Paris – Louvre – Salon Carre

AFTER having traversed these two rooms the spectator will probably be able to attack the Salon Carré, which contains what are considered by the authorities as the gems of the collection, irrespective of period or country (a very regrettable jumble). Almost all of them, therefore, deserve attention. I shall direct notice here chiefly to those which require some explanation. Begin to the left of the door which leads from the Salle Duchatel.

Close to the door, Apollo and Marsyas ; a delicate little Perugino, attributed to Raphael. Good treatment of the nude, and painted like a miniature. Renaissance feeling. Compare it with the St. Sebastian in the Salle des Primitifs.

Above it, Jehan de Paris. Madonna and Child, with the donors ; a characteristic and exceptionally beautiful example of the early French school. Contrast its character with the Italian and Flemish. Extremely regal and fond of tinsel ornament.

20. Correggio. Jupiter and Antiope, a good example of his Correggiosity and marvellous arrangement of light and shade. Very late Renaissance. Perfection of art ; very little feeling.

446. Titian. Entombment. A fine, but faded example of the colour and treatment of the prince of the Venetian Renaissance.

231. Luini. Virgin and Child. Not a pleasing example.

419 and 417. Two admirable portraits by Rembrandt.

250. Mantegna. Crucifixion, predella or base of the great picture in San Zeno at Verona. Notice the admirable antique character of the soldiers casting lots for Christ’s raiment. The rocks are very Mantegnesque in treatment. One of the artist’s finest pictures. Spend some time before it. We will return again to this fine painting.

381. Andrea del Sarto. Holy Family. Showing well the character of this master’s tender and melting colour ; also the altered Renaissance treatment of the subject.

Beyond the doorway, two dainty little Memlings. Marriage of St. Catherine, the Alexandrian princess, to the infant Christ ; and the donor with St. John Baptist and his lamb. When a saint places his hand on a votary’s shoulder, it usually indicates the patron whose name the votary bears.

Near it, graceful little St. Sebastian of the Umbrian School. Compare with others. This plague-saint is one of the few to whom mediaeval piety permitted nudity.

310. Raphael. The great St. Michael, painted for François Ier. Admirable in its instantaneous dramatic action. This picture may be taken, in its spirit and vigour, as marking the culminating point of the Italian Renaissance as here represented.

Near it, Titian. The Man with the Glove; a fine portrait.

19. Correggio. The Marriage of St. Catherine. This is a characteristic treatment, by the great painter of Parma, of this mystical subject. St. Catherine is treated as an Italian princess of his own time, on whose finger the infant Christ playfully places a ring. The action has absolutely no mystic solemnity. Behind stands St. Sebastian, with his arrows to mark him (without them you would not know him from a classical figure), looking on with amused attention. His smile is lovely. In the background, episodes of the martyrdom of St. Sebastian, proving this to be probably a plague picture. But the whole work, though admirable as art, has in it nothing of religion, and may be aptly compared as to tone with the Education of Cupid by the same artist in the National Gallery. Nothing could surpass the beauty of the light and shade, and the exquisite colouring. Study it as a type of the last word of the humanist Renaissance against mediæval spirituality. Compare it with the Memling close by, and, if you have been at Milan, with the exquisitely dainty Luini in the Poldi-Pezzoli Museum.

Above it, a Holy Family by Murillo. Spanish and theatrical.

The greater part of this wall is taken up by an enormous canvas (95), by Paolo Veronese representing the Marriage at Cana of Galilee from the refectory (or dining-hall) of Sal Giorgio Maggiore at Venice. Pictures of this subject, or of the Last Supper, or of the Feast in the House of Levi, were constantly placed as appropriate decorations to fill the end wall of monastic refectories (like the famous Lionardo at Milan), and were often therefore gigantic in size. This monstrous and very effective composition (proudly pointed out by the guides as ” the largest oil-painting in the world “) contains nothing of sacred, and merely reflects with admirable skill the lordly character of the Italian Renaissance. In the centre of the table, one barely notices the figures of the Christ and the Madonna. Attention is distracted both from them and from the miracle of the wine by the splendid architecture of the background, the loggias, the accessories, and the gorgeous guests, many of them representing contemporary sovereigns (among them François Ier, Eleanor of Austria. Charles V., and Sultan Soliman). The group of musicians in the centre foreground is also composed of portraits, — this time of contemporary painters (Titian, Tintoretto, etc.). As a whole, a most characteristic picture both of the painter and his epoch, worth some study, and full of good detail.

39. Giorgione. Pastoral scene, with nude figures. One of the few undoubted pictures by this master, whose genuineness is admitted by Morelli, though much repainted. Should be studied as an example of the full flush of the Venetian Renaissance, and of the great master who so deeply affected it. Notice the admirable painting of the nude, and the fine landscape in the background. Contrast with the Bellinis in the Salle des Primitifs, in order to mark time and show the advance in technique and spirit. Giorgione set a fashion, followed later by Titian and others. Compare this work with Titian’s Jupiter and Antiope in the Long Gallery.

Above it (427) Rubens. Adoration of the Magi. A splendid picture. Interesting also as showing how far Rubens transformed the conceptions of the earlier masters. Compare it with the Luini in the Salle Duchâtel, and other Adorations in this gallery. Full of gorgeousness, dash, and certainty of execution.

37. Antonello da Messina. Characteristic hard-faced portrait by this excellent Sicilian artist.

459. Lionardo. St. Anne and the Virgin.

This great artist can be better studied in the Louvre than anywhere else in the world. This picture, not perhaps entirely by his own hand, is noticeable for the beautiful and very Lionardesque face of St. Anne, the playful figure of the infant Christ, and the admirable blue-toned landscape in the background. The smiles are also thoroughly Lionardesque. Notice the excellent drawing of the feet. The curious composition — the Virgin sitting on St. Anne’s lap — is traditional. Two or three examples of it occur in the National Gallery. Lionardo transformed it. He is the great, scientific artist of the Florentine Renaissance.

