THAT splendid palace of art galleries, the Louvre, offers to the visitor an excursion of two hours merely to walk through it, and, with the exception of Mondays and certain holidays, it is open and free to the public throughout the entire year. The conditions on which artists may copy from the great works here are very liberal, and the opportunity for study is an art education in itself.
These vast collections of work, representative of almost every age and country and school of painting, date only from the sixteenth century, when the French kings of the Renaissance were in close intimacy with Italy in political interests and relations, and thus became inspired with enthusiasm for Italian genius and culture. François I formed a taste for Italian art during his campaigns in Italy, and he constantly invited the leading artists of that ” magic land ” to his court. Raphael and Michael Angelo were unable to accept his hospitalities, and to them he gave princely orders. Some fifty choice pictures by great masters were acquired by François I, and he made a large collection of antiquities, medals, vases, cameos, bronzes and statues. Among the pictorial treasures of his collection were the Leda of Michael Angelo (which was afterward destroyed), and works by Andrea del Sarto, Leonardo da Vinci, Perugino, Bordone, Fra Bartolommeo, Titian, Raphael and Sebastian del Piombo.
Under Louis XIV the number of works was greatly increased ; and on the death of Cardinal Mazarin, Colbert, then Minister, purchased for the king the large array of pictures, statues and busts that the Cardinal had amassed, so that by 1680 there were some three thousand works of art in the galleries.
The superb salon known as the Galerie d’Apollon was completed, and then, as now, glittered with gold. Eleven of the lofty rooms of the Louvre were filled with pictures that included sixteen by Raphael, twelve by Guido, eighteen by Paul Veronese, six by Correggio, eight by Domenichino, twenty-three by Titian, six by Tintoretto, fourteen by Van Dyck, five by Giulio Romano, seventeen by Poussin, and six by Le Brun, and there were also many from Rubens, Antonio Moro, and other artists of renown.
Subsequently a portion of these were taken to the palace at Versailles ; some were lost, and some of the collection was afterward conveyed to the Luxembourg, to which the public was admitted twice a week.
Under Louis XVI, the pictorial treasures of the government were almost equally divided between the Luxembourg and Versailles. M. Viardot, writing of this period, says that it ” was necessary that a new sovereign the nation should come into power for all these immortal works rescued from the royal catacombs to be restored to daylight and to life. Who could believe, without authentic proofs, without official documents, at what epoch this great sanctuary, this pantheon, this universal temple consecrated to all the gods of art, was thrown open to the public ? ”
It seems incredible, indeed, that in one of the crises of the Revolution, in the terrible year of 1793, ” the year so full of agitation, suffering and horror, when France was struggling with the last energy of despair against her enemies within and without, that at this supreme moment the National Convention, founding on the ruins of the country a new and rejuvenated land, ordered the formation of a national art collection.”
A decree was issued on July 27, 1793, ordering the opening of the ” Museum of the Republic,” and that all the works and objects of art, as the marble statues, vases and valuable cabinets and other furniture that were ” in the houses formerly known as royal ” should be transferred to the Louvre. It was further decreed that a hundred thousand francs should be placed annually at the disposal of the Minister of the Interior to be used as a fund with which to purchase from private sales such pictures and statues as it ” would not become the Republic to allow to pass into private hands,” and which should be placed in the Musée of the Louvre, which, under the name of the ” Central Museum of Arts,” was first opened to the public in November of 1793. At that time, David and a number of other French artists had their studios and apartments in the Louvre. By the decree of Napoleon, they were all turned out, and during the wars works of art were acquired from all over continental Europe, especially from Italy and Spain. Many of the most important works from the galleries in Milan, Bologna, Parma, and Modena were, under compulsion, transferred to France ; and in 1799 many of the great masterpieces from Rome, Verona, Mantua, and Pesaro were added to the splendid collections. In 1807 France enriched herself with artistic spoils from Holland and Germany, and the nineteenth century opened with exhibitions in which were included such masterpieces of art as ” The Laocoon,” the ” Belvedere Apollo,” the ” Venus de Milo,” Titian’s ” Assumption,” the ” St. Jerome ” of Correggio, the ” St. Elizabeth ” of Murillo, the ” Descent from the Cross ” of Rubens, Tintoretto’s ” Miracle of St. Mark,” the ” Last Sup-pers (the four) of Paul Veronese, Domenichino’s wonderful ” Communion of St. Jerome,” ” The Wrestlers,” ” The Transformation,” and other immortal works. But in 1815, after the campaign at Waterloo, France was forced to restore many of the works she had acquired by force, to the galleries and museums from which they had been taken.
Under the First Empire, the ” Venus de Milo ” was brought back and placed in that prominent position where the statue now arrests the attention of all who pass into the Salle de la Venus de Milo. As is well known, this statue was found imbedded in the earth at the island of Melos, at the entrance to the Greek Archipelago in 1820, and was purchased for six thou-sand francs by the French government. ” This is the only statue of Aphrodite handed down to us which represents her, not merely as a beautiful woman, but as a goddess,” says Lübke. ” The form is powerful and majestic, and yet instinct with an indescribable charm of youth and beauty, while the pure and noble expression of the head denotes the goddess’s independence of all human requirements, and the calm self-sufficiency of her divine character. The fact that this beautiful work, notwithstanding its great excellence, is not one of those which have been especially extolled by ancient authors, affords us an approximate idea of the beauty of those lost masterpieces which formed the great marvels of antiquity.”
Since the fall of the First Empire, the Louvre has acquired its foreign masterpieces by legitimate means. Murillo’s great work, ” The Conception,” was purchased (under the Second Empire) for six hundred and fifteen thousand and five hundred francs. Under the presidency of M. Thiers, during the Third Republic, the French government paid two hundred and six thousand francs for a fresco by Raphael. The government now makes an allowance of a hundred thousand francs a year to the Minister of Fine Arts for the purchase of pictures, and the collections are also continually increased by the transfer, from the Musée du Luxembourg, of the pictures of artists whose death has occurred, the galleries of the Luxembourg being intended for the pictures of living artists only. On the death of the artist they are sometimes removed, but this rule is not, of late years, invariable, and they may remain during the ten years before they are finally sent to the Louvre, this period of deliberation being allowed that the question of selection may be-subjected to critical consideration and final decision.
