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One of the sensations of the Exhibition of Spanish Old Masters at the Grafton Gallery in the autumn of 1913 was an altar panel, dated 1250, which was acquired by Mr Roger Fry in Paris, and catalogued as of the "Early Catalan School." In view of the fact that this picture is "certainly to be regarded as one of the very oldest of primitive pictures painted on wood in any country ... a decade earlier than the picture by Margaritone in the National Gallery," it seems somewhat dogmatic to assert that while retaining a strongly Byzantine character "the style is distinctly that of Catalonia." What was the style of Catalonia?

So far as the history of the art is concerned, the chapter on Spain is, with one exception, a very short and a singularly uninteresting one, whether Mr Fry's panel was painted in Catalonia or whether it was not; and in spite of every effort to find in this uncongenial country that expansion of painting that might reasonably have been expected to flow from Italy and moisten its barren soil for the production of so wonderful a genius as Velasquez, there is positively nothing earlier than Velasquez, and not very much after him, that has more than what we may call a documentary interest. While in Italy or the Netherlands the names of scores of painters earlier than the seventeenth century are endeared to us by the recollection of the works they have left us, the enumeration of those of the few Spaniards of whom we have any knowledge awakens no such thrill, and if we have ever heard of them, their works mean little more to us than their names. Only when we come within touch of Velasquez does our interest awaken—as in the case of Ribera and Zurbaran—and that is less because of them than because of Velasquez. El Greco was not a Spaniard by birth, but a Cretan; and if he were ranged with the Italians, to whom he more properly belongs, he would scarcely be more famous than some Bolognese masters whose names are now—or perhaps we ought to say, at the present moment—almost forgotten. The announcement that one of his portraits has been sold to an American for £30,000 is of commercial rather than of artistic interest.

If one had to sum up the career and the art of Velasquez in a sentence, it might be done by calling him a Court painter who never flattered. After recording his life from the time when he left his master Pacheco to enter the service of Philip IV. to the day that he died in it, we shall find that only a bare percentage of his work was not commissioned by the king; and in all his pictures which were not simply portraits there is little if anything to be found which is not as literal and truthful a presentment of the model in front of him as the life-like representations of Philip and those about his Court, of which the supreme quality is that of living resemblance, or to put it in more general terms, vivid realism. Gifted as he must have been with an extraordinary vision and a still rarer, if not unique, ability to put down on canvas what he saw, he confined himself entirely within the limits of actuality, and thereby attained to heights which his great contemporaries Rubens and Rembrandt in their noblest flights of imagination never reached.

Velasquez was baptised on the 6th of June 1599, in the church of S. Peter at Seville. He was the son of well-to-do parents; his father, a native of Seville, was named Juan Rodriguez de Silva, his mother Geronima Velasquez. At thirteen years old he had displayed so strong an inclination towards painting that he was put to study under Francisco de Herrera, then the most considerable painter in Spain (his son, also Francisco, was the painter of the Christ Disputing with the Doctors, in the National Gallery), but owing to Herrera's violent temper Velasquez was shortly transferred to the studio of Francisco Pacheco, whose daughter he eventually married.

Pacheco who was, besides being an accomplished artist, a man of literary tastes, and much sought after in Seville by the more intellectual class of society, was exceedingly proud of his pupil, and said of him that he was induced to bestow the hand of his daughter upon him "by the rectitude of his conduct, the purity of his morals, and his great talents, and from the high expectation he entertained of his natural abilities and transcendent genius," adding that the honour of having been his instructor was far greater than that of being his father-in-law, and that he felt it no demerit to be surpassed by so brilliant a pupil.

In 1649 Pacheco published a book on painting, in which we are told that the first attempts of Velasquez were studies in still life, or simple compositions of actual figures, called bodegones in Spanish, of which we have a fair example at the National Gallery in the Christ at the House of Martha. Sir Frederick Cook, at Richmond, has another, an Old Woman Frying Eggs, and the Duke of Wellington two more, of which The Water Carrier of Seville is probably the summit of the young painter's achievement before he left Seville, in 1623, and entered the service of Philip IV. as Court painter.