208. Hans Holbein, the younger. Admirable portrait of Erasmus. Full of character. Note carefully. The hands alone are worth much study. How soft they are, and how absolutely the hands of a scholar immersed in his reading and writing.

108. Clouet. Elizabeth of Austria. A fine example of the early French school, marking well its hard manner and literal accuracy. It shows the style in vogue in Paris before the School of Fontainebleau (Italian artists introduced by François Ier) had brought in Renaissance methods.

162. Van Eyck. Madonna and Child, with the Chancellor Rollin in adoration. Perhaps Van Eyck’s masterpiece. Notice the comparatively wooden Flemish Madonna and Child, contrasted with the indubitable vitality and character in the face of the chancellor. This picture is a splendid example of the highest evolution of that type in which a votary is exhibited adoring the Madonna, — the primitive form of portrait : ” Paint me in the corner, as giving the picture.” Every detail of this finished work deserves long and close inspection. Notice the elaboration of the ornaments, and the delicious glimpse of landscape through the arcade in the background. Compare with the Memlings ; also with contemporary Italian work in the Salle des Primitifs.

362. Raphael. Madonna and Child, with infant St. John, known as “La Belle Jardinière.” To the familiar group of the Madonna and Child, Florentine painters and sculptors early added the infant Baptist, as patron of their city, thus forming a graceful pyramidal composition, This exquisite picture, by far the most beautiful Raphael in the Louvre, belongs to the great painter’s Florentine period. It should be compared with the very similar Madonna del Cardellino in the Uffizi at Florence. For simplicity of treatment and beauty of colouring this seems to me the loveliest of Raphael’s Madonnas, with the exception of the Granduca. Look at it long, for colour, design, and tender feeling. Then go back to the St. Michael, and see how, as Raphael gains in dramatic vigour, he loses in charm.

407. Rembrandt. Christ and the Disciples at Emmaus. A fine study in light and shade, and full of art, but not a sacred picture. Compare with other pictures of the scene in this gallery. The feeling is merely domestic.

433. Rubens. Tomyris, Queen of the Scythians, with the head of Cyrus. A fine, vigorous painting, with the action frankly transferred to the court of Henri IV. Dash and colour and all the Rubens attributes.

365. Raphael. Small Holy Family.

364. Raphael. Holy Family, known as the “Sainte Famille de François Ier : ” Joseph, Madonna, infant Christ, St. Elizabeth and the Baptist, and adoring angels. Belongs to Raphael’s Roman period, and already vaguely heralds the decadence. Admirable in composition and painting, but lacking the simplicity and delicacy of colour of his earlier work. Compare it with the Belle jardinière. It marks the distance traversed in art during his lifetime. The knowledge is far greater, the feeling less.

142. Van Dyck. Charles I. A famous and splendid portrait, with all the courtly grace of this stately painter.

462. Lionardo. Portrait of Mona Lisa. Most undoubted work of the master in existence. Has lost much of its flesh tints by darkening, but is still subtly beautiful. Compare with any of the portraits in the Salle des Primitifs, in order to understand the increase in science which made Lionardo the prince and leader of the Renaissance. The sweet and sphinx-like smile is particularly characteristic. Observe the exquisite modelling of the hands, and the dainty landscape background. Do not hurry away from it.

363. Raphael. Madonna with the infant St. John, known as ” La Vierge au Voile.” A work of his early Roman period, intermediate in style between the Belle Jardinière and the François Ier. Compare them carefully.

Above it (379) Andrea del Sarto. Charity. A fine example of Andrea’s soft and tender colouring.

523. Portrait of a young man. Long attributed to Raphael. More probably Franciabigio. Pensive and dignified.

452. Titian. Alphonso of Ferrara and His Mistress. A fine portrait, with its colour largely faded.

Above it, 154. Good portrait by Van Dyck.

539. Murillo. The Immaculate Conception. Luminous and pretty, in an affected showy Spanish manner. Foreshadows the modern religious art of the people. An immense favourite with the inartistic public.

121. Gerard Dom. The Dropsical Woman. A triumph of Dutch painting of light and shade and detail. Faces like miniatures. The lamp and curtain like nature. Illuminated on the darkest day. Examine it attentively.

293. Metsu. Officer and Lady. Another masterpiece of Dutch minuteness, but far less fine in execution.

526. Ter Borch. Similar subject treated with coarse directness.

551. Velasquez. The Infanta Marguerite ; a famous portrait.

A little above it (229), Sebastiano del Piombo. Visitation. Compare with the Ghirlandajo in the Salle des Primitifs. A very favourable example of this Venetian master, painted in rivalry with Raphael. It well exhibits the height often attained, even by minor masters, at the culminating point of the Renaissance.

Above, occupying a large part of the wall, * Paolo Veronese. Christ and the Magdalen, at the supper in the house of Levi. Another refectory picture, treated in Veronese’s large and brilliant manner, essentially as a scene of lordly Venetian life. The Pharisee facing Christ is a fine figure. Notice the intrusion of animals and casual spectators, habitual with this artist. The sense of air and space is fine. The whole picture is instinct with Venetian feeling of the period ; scenic, not sacred. A lordly treatment. Earlier painters set their scene in smaller buildings : the Venetians of this gorgeous age chose rather the Piazza of some mighty Renaissance Italian city. Here, the architecture recalls the style of Sansovino. This room also contains many good works of the seventeenth century, justly skied. Examine them by contrast with the paintings of the best ages of art beneath them. Return to them later, after you have examined the works of the French artists in later rooms of this gallery.