The arrangement of the pictures in the Louvre is ideally perfect. In the Salon Carré are collected the immortal masterpieces. In the other salons, the arrangement is historic, so far as possible. There are three floors, the first containing the ancient and modern sculpture and the engravings ; the second contains the picture galleries, and the third contains the Musée Chinois, the Musée de Marine, and the Musée Ethnographique, the Thomy-Thiéry collection, and several rooms filled with drawings. On the broad landing of the fine Escalier Daru – the Grand Staircase, whose ceiling is splendidly decorated in mosaic stands the Nike of Samothrace. The statue rests on a pedestal representing the prow of a trireme. The figure is instinct with motion, and it seems to be invested with an atmosphere that holds all the significance of fate and destiny. The goddess is represented as in the very act of descending from Olympus and alighting on earth. There is purpose and power in every fibre and in every fold of the voluminous drapery. As an example of early Greek art, this figure probably holds the first place of any now in existence. It belongs to the period of about 305 B. C., and was originally created to commemorate the naval victory of Demetrius Poliorcetes. But beyond the interest of history or classic art is that of the spiritual significance that may be read into this marvellous work. What message has she brought to earth from the heights of the gods ? Is it not the assurance of the infinite and the everlasting provision of the divine care and the divine apportioning ? Looking at the Nike in all its marvellous sublimity of beauty, its grandeur of action, one cannot but think of the lines :
” Know well, my soul, God’s hand controls Whate’er thou fearest ; Round Him in calmest music rolls Whate’er thou hearest.
” What to thee is shadow to Him is day And the end He knoweth ; And not on a blind and aimless way The spirit goeth.”
Headless, unseeing, the onward course is neither a blind nor aimless way ! This reflection impresses one while gazing on the Winged Victory of Samothrace.
The ancient sculpture of the Louvre includes many busts and statues of Roman Emperors and conquerors, Hadrian, Trajan, Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, Julius Caesar, Agrippa ; many fragments and reliefs from the Parthenon; busts and statues of mythological persons.
One very fine relief of Greek sculpture is the group of Orpheus and Eurydice and Hermes a work of which there are replicas in Rome and in Naples. The relief tells the entire story of the permission given to Orpheus to enter the infernal regions and bring back Eurydice, on the condition that he should not gaze upon her face on the way. But he failed to observe this, and Hermes advances and grasps her hand to lead her back to the shades. In the entire range of classic art, there is nothing more beautiful than this work.
The statue of Euripides is notable ; and the world-famous Venus de Milo, the colossal statue of Melpomene, created out of a single block of Pentellic marble, the Borghese Gladiator, a bust of the ” Genius of Eternal Sleep,” a head of Homer are among the works over which the visitor lingers, and to which he is apt to return.
The Egyptian and the Asiatic departments in the Louvre offer much that is of especial value to the archæologist. There is a sphinx in pink granite ; there are statues, sarcophagi, and bas-reliefs. A fragment of the inscription discovered in the Temple of Karnak is on a wall there are statuettes, ornaments and pottery. One room in the Egyptian department of the Louvre is called the Salle Funéraire, and it contains end-less details pertaining to the Egyptian worship of the dead. The ceiling of this salon is decorated with an allegorical painting by Abel de Pujol, and here are a vast array of mummy-cases, masks, pictures, cabinets and various articles pertaining to a time three thousand years ago, which, to the savant, tell their graphic story.
The gallery of Chinese antiquities is another place of curious interest, with its model of the Temple of Juggernaut ; of a Buddhist monastery ; its cabinets, enamels, faïence, its ornaments of pearl and jade, its musical instruments and carvings.
The Musée des Antiquités Asiatiques has a most valuable collection of Assyrian antiquities found in vast palaces, the rooms of which were lined with alabaster panels on which historic scenes were carved in relief. The cuneiform inscriptions and the hieroglyphics attract the scholar.
In Renaissance sculpture, while there is much that is deeply interesting, the collection is not, as a whole, remarkable. The Salle Jean Goujon contains the most famous work of that sixteenth century French sculptor, a group of Diana and the Stag ; and there are works of Frémin, Roussel, Germain Pilon, Le Hongre and Prieur, offering a representative collection of the plastic art in France at that period.
A small and somewhat unimportant collection of Italian sculpture of the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries fills the Salle Michel-Ange. Michael Angelo himself is represented by two statues, the ” Fettered Slaves,” which were designed to form part of a superb monument for Pope Julius II. These were created early in the sixteenth century, but the idea of the memorial monument was abandoned, and these figures were presented by Michael Angelo to Roberto Strozzi, from whom France obtained them. There is in this salon a nymph a relief in bronze by Benvenuto Cellini ; the bust of the Virgin, believed to be the work of Andrea della Robbia; reliefs by Mino da Fiesole ; a bas-relief of Julius Caesar by Donatello ; and some other Italian work of lesser importance.
The Musée des Sculptures Modernes contains French work from Pierre Puget (16221694) to Houdon, Barye and David d’Angers. Puget was a follower of Bernini, and his group of Perseus and Andromeda might easily be taken for some of the theatrical statues of Bernini in Rome. Houdon’s bronze statue of Diana, and his busts of Voltaire, Rousseau, Mirabeau and Washington are interesting. Among the works of François Rude are a ” Jeanne d’Arc,” ” Napoleon I Awakening to Immortality,” and a ” Fisherman ” of Naples.