His first portrait of the king was the magnificent whole length in the Prado Gallery, now numbered 1182, standing in front of a table with a letter in his right hand. No. 1183 is the head of the same portrait, possibly done as a study for it. Philip was so pleased with this that he ordered all existing portraits of himself to be removed from the palace, and appointed Velasquez exclusively as his painter.

Another of his earliest successes at Court was the whole length portrait of the king's brother, Don Carlos, holding a glove in his right hand; and the picture now in the Museum at Rouen of A Geographer is probably of this date.

In 1628, when Velasquez was still quite young, and had fallen under no influence save that of Pacheco and the school of Seville, he was charged by the king to entertain Rubens, who came to the Spanish Court on a diplomatic mission, and show him all the treasures in the palace. If any one could influence Velasquez, we might suppose it would have been Rubens, who was not only a great painter, but a man of the most captivating manners and disposition, ever ready to help younger artists. But not only did he have no perceptible effect on the style of Velasquez, but in the picture of The Topers, which must have been painted while Rubens was at Madrid, or very shortly after he left, we can almost see a determination not to be influenced by him; for the subject was a favourite one of Rubens's, and yet there is nothing in this most realistic presentment of

Imperial Gallery, Vienna

actual figures under the title of Bacchus and his votaries which has anything at all in common with the florid and imaginative compositions of the Flemish painter. Velasquez had begun as a realist, and a realist he was to continue till the end of his days.

Shortly after painting this picture he left his native country for the first time, and visited Venice and Rome. At Venice he made copies of Tintoretto's Last Supper and Crucifixion; but little if any of Tintoretto's influence is to be seen in the two pictures he painted in Rome—The Forge of Vulcan and Joseph's Coat, both of which are still as realistic as ever in treatment, though showing great advances in technical skill. Soon after his return to Spain in 1631, he probably painted the magnificent whole length Philip IV. in the National Gallery, which compares so well, on examination with the more popular and showyAdmiral Pulido Pareja purchased some years ago from Longford Castle. Senor Beruete, who has studied the work of Velasquez more closely and more intelligently than any one else, considers that whereas there is not a single touch upon the former that is not from the brush of Velasquez, the latter cannot be properly attributed to him at all—any more than can another popular favourite, the Alexandro del Borroin the Berlin Gallery, now given to Bernard Strozzi.

To this period may be also assigned the Christ at the Column in the National Gallery, a picture which though not at first sight attractive, is nevertheless as fine in technique, and in sentiment, as any other picture in the Spanish room, and deserves far more attention than is usually given to it. Its simple realism and its pathetic sweetness are qualities which are wanting in many a more showy or sensational composition, and the more it is studied the nearer we find we are getting to the real excellences that distinguish Velasquez from any painter who has ever lived. The Crucifixion at the Prado is perhaps more wonderful, but the familiar subject helps the imagination of the spectator to admire it, whereas the unfamiliar setting of our picture is apt at first sight to repel.

The most important composition undertaken by Velasquez in this middle period of his career—that is to say between his two visits to Italy in 1629 and 1649—is the famous Surrender of Breda, or, as it is sometimes called, The Lances. Soon after his arrival in Madrid he had once painted an historical subject, The Expulsion of the Moors, in competition with his rivals who had asserted that he could paint nothing but heads. In this competition the prize was awarded to him, but as the picture has perished we are unable to judge of its merits for ourselves. But apart from this, and such unimportant groups of figures as we have mentioned, he had been occupied wholly in painting single portraits, and it is a marvellous proof of his genius that he should produce such a masterpiece of composition as The Lances with so little practice in this branch of his art. Here, at least, we might have expected to trace the influence of Rubens, but there is actually no sign of it; and if he sought any inspiration at all from other painters, it was from what he recalled of Tintoretto's work which he had seen and studied in Venice.

