paramount to all other considerations, which made his pupil, Northcote, remark that there was a class of sitters who would not be content "unless the house-dog barked at it as a sign of recognition." Rembrandt, on the contrary, did not generalize enough; therefore, many portraits were left on his hands, as it is said they were left on Reynolds's. But see the result, those very pictures from the easel of both painters bring higher prices than the more favoured of their likenesses, from being intrinsically fine works of art. The number of portraits Rembrandt painted of himself is a proof of the little encouragement he received in painting the portraits of others. From Sir Joshua's hand we have but two or three, while from Rembrandt's we have nearly fifty. Yet, with all the deficiencies in the art of making up a beautiful face, Rembrandt frequently produced portraits of great feminine beauty: witness "The Lady with the Fan," in the collection of the Marquis of Westminster, and "The Lady," in the Royal Collection. Had he got the same models of female beauty that Titian and Reynolds had, he would, in all probability, have transferred them to the canvas with the same truth and intenseness of feeling that guided his pencil in other matters. Rembrandt's style was that which would have suited Oliver Cromwell, who, when he sat for his portrait, made it a sine qua non that the painter should leave out neither warts nor wrinkles. The same truth and verisimilitude that regulated his forms, guided his eye with respect to colour. In his earlier pictures, such as "The Ship Builder," in the Royal Collection, there is a greater degree of hardness and solidity of pigment than in his later works, which possess more the suppleness of flesh. This is also to be observed in the later works of Titian, Velasquez, and Reynolds, and in the later works of our Scottish Velasquez—Raeburn. The portraits of Gainsborough possess this in a high degree. What has been said with regard to Rembrandt laying on his colours with the palette-knife, is very much exaggerated. Many of his heads are as smooth as Reynolds's, and finished with great delicacy and precision; in fact, the versatility of his genius, and the wonderful command over his materials, from indefatigable practice, have given both his pictures and prints that character of having been done in the best style suited to accomplish his object. I have mentioned that Titian keeps his backgrounds often dark, for the purpose of giving a delicacy to his strong shadows in the face; both Vandyke and Rembrandt do this by making the colour of the background amalgamate with the colour of the hair, or dark shades of the head. Rubens, Reynolds, and Lawrence often used a red curtain in contact with their flesh, to produce the same result. The luminous character of the head is certainly better preserved by its giving out rays or similarity of tone to the surrounding background. It has been remarked that the luminous and transparent character of the flesh is enhanced, as in several of Vandyke's portraits, by bringing it in contact with an earthy, dull tint. Vandyke, indeed, when his ground would not permit him, introduced over the shoulders of his females a scarf of this colour. Rembrandt often plunges from the dark shadows of his head into his ground, and thus gives both a breadth and unity. This practice, where the shadows of the face are produced by the same colour as the contiguous background, is certainly the foundation of simplicity.

I think the money value of Rembrandt's portraits may be taken as a criterion of their intrinsic worth as works of art; other masters' decline in producing high prices, Rembrandt's increase—witness the portrait sold the other day at the Duke of Buckingham's, at Stowe;—though the half-length of a burgomaster whom few people ever heard of, it realized seven hundred guineas and upwards. No nameless portrait by Reynolds, under the same disadvantages, would produce an equivalent sum. Sir Joshua's portraits are either branches of our aristocracy, or celebrated public characters. As a knowledge of art advances, works fall naturally into their proper stations. When Reynolds's sister asked Sir Joshua the reason that we never see any of the portraits by Jervas now, he replied, "Because, my dear, they are all up in the garret." Yet this man drove his chariot and four, and received the praises of Pope in verse. Sir Godfrey Kneller would sometimes receive a sum of money and a couple of portraits by Vandyke as payment; but now, a single portrait of the great founder of the Dutch school would outweigh in true value a large number of Kneller's collected talent: yet Rembrandt died insolvent, and Sir Godfrey accumulated a large fortune. And such will be the fate of those who paint for posterity, "and look beyond the ignorant present." The true statement of this change, which of necessity takes place, is, that the man of genius paints according to the high impulse that has been given him, as paramount to every other consideration; the other panders to the caprice and ignorance of those who employ him. This it was that made Reynolds's master, Hudson, exclaim, after Sir Joshua's return from Italy, "Why, Joshua, you don't paint so well as you did before you went abroad!" When men of genius and high talent fall upon favourable times, the result is the reverse, and the fine arts are esteemed, and their professors rewarded according to their excellence. The age in which Titian lived was famous for literary men, who had made the republic of Venice known and honoured through the whole of Italy. The praises of Michael Angelo bestowed on the works of the great Venetian, had adorned the name of Titian with a halo of supernatural brightness; so much so, that whilst painting the portrait of the Emperor Charles the Fifth, happening to drop one of his pencils, Charles stooped and picked it up, observing, "that a genius like Titian deserved to be waited on by emperors." Of Reynolds we know that all the beauty and talent of the land flocked to his painting-room, conscious of being handed down to posterity with all the advantages that pictorial science could achieve. The grace of Coreggio was grafted by this great master on the strong stem of Rembrandt's colouring. In opposition to those advantages, we have to remark that the people with whom Rembrandt came in contact were not only of an inferior character, when measured by the standard of grace and dignity, but the troubles of the times militated in a high degree against that encouragement so necessary to the perfection of the art. In spite of these inauspicious circumstances, the genius of Rembrandt has produced works fraught with the highest principles of colour and pictorial effect, and to his want of encouragement in the department of mere common portraiture, we are indebted for many of the most pictorial and splendid specimens of strong individual character in familiar life.

Of all the works by Rembrandt, perhaps no picture has attracted so much attention and observation as his "Night Watch," now in the Museum of Amsterdam. As its dimensions are thirteen feet by fourteen, it secures attention by its size; its effect, also, is striking in a high degree, though Reynolds, in his "Tour to Holland and Flanders," says it disappointed him, having heard so much respecting it. He remarks that it had more of the appearance of Ferdinand Bol, from a prevalence of a yellow, sickly colour. On the other hand, Wilkie says, "Had it been a subject such as 'The Christ before Pilate,' which he has etched, it would have been his finest and grandest work." Though painted in 1642, it possesses all the force and high principles of colour to be found in his later works. Nothing can exceed the firmness and truth of the two figures advancing to the spectator—especially the officer in the light dress—it is modelled with all the force of nature, and the background figures being steeped in the deepest hues of subdued colour, give a strength and richness which nothing can surpass. Of course, there is a want of interest in the story, which is merely an assemblage of the Militia of Amsterdam, on occasion of the expected visit of the Prince of Orange and the daughter of Charles the First, whom he had espoused. The principal pictures by other great masters receive a greater notoriety from the interest of the subject—such as "The Transfiguration," by Raffaelle; "The Peter Martyr," by Titian; "The Miracle of St. Mark," by Tintoret; "The Martyrdom of St. George," by Paul Veronese; and "The St. Jerome," by Coreggio. Nevertheless, "The Night Watch," by Rembrandt, may safely be classed with the choicest productions of the great painters of Italy and Venice. When we consider that his pictures extend to upwards of six hundred and fifty, the reader will appreciate the difficulty I have felt in describing the peculiar merit which has so indelibly stamped most of them with the passport to posterity.