But it is the picture galleries of the Louvre that especially enchain the lover or the student of art. Almost every school is here adequately represented. The Spanish works include the world-famous portrait of Philip IV by Velasquez, a representation of majesty and dignity wonderfully presented ; ” The Immaculate Conception ” of Murillo, the marvellous creation of the woman ” clothed with the sun,” a crown of twelve stars upon her hair, and the moon beneath her feet, a masterpiece of all the ages. Murillo is also represented by his Nativity of the Virgin,” his ” Beggar Boy,” ” Christ in Gethsemane,” and the ” Miracle of St. Diego.”
The Flemish and Dutch schools are richly represented, there being more than twenty paintings from Rubens alone. The series of the Marie de Médicis pictures enchant the eye. As the reader will recall, Marie de Médicis, the widow of Henri IV, returned to France as regent for her son, Louis XIII. After her exile she again returned to France in 1620, and engaged Rubens to decorate her palace of the Luxembourg with scenes from her own life. These were painted by the great master (with assistance from his pupils) between 1622 and 1625. A number of the sketches made for this series are preserved in Munich. The scenes of the pictures show, in the first, the Three Fates spinning the fortunes of Marie de Médicis; in the second her birth (in Florence, 1575), and in the third the education of the princess conducted by Minerva, Apollo and Mercury. In the second picture is seen Florentia, the goddess of Florence, holding the infant, while near is the river-god of the Arno, and Lucina (the goddess of births) raises her torch. In the next scene Amor (Love) shows the portrait of the princess to Henri IV, while Gallia stands by the king, and Jupiter and Juno are grouped near. Then follow the pictures showing the marriage by proxy, the bride’s uncle, the Grand Duke Ferdinand of Tuscany, acting for Henri IV; the landing of the queen at Marseilles ; the wedding-festival at Lyons, in which the king appears in the character of Jupiter, and the queen in that of Juno ; the birth of Louis XIII, with the goddess Fortuna looking on ; Henri IV, leaving for his Austrian campaign, is investing Marie with the regency ; the coronation of the queen at Saint Denis by Cardinal de Joyeuse ; the Apotheosis of Henri IV, when the mourning queen is seen between Minerva and Victoria, while noblemen group before her; Olympus protecting the regency, with several of the gods and goddesses in various groups around ; the queen on a battle-field crowned by Victoria ; the scene of the treaty between France and Spain ; the typical picture of the prosperity of the country, the queen bearing the scales of justice, while Minerva, Fortuna and Time are seen, with figures representing malice and hatred in the lower background ; then there is depicted the queen committing the ship of state to Louis XIII ; the flight of the queen ; Mercury conducting her to a temple of peace ; the queen and her son on Olympus, when Time brings truth to light, and Marie is crowned by Louis XIII with a chaplet of peace the picture that closes this remarkable series of biography and history depicted in figurative scenes on canvas.
Rubens is also represented by portraits of the parents of Marie de Médicis, the Grand Duke Francis of Tuscany and Johanna of Austria, by that of Marie de Médicis herself, and by his own portrait, as well as by several other minor works. So it will be seen that Rubens and his school can be well studied in the Louvre.
Many other important works from the Dutch and Flemish schools are in these salons, the ” Earthly Paradise ” of Snyders, the ” Child-hood of Jupiter ” by Jordaëns, and The Beanfeast ; ” landscapes from Van de Velde ; ” The Roysterers ” from Jan Steen; Rembrandt’s ” Two Philosophers,” and his ” Good Samaritan ; ” landscapes from Wouverman and Van der Heyde ; Van Dyck’s Elizabeth of Austria, seen as a Clarissine nun ; landscapes from Hobbema, Dekker and Van Ruysdael ; genre pictures from Metsu and Pieter de Hooch ; several pictures from the younger Teniers, and portraits from Sir Peter Lely ; Van Dyck’s ” Children of Charles I,” and the ” Annunciation ” and ” Dead Christ ” from Mabuse ; and ” Christ Imparting a Blessing ” from Quentin Matsys. There is also a notable portrait of St. Francis of Assisi from Pourbus, and ” St. Augustine in an Ecstatic Trance ” from De Crayer.
The French school is represented from the fifteenth century to the nineteenth, inclusive, Jean Cousin’s ” Last Judgment ” being a work especially remarked as one of the only two pictures from this artist now to be found.
The German school of painting is represented by works from the younger Holbein, a portrait of Sir Richard Southwell ; of Kratzer of Munich, astronomer to Henry VIII of England, and of one of the Archbishops of Canterbury, William Warham, about 1528 ; and also by a portrait of Sir Thomas More, Angelica Kauffmann’s portrait of the Baroness Krüdener and her daughter, the head of an old man by Albrecht Dürer, and that curious picture, the ” Praying Hands,” and the ” Death of Adonis from Rottenhammer.
The galleries of French pictures are entered through the Galerie Mollien, the vestibule decorated with carvings from Trajan’s Column and by many antique busts. The Galerie d’Apollon, opening into the Salon Carré, is a magnificent apartment, the dome decorated with paintings by Le Brun and Delacroix, and the pictures in both these salons comprise the choicest gems of the Louvre. Here the visitor finds the ” Mona Lisa ” of Da Vinci (the “Giaconda “) ; which Gautier has termed ” a miracle of painting ” in his fine critique on this work, in which he writes :
“ La Giaconda, sphinx of beauty, smiling so mysteriously in the frame of Leonardo da Vinci, and apparently proposing to the admiration of centuries an enigma which they have not yet solved, an invincible attraction still brings me back toward you. Who, indeed, has not remained for long hours before that head, bathed in the half tones of twilight, enveloped in transparency; whose features, melodiously drowned in a violet vapor, seem the creation of some dream through the black gauze of sleep ? From what planet has fallen in the midst of an azure landscape this strange being, whose gaze promises unheard-of delights, whose experience is so divinely ironical ? Leonardo impresses on his faces such a stamp of superiority that one feels troubled in their presence. The partial shadow of their deep eyes hides secrets forbidden to the profane; and the inflections of their mocking lips are worthy of gods who know everything. . . . La Giaconda would seem to be the Isis of some cryptic religion who, thinking herself alone, draws aside the folds of her veil, even though the impudent man who might surprise her should go mad and die. Never did feminine ideal clothe itself in more irresistibly seductive forms. Be sure that if Don Juan had met Mona Lisa he would have spared himself the trouble of writing in his catalogue the names of three thousand women. He would have embraced one, and the wings of his desire would have refused to carry him further. They would have melted and lost their feathers beneath the sun of these eyes.”