In the king's eldest boy, Baltazar Carlos, who was born in 1629, Velasquez found a model for two or three of his most charming pictures. One is at Castle Howard; a second the equestrian portrait, on a galloping pony, at the Prado; and a third the full length hunting portrait, also at the Prado, in which we see the little prince standing under a tree, gun in hand, with an enormous dog lying beside him. Another is at Vienna, representing him as of about eleven years old, full length, with his hand resting on the back of a chair. All of these owe some of their charm to the youth and attractive personality of the subject; but if we want to see the power of Velasquez without any outside element to help us to appreciate it, there is the portrait of the sculptor Martinez Montanes at the Prado. "The head is wonderful in its colour and its modelling," writes Senor Beruete; "and what a lesson in technique! The eyes, lightly touched with colour, are set deep in their sockets, and surmounted by a strongly marked forehead. The high lights are of a rich impasto, manipulated with extraordinary skill; the greyer tones of the flesh, so true and so delicate, are painted in a way that brings out with marvellous truth, both the soft parts of the cheeks and the harder structure of the face, under which one can follow the bones of the nose and forehead.... Everything in the picture is spontaneous, and one can see that it is a pledge of friendship given by one artist to another; there is nothing here of that artificial arrangement that spoils commissioned portraits even when they are the work of a painter as independent as Velasquez was. One feels here the assurance of an artist who knows that his work will be understood by his friend in the spirit in which it was executed." M. Lefort, the French critic, is even more enthusiastic. "Ah! these redoubtable neighbours," he exclaims, seeing it surrounded by the works of other painters at the Prado. "This canvas makes them look like mere imitations—dead conventional likenesses. Van Dyck is dull, Rubens oily, Tintoret yellow; it is Velasquez alone who can give us the illusion of life in all its fulness!"

In 1649 Velasquez paid his second visit to Rome, where he painted the famous portrait of His Holiness, Pope Innocent X. which is now in the Doria palace. This is exceptional in treatment, inasmuch as it is the only portrait by Velasquez in which the subject is seated—excepting of course equestrian portraits—and instead of the usual quiet tones of grey and brown which he was so fond of employing, the picture of the Pope is a radiant harmony of rose red and white. In its realism it is even more surprising than most of the other portraits, considering how ugly the face had to be made to resemble nature, although the sitter was of a still higher rank than Velasquez's royal master.

Returning to Madrid in 1651, Velasquez never again left Spain, and the remaining twenty years of his life may be considered the third period of his artistic development, inasmuch as no special influence was exerted upon him outside the ordinary and somewhat tedious course of his employment at the Court. To this period are assigned twenty-six pictures—Senor Beruete only admits the authenticity of eighty-three in all, it may be mentioned—twelve of which are royal portraits, seven those of buffoons and dwarfs, three mythological and two sacred subjects, and the two famous pieces of real life, Las Meninas and Las Hilanderas.

Of the royal portraits those of the Infanta Margarita are among the most fascinating, no less from their technical excellence than on account of the youthful charm of the little Princess. The one at Vienna represents her as about three years old, dressed in red, standing by a little table. Of this, Senor Beruete says that it is "one of the most beautiful inspirations of Velasquez, and perhaps one that reveals better than any other his power as a colourist; it is a flower, perfumed with every infantine grace." Another standing portrait, though only a half length, when she was not many years older, is that in the Salon Carré at the Louvre, which is more familiar to us being nearer home and more often reproduced. M. de Wyczewa praises it thus:—"The perfect chefs-d'œuvre collected in this glorious salon pale in the presence of this child portrait; not one of them can bear comparison with this simple yet powerful painting, which seems to aim only at external resemblance and without other effort to attain a mysterious beauty of form and colour." At Frankfort again is a charming picture of the little Princess, whole length, at the age of six or seven—a replica of which is at Vienna. She is dressed in greyish white with trimmings of black, and her hoop skirt is so enormous that her arms have to be stretched out straight to allow her hands to reach the edge of her coat.

