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nearly ruined, its docks comparatively empty, and its streets deserted. Within the last few years it has recovered a part of its former prosperity.
Antwerp enjoys a high reputation from its encouragement of the arts, and the eminent artists it has produced. It would be sufficient to mention the great names of Rubens (who lived here, and whose parents were of Antwerp), and of Vandyck, without alluding to others also great in their way, as Teniers, Jordaens, Quentin Matsys, &c., who were all natives of Antwerp or its neighbourhood, Trade and commerce have, indeed, deserted it, but their consequences, in a variety of instances, particularly in the great works of art produced here, still remain behind; the power and genius of Rubens, especially, whose masterpieces still exist here, are nowhere else to be equally understood and appreciated. The Academy or Corporation of St. Luke, in this city, for the encouragement of painting, was one of the oldest societies of the kind in Europe; it was founded in 1454 by Philip the Good, and endowed by Philip IV. of Spain, and may be regarded as the cradle of the Flemish school. A colossal statue of Rubens, by Geefs, a native of Antwerp, has been erected on the Place Verte, in
The Cathedral of Notre Dame, one of the largest churches and most beautiful specimens of Gothic architecture in the Netherlands. It is believed to have been commenced in the middle of the 13th century, and to have taken 84 years to finish. It was burnt in 1533, but the tower and choir were preserved. It was rebuilt the following year. The interior is simple and imposing it is 500 feet long and 250 wide, and the effect of the vastness of its lofty choir and nave, with treble aisles on each side, is assisted by its being all finished on the same uniform plan, and left open. It was sacked by the fanatic Iconoclasts in 1566, when its rich altars and ornaments, and sculptures, were either burned or carried off. In the choir, a chapter of the Golden Fleece was held in 1555 N. Germ.
by Philip II. of Spain, at which nine kings and sovereign princes were present, and assisted as knights of the order.
The great attraction in this church is the celebrated masterpiece of Rubens the Descent from the Cross. It hangs in the S. transept, near the door leading out of the Place Verte. On one of the lateral pieces or folding doors is represented the Salutation of the Virgin; on the other the Presentation of the Infant Jesus in the Temple; and on the back of them are a colossal figure of St. Christopher carrying the infant Saviour, and a hermit.
"This picture, of all the works of Rubens, is that which has the most reputation. I had consequently conceived the highest idea of its excel lencies; knowing the print, I had formed in my imagination what such a composition would produce in the hands of such a painter. I confess I was disappointed. However, this disappointment did not proceed from any deficiency in the picture itself; had it been in the original state in which Rubens left it, it must have appeared very different; but it is mortifying to see to what degree it has suffered by cleaning and mending. That brilliant effect, which it undoubtedly once had, is lost in a mist of varnish, which appears to be chilled or mildewed. The Christ is in many places retouched, so as to be visible at a distance; the St John's head repainted; and other parts, on a close inspection, appear to be chipping off, and ready to fall from the canvass. However, there is enough to be seen to satisfy any connoisseur, that in its perfect state it well deserved all its reputation.
"The composition of this picture is said to be borrowed from an Italian print. The greatest peculiarity of this composition is the contrivance of the white sheet on which the body of Jesus lies: this circumstance was probably what induced Rubens to adopt the composition. He well knew what effect white linen, opposed to flesh, must have, with his powers of colouring; a circumstance which was not likely
to enter into the mind of an Italian painter, who probably would have been afraid of the linen's hurting the colouring of the flesh, and have kept it down by a low tint. And the truth is, that none but great colourists can venture to paint pure white linen near flesh; but such know the advantage of it. I consider Rubens's Christ as one of the finest figures that ever was invented: it is most correctly drawn, and, I apprehend, in an attitude of the utmost difficulty to execute. The hanging of the head on his shoulder, and the falling of the body on one side, gives it such an appearance of the beaviness of death, that nothing can exceed it.
"Of the three Maries, two of them have more beauty than he generally bestowed on female figures; but no great elegance of character. The St. Joseph of Arimathea is the same countenance which he so often introduced in his works; a smooth fat face, a very unhistorical character. The principal light is formed by the body of Christ and the white sheet; there is no second light which bears any proportion to the principal. In this respect it has more the manner of Rembrandt's disposition of light than any other of Rubens's works: however, there are many detached lights distributed at some distance from the great mass, such as the head and shoulders of the Magdalen, the heads of the two Maries, the head of St. Joseph, and the back and arm of the figure leaning over the cross; the whole surrounded with a dark sky, except a little light in the horizon, and above the cross.