The transcendent glory of Murillo’s noble work, ” The Immaculate Conception,” illumines this salon with perpetual radiance. The beautiful composition of the ” Holy Family ” of Perugino, and the divine loveliness of Raphael’s ” Holy Family ” render the very atmosphere full of exaltation and power. Curiously, the Salon Carré contains no landscapes, but the collection includes that singular work by Titian, ” La Maîtresse,” the girl at her dressing-table, where, behind her, a man stands holding two mirrors ; Giotto’s ” St. Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata ;” a Madonna from Botticelli ; Cimabue’s ” Virgin and Angels ; ” Benozzo Gozzoli’s ” Triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas ; ” Correggio’s ” Betrothal of St. Catherine; ” ” The Adoration of the Magi,” from Rubens ; Raphael’s ” Madonna and Child ; ” and the ” Infanta Margharita ” by Velasquez. In the Salon Carré is also the ceiling painting from the Palace of the Doges in Venice, by Paolo Veronese, representing ” Jupiter Hurling Thunderbolts at Criminals.” Then, too, there are the celebrated ” Harvest Festival ” of Giorgione, the portrait, by Rubens, of his wife, a gorgeous piece of coloring, and Titian’s ” Christ in the Tomb.” Except a gallery in the Pitti Palace in Florence, no other one gallery in the world is so rich in masterpieces as is the Salon Carré.
The British school is fairly well represented in the Louvre in the way of the early masters. There is the ” Hampstead Heath ” by Constable ; Hoppner’s portrait of the Countess of Oxford ; landscapes from Gainsborough ; Lawrence’s portrait of Lord Whitworth ; Bonington’s
Cardinal Mazarin and Anne of Austria ; ” Opie’s ” The Woman in White ; ” and several other excellent examples of English art.
The picture that first attracts attention in the Salon Carré is ” The Marriage of Cana,” one of the great masterpieces of Italian art. No work by Paolo Veronese has inspired more interest than this, not only because of the fact that the figures include several portraits, but also because of the majesty of its proportions, and the richness of its coloring.
French art is represented with a breadth and catholicity of taste and with a chronological accuracy of detail peculiarly characteristic of the genius of the country. The successive schools of the classic, the romantic, the realistic, the impressionistic and that latest of all, the school of intimism, are included. More than one thousand of the entire three thousand pictures in the Louvre are by French artists. Many of the very earliest (of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries) are principally interesting for the subject, as that of the ” Martyrdom of St. Denis,” attributed to Malouel and Belle-chose, and a portrait of Jean Juvénal des Ursins, president of one of the first parliaments in the fifteenth century. Of this period there is an ” Entombment,” a ” Descent from the Cross,” and a picture of Calvary. In the seventeenth century the classic school is represented by Nicolas Poussin, Le Brun, Le Sueur, Claude Lorrain and Rigaud. Among the more important of Poussin’s works are the ” Landscape with Orpheus and Eurydice,” an ” Assumption,” ” Apollo and Daphne,” a ” Vision of St. Paul,” and numerous other sacred, historic and mythological works which have more claim for their technique than for their imaginative fervor, but several of them have a good degree of poetic illusion, and the visitor lingers before his ” Arcadian Shepherd ” with its legend, ” Et in Arcadia ego.” This line has inspired more than one poet to lyrical creation, the most perfect one being, perhaps, Mr. Bunner’s ” Arcady,” in which occurs the stanza :
” There was a time when life was new But far away and half forgot I only know her eyes were blue :
But Love I fear I knew it not. We did not wed for lack of gold And she is dead and I am old.
All things have come since then to me Save Love, oh, Love ! and Arcady ! ”
Claude Lorrain was one of the earliest artists to catch the vision of atmospheric transparency and his coloring reveals how keenly he perceived this aspect of nature. In the ” Harbor at Sunset,” and ” Harbor at Sunrise,” one sees how delicately he divined the very faintest difference of light in its diffusion in the air and the marvellous delicacy with which he transferred this to canvas. The green leaves quivering in the breeze had for him their language, a language which the great Corot was subsequently to grasp and record.
One entire room is given to Eustache Le Sueur for his beautiful series of paintings illustrating the life of Saint Bruno, who founded the order of Carthusians. These were painted (in 16451648) for the Carthusian monastery in Paris. Le Sueur is also represented by a picture of ” Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen,” ” St. Bruno and His Companions Feeding the Poor,” ” St. Paul Preaching at Ephesus,” ” St. Scholastica Appearing to St. Benedict,” and a ” Bearing of the Cross,” a picture full of a melancholy sweetness and subtle suggestion of sacrifice.
Philippe de Champaigne (16021674) was closely associated with Anne of Austria, and Louis XIII, and with Cardinal Richelieu. His religious paintings were full of mystic and austere quality, and his portraits are remarkable for their individuality of power.
Antoine Watteau (16841721) is copiously represented in the French collections with his rather insipid, but decorative pastoral scenes ; and there are several specimens of the art of François Boucher (17041770) and of Fragonard (17321806) and Chardin (1699-1779), whose specialty was still life. Jean Baptiste Greuze (17251805) is seen at his best in his ” Marriage Contract ; ” Jacques Louis David (17481825) was drawn to classic subjects, but he is more widely recognized by his portrait of Mme. Récamier, even though unfinished, than by his ” Horatii and Curatii,” his portrait of Pope Pius VII, or even by his greatest work, depicting the Sabine women interposing between the Sabines and Romans. David’s ” Death of Socrates ” is also a picture of which to take note, but in his portrait of Mme. Récamier he struck that note of intimacy of painting the mood of the moment in painting the individual, in revealing somewhat of the mystery of the inner life which is the latest result of the evolutionary progress of the painter’s art. It is not the absolute discovery of contemporary artists ; Leonardo da Vinci surprised its secret in his immortal work, the ” Mona Lisa,” and its achievement is always the truest art.