Of the three mythological subjects two are in the Prado, namely the Mars and the Mercury and Argus, while the third and most beautiful is the Venus at the Mirror recently purchased for our national collection. These were all of them painted for the decoration of the royal palaces, and we may therefore suppose that the artist was not entirely at liberty either in the choice of his subject or in his method of treating it. Certainly he does not seem to have been fond of painting the nude, unless with men, and it is noticeable that he has posed his model in this case with more modesty and reserve than is to be observed in the pictures of Rubens and Titian. The Holy Church was sternly averse to this class of painting, in which, accordingly, none of the Spanish school indulged; but at the same time the royal galleries did not exclude the most exuberant fancies of Rubens, Titian, Tintoretto, and others, and Velasquez was in all probability commissioned by Philip to paint this Venus—and another which has perished—along with the Mars and Mercury without regard to the ecclesiastical authorities. But it is hardly surprising if Velasquez availed himself less fully of the privilege than a Flemish or Italian painter would no doubt have done, and has given us so chaste and beautiful a realisation of the goddess. Having regard to the scepticism with which this masterpiece was received in England at the time of its purchase for the nation it is worth quoting Senor Beruete's remarks upon it in that connection. "The authenticity of this work," he writes "has found numerous doubters in Spain, less on account of its subject—being the only nude female figure in the whole œuvre of Velasquez—than because so few people ever suspected its existence; but after it was exhibited at Manchester in 1857 and in London in 1890, it was recognised that its attribution to Velasquez was well founded. At the sight of the canvas all doubt vanishes. There, indeed, is the style, the inimitable technique of Velasquez."

This, from the connoisseur who has devoted years of study to the work of the master, and who rejects such well established examples as the Dulwich Philip IV. and the Admiral Pulido Pareja, is surely more conclusive than the academic pedantry of ignorance masquerading as authority.

Bartolomé Estéban Murillo (1617-1682) has always been accounted the most popular of the Spanish painters, and it is only in recent times that his popularity has faded into comparative insignificance on the fuller recognition and understanding of the genius of Velasquez. The intensely Anglican feeling in this country during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries

National Gallery, London

seems to have found peculiar relief in the sentimental aspirations of the followers of Raphael in the rendering of religious subjects from the Romish point of view. At the present time we are readier to estimate Murillo's justly high place in the annals of painting by such a picture as his own portrait, lent by Lord Spencer to the recent Exhibition, than to allow it on the strength of our recollection of the Madonnas and Holy Families, Immaculate Conceptions and Assumptions, of which there exist so many copies in the dining rooms of country rectories. The Boy Drinking, which is here reproduced, if it is the least "important" of the four examples in the National Gallery, is certainly not the least excellent.

From the miserable state into which Spain had fallen by the end of the seventeenth century, it could hardly be expected that anything further in the nature of art would result, and it was not until towards the end of the eighteenth that another genius arose, in the person of Francisco Goya (1746-1828). Of this extraordinary phenomenon in the firmament of art it is impossible to say more than a very few words in this place. Like a meteor, he is rather to be pointed at than talked about, when there are so many stars and planets whose regular courses have to be observed and recorded. He was like a sharp knife drawn across the face of Spain, gashing it here and there, but for the most part just touching it lightly enough to sting and to leave a mark. As a Court painter he was an unqualified success, his salary under Charles IV. rising in ten years from 15,000 to 50,000 reals; but his official productions are not the less devoid of interest on that account, and are sometimes the more satirical from the necessity for concealment. In his more outspoken works, such as the Disasters of War, and the series of prints called Los Caprichos and Tauromachia, he is too brutal not to affect the ordinary observer's judgment upon his artistic qualities. Velasquez himself could scarcely stop short enough, when painting dwarfs and idiots and cripples, to let us admire his genius unhampered by shivers of repulsion. Goya, being exactly the opposite of Velasquez in temperament, had no scruples about expressing the utmost of his subject; and even in decorating a church was reproved for "falling short of the standard of chastity" required. But between the extremes of brutality and conventionalism there is such a wide expanse of pure joy of painting that nothing can diminish the reputation of Goya, however much it is likely to be enhanced. To the modern Spanish painter he is probably as fixed a beacon as Velasquez.

PLATE XX.—MURILLO  A BOY DRINKING  National Gallery, London
A BOY DRINKING National Gallery, London