"The historical anecdote relating to this picture says that it was given in exchange for a piece of ground (belonging to the guild of Arquebusiers) on which Rubens built his house; and that the agreement was only for a picture representing their patron, St. Christopher, with the Infant Christ on his
*Rubens probably obtained the idea of this picture from a celebrated one of the same subject, in the church of the Trinità de' Monti at Rome, by Daniel di Volterra, who was assisted in it by Michael Angelo; there is considerable similarity in the two works.
shoulders. Rubens, who wished to surprise them by his generosity, sent 5 pictures instead of one; a piece of gallantry on the side of the painter, which was undoubtedly well received by the Arquebusiers, since it was so much to their advantage, however expensive to the maker of it. It was undertaken 1611 and set up 1612. All those pictures were intended to refer to the name of their patron Christopher.
"In the first place, the body of Christ on the altar is borne by St.John, St. Joseph of Arimathea, Mary Magdalen, &c. On one side of the left door is the Salutation of Mary and Elizabeth. The Virgin here bears Christ before he is born."—Sir J. R.
The two doors when closed form a single picture, representing St. Chris topher himself bearing the Infant on his shoulders, guided by the light of a hermit's lantern. "The hermit appears to be looking to the other side; one hand holds the lantern, and the other is very naturally held up to prevent the light from coming upon his eyes. the reverse of this door, we have another Christopher, the priest Simeon bearing Christ high in his arms, and looking upwards. This picture, which has not suffered, is admirable indeed, the head of the priest more especially, which nothing can exceed; the expression, drawing, and colouring are beyond all description, and as fresh as if the piece were just painted. The colouring of the St. Christopher is too red and bricky, and the outline is not flowing. This figure was all that the company of the Arquebusiers expected; but Rubens justly thought that such a figure would have made but a poor subject for an altar.”— R.
This picture was taken by the French to Paris, and while there underwent a very judicious reparation and cleaning; so that it is probably in far better condition now than when seen by Sir Joshua. At any rate, it is the opinion of the best judges, that his praise of this truly wonderful picture is on the whole too qualified. He has omitted to mention the well-known story of the share
which Vandyck is said to have had in the painting. While the work was in progress, and during the absence of Rubens, the picture was thrown down by accident or carelessness of his pupils, and received serious injury in the fall. Vandyck was selected as the most skilful hand among them to repair the damage, and succeeded so well, that Rubens, on his return, declared that he preferred his scholar's work to his own. The parts restored by him were the cheek and chin of the Virgin, and the arm of the Magdalen.
In the opposite or N. transept is the Elevation of the Cross, "the first public work which Rubens executed after he returned from Italy. In the centre is Christ nailed to the cross, with a number of figures exerting themselves in different ways to raise it. One of the figures appears flushed, all the blood rising into his face from his violent efforts; others in intricate attitudes, which, at the same time that they show the great energy with which the business is done, give that opportunity which painters desire, of encountering the difficulties of the art, in foreshortening and in representing momentary actions. This subject, which was probably of his own choosing, gave him an admirable opportunity of exhibiting his various abilities to his countrymen: and it is certainly one of his best and most animated compositions.
"The bustle which is in every part of the picture makes a fine contrast in the character of resignation in the crucified Saviour. The sway of the body of Christ is extremely well imagined. The taste of the form in the Christ, as well as in the other figures, must be acknowledged to be a little inclinable to the heavy; but it has a noble, free, and flowing outline. 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: it gives a new and uncommon air to his subject, and we may justly add, that it is uncommonly beautiful. The contrast of the body with the legs is admirable, and not overdone.
"The doors are a continuation of the subject. That on the right has a group of women and children, who appear to feel the greatest emotion and horror at the sight: the Virgin and St. John, who are behind, appear very properly with more resignation. On the other door are the officers on horseback attending; behind them are the two thieves, whom the executioners are nailing to the cross.
"It is difficult to imagine a subject better adapted for a painter to exhibit his art of composition than the present; at least Rubens has had the skill to make it serve, in an eminent degree, for that purpose. In the naked figures of the Christ and of the executioners, he had ample room to show his knowledge of the anatomy of the human body in different characters. There are likewise women of different ages, which is always considered as a necessary part of every composition in order to produce variety; there are, besides, children and horsemen; and, to have the whole range of variety, he has even added a dog, which he has introduced in an animated attitude, with his mouth open, as if panting; admirably well painted. His animals are always to be admired; the horses here are perfect in their kind, of a noble character animated to the highest degree. Rubens, conscious of his powers in painting horses, introduced them in his pictures as often as he could. This part of the work, where the horses are represented, is by far the best in regard to colouring: it has a freshness which the other two pictures want; but those appear to have suffered by the sun.
"The central picture, as well as that of the group of women, does not, for whatever reason, stand so high for colour as every other excellence. There is a dryness in the tint; a yellow-okery colour predominates over the whole; it has too much the appearance of a yellow, chalk drawing. I mean only to compare Rubens with himself: they might be thought excellent, even in this respect, were they the work of almost any other painter. The flesh, as well as the rest of the picture, seems