Although both Prud’hon and Ingres belong to the classical school, Ingres fails to catch this note of inner meaning, but Prudhon is not without the perception of hidden significances. In his ” Forest Landscape,” in which is seen the Empress Josephine, there is a sense of intimacy with the meditations of his lonely figure enveloped in exquisite twilight in the lengthening shadows. Prud’hon has a wonderful delicacy of touch ; and his historic canvas, ” The Meeting of François II and Napoleon after the Battle of Austerlitz,” suggests his power of dramatic conception and portrayal.
One of the paintings of Prud’hon, ” Crime Pursued by Justice and Divine Vengeance,” was painted for a room in the Palais du Justice, and it is one of the most tragic and impressive of his compositions.
The modern romantic school of French art is admirably represented in the Louvre. With Delacroix, Ary Scheffer, Delaroche, Ingres, and Vernet, a new era was initiated in French painting. Eugène Delacroix (17991863) first appeared at the Salon of 1822 with his picture of ” Dante and Virgil,” which has since become, if not world-famous, at least familiar to all the world. He passed much time in Algiers, and acquired a mastery of color and tone which finely depicted the poetic and impassioned subjects of his composition.
The ” Santa Monica and St. Augustine of Ary Scheffer, and his sympathetic interpretation of ” The Temptation in the Wilderness ” are pictures that appeal to the general public, although not rated highly by the critical writers on art.
Tony Robert-Fleury was a noted modern master of the genre work of historical subjects ; Corot, with his magical skill that fairly painted the atmosphere, the quivering life of green leaves, and the fragrance of blossoms; Meissonier, with his precision and clear execution ; Gérôme, with his rich coloring and classic scenes ; Jules Breton, the sympathetic interpreter of peasant life in Brittany and his exquisite transcripts of sunset skies and luminous mornings ; Dupré, with his lovely silvery lights of air and landscape ; Daubigny, with his vivid, yet delicate treatment of masses of light and shade, Alphonse de Neuville and Detaille, the painters of battle scenes; Troyon, with his cattle ; and Rosa Bonheur, preeminent in animal and landscape paintings, all these gave fame to their century.
In Corot, French landscape painting touched the highest quality that had heretofore been known. The poetic power of a dreamy twilight, the loveliness of foliage so harmonized with the air that it seemed a part of the very atmosphere, the refinement of his art all combined to make his transcriptions of nature the register of a new epoch in art. Such a painting as that of the ” Bath of Diana ” elevated landscape painting to a new rank. Under Corot, with whom may be grouped Rousseau and Monet, landscape painting acquired the illustrious degree that has been accorded it ever since this group of painters made their perfect interpretation of nature in all her moods. Cazin, Besnard, Breton, Raphael Collin, Carrière were to come ; but the supreme distinction of Corot can never be denied.
The middle years of the nineteenth century saw the rise of what has been termed the Barbizon school of art as represented by Millet, Courbet and Rousseau.
An increased freedom from the tyranny of conventional schools came with Jean François Millet. The obscure heroism, the unguessed poetry of humble lives found in him their interpreter. ” Millet’s ` Man With the Hoe ‘ was a tragic masterpiece,” says a French critic. Millet brought the psychological vision into painting. He saw into the springs of life. For him life was not enjoyment but achievement, and any one lingering over the permanent triumph of his lofty purposes and his noble work can but recall the profound truth in the lines :
” Who never ate his bread in sorrow, Who never spent the darksome hours Weeping and watching for the morrow, He knows you not, ye unseen Powers.”
In ” The Gleaners ” one reads the lesson of a lifetime. In the wonderful blooming ” Printemps,” one realizes that eternal joyousness which is always inherent in the painter and the poet.
The ceiling of the Galerie d’Apollon is enriched with a splendid decorative picture, ” Apollo’s Victory Over the Python,” by Delacroix, of whose genius it is one of the finest examples. This salon is one of the most resplendent interiors in the entire world. Its rich decorations comprise paintings from Delacroix, Le Brun and others, and on the walls are panel portraits of twenty-eight of the celebrated kings and artists of France. It is one of the places in which to study Delacroix, who speaks, indeed, with the divine authority of genius. His mastery of color is also recognized in his decorative paintings in St. Sulpice, ” Jacob Wrestling With the Angel,” ” St. Michael,” and others. His ” Algerian Women,” and his great historical painting, ” The Death of Queen Elizabeth of England ; ” his picture of ” The Barricade ” and his ” Massacre at Chios ” are works that hold their place in memory.
The Galerie d’Apollon contains an array of cases of curios and relics, and of magnificent furniture that makes it one of the spectacles of Paris. These are all comparatively recent, dating only from the reign of Louis XIV. The cases are of crystal, placed on gilt-bronze stands, and among their treasures are beautiful enamels and cloisonné, jewellers’ works in snuff-boxes, medallion miniatures, rings, brooches, chains, pendants, crosses, bracelets and other ornaments of the richest gems and dazzling stones ; wonderful pearls and cameos ; sceptres and prayer-books used for the coronation of French kings ; a mirror and candlestick set with jewels that be-longed to Marie de Médicis ; the crown jewels, with the Regent diamond, that is said to be worth from twelve to fifteen millions of francs; a rose diamond of immense value, called the Mazarin ; the crown of Napoleon I ; a chatelaine chain studded with diamonds that belonged to Catherine de Médicis ; a vase belonging to Eleanor of Aquitaine ; a casket that belonged to Anne of Austria ; a cup of sardonyx, whose handle is made of opals, diamonds and rubies ; an enormous crystal ; a reliquary and chalices of enamel and an epergne in lapis lazuli ; and numerous vases, cups, statuettes, and emblematic devices of silver and gold. and gems.
It would require a volume to adequately record the treasures of the Louvre. Its hospitable portals, always open, invite one to spend leisure mornings there. To saunter along from Hôtel Bellevue in the Avenue de l’Opéra on one of those summer mornings when the sun gilds the great statues on the stately Opera House and pours its golden light over all the beautiful and sparkling city, pausing at shop windows which frame priceless pictures and objets d’ art, or a wealth of fine books, or engravings, or jewelry, or faïence or bric-à-brac, and, crossing the Place du Théâtre Français, find the very river of life as it flows down the Rue de Rivoli in ceaseless procession, and stroll into the great galleries of the Louvre, is to enjoy one of the supreme privileges of Paris.
The Musée du Luxembourg is equally hospitable. The paintings and sculptures are exclusively the work of contemporary artists, and a survey of its contents gives one a fairly good realization of the French art of to-day. The Luxembourg is small, and the galleries are admirably arranged ; but there is no such beauty of interior as is found in many salons of the Louvre.
The sculpture in the Luxembourg includes many very interesting figures and groups, of which ” The Death of Alcestis,” by Allar, is easily notable. The artist has chosen for his theme the Greek story of King Admetus, who found that he must die unless some one would give up life for him. His wife, Queen Alcestis, offered her own, and it is at the moment of her death that the artist has immortalized her in marble.
Rodin’s statue of ” St. John ” recalls to the observer the story of its creation. In the Salon of 1877 Rodin had exhibited a statue called “The Age of Bronze,” which, writes Rudolf Dircks, ” has become one of the familiar things of the world — except to the guardians of the gardens of the Luxembourg, as I have had occasion to notice. From its place in the Luxembourg Gardens it has been removed recently to the Musée du Luxembourg ; and it may be mentioned that M. Rodin prefers the open air for the statue, as sculpture, particularly when it is cast in bronze, needs an equal diffusion of light which does not always exist in a gallery. On its exhibition at the Salon the figure was badly placed, and criticized adversely. But its position, and the commentary which within a few years has become entirely reversed, were small matters compared with the grave charge that Rodin had made his figure with moulds cast direct from life. Rodin found this accusation sufficiently disconcerting. The offence was not unknown among sculptors ; but it would be difficult to formulate a charge more likely to wound the feelings of a sculptor with a con-science ; and it was particularly irrelevant in the case of Rodin. He had neither money nor friends to back him in the matter. So far as the world was concerned, he was merely an employee of Belleuse. But, after all, the charge was groundless, and that was the main thing. Photographs and moulds taken from his model, a young Belgian soldier, which he procured from Brussels, were not sufficient to clear the air. Whereupon Rodin determined to convince his opponents by producing a figure, equally true to nature, but on a larger scale than life. This figure, St. John the Baptist, was exhibited at the Salon two years later.”
The group of artists chosen to investigate this charge against M. Rodin was composed of Falguière, Chaplin, Belleuse, Delaplanche and Paul Dubois. They united in vindicating him, and the purchase of the statue by the French Government gave the final affirmation in favor of his artistic conscience. ” St. John the Baptist ” has been often chosen as a subject by sculptors. ” There are,” continues M. Dircks, ” the two St. Johns of Donatello; and here, one feels that the sculptor was moved by religious fervor and belief, by an abstract conception of the precursor, while using the symbols associated with St. John, and clothing him after the manner in which he lived. The splendid qualities of his art were put humbly to the service of the realization of a religious conception. With Rodin the process, we fancy, was entirely different. His St. John is perfectly satisfactory as an interpretative figure ; criticism at least has been content to accept it from that point of view. But is it the whole point of view ? He starts from the concrete, from nature herself, from, in fact, the model.
” Donatello appeals to truth from the abstract ; Rodin to the abstract from truth. The one says, in effect, here is Saint John ; the other, here is a figure which a literary friend says represents Saint John. In one case the definite title is appropriate ; in the other, it is not perhaps of so much importance. It is possibly not carrying the distinction too far, to say that Donatello appeals to one’s artistic sense through the emotions occasioned by his realization of the Baptist, and Rodin through the verisimilitude of his figure, apart from any preconceived ideas.”
Rodin himself holds that nothing that has life can lack beauty. ” Whatever suggests human emotion,” he says, ” whether of grief or pain, goodness or anger, hate or love, has its individual seal of beauty.” Besides this figure of St. John, Rodin is represented in the Luxembourg by ” Le Baiser,” ” La Pensée,” the busts of Laurens and of Puvis de Chavannes and by several small bronzes. ” Le Baiser ” was purchased by France in 1898, and on that occasion M. Bénédite remarked that while it was not a new work, ” l’oeil, s’habitue peu à peu inconsciemment à des nouveautés qu’il avait jadis impitoyablement condamnées.”
A very impressive work among the sculpture of the Luxembourg is the ” Two Sorrows ” by Rivière, two female figures, shrouded and hooded, in intimate communion and mutual consolation. Saint Marceaux has a charming figure, the ” Youth of Dante ; ” from Mercié is a figure of ” David ” in bronze, and from Gérôme a bust of Mme. Sarah Bernhardt and one of Napoleon I.
Chapu’s ” Jeanne d’Arc ; ” the ” Ariadne ” of Aimé Millet ; the ” St. Sebastian ” of Becquet ; Charpentier’s ” Improvisatore ; ” the ” Rescue of Iphigenia ; ” ” Ariadne ; ” ” Tarcisius, the Martyr,” from Falguière, and the ” Jeanne d’Arc ” of Cordonnier are among the most individual and valuable creations of this collection. A figure of ” Immortality ” too, by Longepied should be included among the statues that repay study.
The range of contemporary art offered by the pictures in the Luxembourg indicates with singular accuracy the present outcome of artistic evolution. Here is an array of pictures which introduce thought into art in a new way. Many of them are fairly literary romance transposed into painting, so vividly do they reveal the inner life. The very subjects are intimate in their nature. Let one pause before Besnard’s figure piece called ” Woman Warming Herself,” and read in it the mystery of daily life. Studying Colin’s ” Gypsies,” how one feels the fantastic tragedy of existence. Or in Cazin’s ” Ishmael.” Here the creator of those exquisitely poetic transcriptions of silvery nights, enchanting unrealities of distance, and mystic mornings, portrays a figure instinct with defiance, and yet conveying the feeling that in an instant, at the right touch, the right word, antagonism would melt into harmony.
In these salons of the Luxembourg one finds Rosa Bonheur’s great landscape, ” La Nivernaise,” where a blue sky, soft and melting into the golden air, bends over the meadows where a husbandman is ploughing with his oxen. The composition is of the simplest, and is yet the most masterly in that the artist makes one fairly feel the infinite space of the far horizon line, the freshness and purity of the morning air, the warmth and glow of the sunshine.
From Zorn there is A Fisherman,” with all the witchery and fascination of color and of atmosphere of which the Swedish artist has surprised the secret. The beautiful ” Love and Life ” of Watts is in these galleries, Love leading Life up a rocky pathway. Whistler’s celebrated portrait of his mother is seen here in a good light ; there is a Norwegian landscape from that almost incomparable painter of out-of-door life, Thaulow of Norway ; and the two Robert-Fleurys are characteristically represented Tony Robert-Fleury by a figure piece, ” Old Woman of the Piazza Navona, Rome,” and J. N. Robert-Fleury by three historical paintings, ” Conference at Poissy in Presence of Catherine de Médicis and Charles IX,” ” Galileo Before the Inquisition,” and ” Columbus After His Return From America.”
One of the beautiful conceptions of Henner, whose art conjures up nymphs and naiads, is in these galleries, a reclining figure, veiled in her wonderful bronze gold hair, surprised when sleeping by a still pool in which is reflected the blue sky and the clustering greenery around.
Dagnan-Bouveret is represented by ” The Sacred Wafer,” a religious scene ; Delaunay by the ” Communion of the Apostles ; ” Gustave Doré by a dramatic painting entitled ” The Family of Tobias and the Angel,” and Jules Dupré by a ” Morning ” and ” Evening.” Raphael Collin, one of the most ideal of modern artists, has an interpretation of ” May,” in which its is condensed the very poetry of spring. Some “Sea Pieces,” from Boudin, with the blue, tossing water ; an historical painting, ” The Last Rebels,” from Benjamin Constant ; two battle pieces from Detaille, ” The Dream ” and the ” March Out of the Garrison of Hunigen in 1815,” are interesting. There are two large historical scenes from Laurens, the ” Deliverance of the Prisoners of Carcassonne,” and the ” Excommunication of King Robert of France.” Hector Le Roux is represented by two archaeological paintings, ” Herculaneum,” and a ” Columbarium,” which are classic in every detail. Besnard, who is always a poet at heart as well as a painter, is represented by one of the most exquisite marine landscapes of latter-day art, – the ” Harbor of Algiers at Sunset.” All the wonderful color and almost ethereal loveliness of the atmosphere of Algiers, where sea and sky in the far horizon-line blend into one, are in this picture. One of the notable works of Alexander Harrison, his ” Solitude,” is in the Luxembourg, and from Walter Gay, also an American artist, is a genre picture called ” Saying Grace; ” from John Singer Sargent, his celebrated figure piece, ” La Carmencita,” in all the impassioned floating grace of her dance. A large canvas representing the ” St. Germain-des-Prés ” is one of the admirable paintings of interiors, with the sombre light and the dim masses of shadow. An imaginative work, ” The Apparition,” by Moreau, and his ” Orpheus,” ” Phaeton,” and ” Death and the Young Man ” are a most interesting group. A Venetian scene from Ziem, who has made himself one of the famous interpreters of the Dream City ; the ” Harvester’s Pay-Day,” from Lhermitte ; the romantic ” Evening of a Spanish Festival,” by Lunois, with its vivid sun effect, ” Serenity,” by Henri Martin, are all pictures before which the visitor lingers. M. Martin fairly paints the sunshine and the air in his luminous transcriptions.
Boutet de Monvel reveals his delicate finesse of artistic touch in ” The Deserted House,” and the ” September Evening ” and ” Jura Mountains ” of Pointelin are charming. The very feeling of the early autumn is subtly caught in the ” September Evening.” From Tissot are several works, a ” Faust and Marguerite ” seen in the garden, and others called ” A Departure,” and ” In a Foreign Land,” each telling its story in the way of which M. Tissot knows the secret. Puvis de Chavannes is represented by a work called ” The Poor Fisherman.”
One of those peculiarly exquisite portraits which are inseparably associated with La Gandara, is the Woman With a Rose.” The figure, the pose, the costuming are fairly the type of all that is ideal in womanhood. Adrien Demont, the painter of skies, the painter to whom stars and sunsets tell their story, has a marvellous picture of ” Night ” the night in all its infinite space and infinite mystery. Mme. Demont-Breton’s skill is seen in her marine picture, ” A Beach,” when the tide is creeping in. A portrait of Benjamin Constant by Angèle Delasalle is full of life and power, and M. Constant himself is represented by a portrait of his son. From Carolus-Duran are a lovely portrait picture, ” Mother and Children ; ” his ” Lady With a Glove ; ” his ” Troubadour ; ” a portrait of the artist Français, and a charming scene of ” Apple-trees ” in blossom, with all the fragrance and beauty of the May revealed in the picture.
Eugène Carrière, whose kingdom was that of shadowland, is represented by two pictures, ” Family ” and ” Maternity.” The peculiar power of M. Carrière to paint the shadows, as when, for instance, he portrays the audience at a night of Wagner opera, when the lights are turned off and only the fantastic gleam of the illumination on the pages of music before the orchestra is seen, mark him as among the unique modern French painters.
That memorable picture, ” The Gleaners,” from Jules Breton, and others of his work are here ; Bouguereau’s Body of St. Cecilia Laid in the Catacombs,” and Cabanel’s ” Birth of Venus ” are typical of the classic school of art in France. A portrait of the Rt. Hon. William Ewart Gladstone, by J. McLure Hamilton, an American artist, is a fine example of portraiture.
The Musée du Luxembourg contains two rooms devoted to the Impressionist School of a quarter of a century or more ago. Both Manet and Monet are represented by several works showing their especial plein-air treatment in the initiative phases of this movement, and the early Impressionist work is also shown by examples from Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Raffaëlli, Mary Cassatt, Renoir, Caillebotte, Berthe Morizot, Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas (in ” Two Dancers “) and Cézanne. The ” Hoar Frost ” of Monet and his ” Gare St. Lazare ” are wonderful out-of-door pictures. The frost glistens in the sunshine, and the very sensation of cool, crisp air is in the picture.
Zuloaga, whose genius has a curious affinity for the morbid and the repulsive, has a portrait of a ” Female Dwarf ” painted with his always marvellous technique and intimate revelation of the mood, the thought, the tendency of his subject. Zuloaga is to painting somewhat as Zola is to French literature a revealer of the life of classes focussed in a distinctive individual type. From Alfred Stevens is a delightful picture entitled ” Impassioned Song After the Ball,” the very transcription of a mood. Charles Cottet is the painter of a strong work, The Lost Boys,” and a ” Coast Scene ” of the most absolute realism of detail. Doucet’s portrait of the Princess Mathilde, who was the great friend of the brothers Goncourt, and Jules Lefebvre’s portrait of his daughter, Mlle. Yvonne, are most interesting.
The collections of paintings and sculpture in the Musée du Luxembourg are constantly changing. The catalogue is not, by any means, ever brought up to date ; but as each work is inscribed with its title and the name of the artist, the opportunity for enjoying these galleries is favorable and they offer a representation of contemporary art impossible to find elsewhere.
It is impossible to give any complete reference to the works of art in either the Louvre or the Luxembourg. In each, the galleries are undergoing continual change in the acquisition of new works. The Parisians regard these treasure houses as living witnesses of the progressive art of the day, rather than mausoleums to hold fixed and changeless collections. They are each frequented as places of daily resort. A period of ten years must elapse after the death of an artist before his work is admitted to the Louvre ; and thus it happens that while, in a general way, the Luxembourg is held to be representative of living artists, in many cases, as that of Puvis de Chavannes, the work of the artist remains after his death until the lapse of the required decade admits it to the galleries of the Louvre.
The Jardin du Luxembourg is the promenade of all that part of Paris in which it is located. In summer the military band plays there three or four afternoons a week ; and the seats under the old trees are as invariably filled with people as in Hyde Park. Unlike the latter, they are not, as a rule, of the ” smart ” world. The monde of fashion is far from Paris during the midsummer days ; but the large plots for the children’s playground are filled ; students, visitors and the people of the locality sit on the long seats, and the women sew and knit while they exchange talk and gossip. The flowers are in brilliant blossom; the trees are in their luxuriant green, and the sunshine falls over the statues and groups of sculpture with which the garden is adorned. On a wall is a mosaic showing Peace, personified as a female figure, crowning the names of the latter-day French artists, from David to Puvis de Chavannes and Carrière. There is a memorial monument to Eugène Delacroix by Dalou, the design being a fountain and a bust of the artist in bronze with the genius of Time bringing him fame and the genius of Art offering applause. There are monuments to Watteau and to Fabre ; there is a bust of Sainte-Beuve on a pedestal, and one also of Eustache Le Sueur ; there is a monument to Chopin, to George Sand, and one to Victor Hugo, by Rodin, representing the poet and his muse. A bust of Théodore de Banville ; twenty marble statues in honor of celebrated French women ; and many other statues, busts and groups abound on the green terraces.
Sainte-Beuve was very fond of strolling in the Luxembourg gardens. ” We seem to see there the short, stout figure, erect and active, the bald head covered with a skull-cap, the bushy red eyebrows, the smooth-shaven face, redeemed from ugliness by its alert intelligence,” says a writer on Paris. ” His walks were down this slope of Mont-Parnasse, which he thought of as the pleasure-ground of the mediaeval students of the University, to the quays, where he hunted among the old-book stalls. And he loved to stroll in the alleys of the Luxembourg gardens. In the Poets’ Corner, now made there, you will find his bust along with those of Henri Murger, Leconte de Lisle, Théodore de Banville, and Paul Verlaine.”
Michelet lived near, where his windows commanded a view over these beautiful grounds, in the street now called by his name. Although he gave forty years of devoted work to his ” History of France,” he regarded it as incomplete at the time of his death. ” I consider that history should be a resurrection,” he said, and he objected to Guizot’s definition of it as an analysis. Under the treatment of Michelet history rises from the past like a living drama, miraculously summoned to life and light again by the incantation of genius.
The Luxembourg gardens lend themselves, too, to the romance of lovers. It was here that Victor Hugo walked with Adèle Foucher, while the chaperonage of Mme. Foucher did not, it is said, prevent their slipping notes into each other’s hands to supplement their periods of conversation during this period of courtship. To friends in their cercle intime Mme. Hugo often recalled those days in playful allusion or tender reminiscence, and to the lover of Victor Hugo these gardens are haunted by visions of those romantic hours when he strolled under blossoming trees with Mlle. Foucher.
Jules Janin’s early home was near the Luxembourg. These gardens are the paradise of Parisian students, who haunt their walks, and many a problem of physics and metaphysics has been pondered over if not solved in the fragrant silence of these beautiful grounds.
Not a sound from the great city that has planted itself on both sides of the Seine is heard in this leafy solitude. Not a hint of the intense throbbing, many-sided life of Paris penetrates into this golden atmosphere, that is freighted with memories and with images of the historic past. The Jardin du Luxembourg is the only Renaissance garden now left in Paris.