Abbildungen der Seite

of the passions, and may be more correct in a mediocrity of character—a little more than that which comes into any of.those works, or even into his Transfiguration. Michael Angelo appears still less near the standard than Raphael. He is infinitely above Raphael in knowledge and correctness, yet his ostentation and show of this, and Raphael's art of concealing—with choice of subject and pleasing wellwronght draperies—his want of it, bring them nearly to a level, at least with the bulk of mankind; yet I rather believe fewer people have attained Michael Angelo's merits than Raphael's, though no one has come near Raphael upon the whole."

Barry loved simple beauty of form. Reynolds admired the splendid effects of light and shade. The former saw and worshipped in the marbles of Greece a severe and dignified grandeur, all attained without startling attitudes or violent motion: the latter discovered the perfection of art in the profuse draperies, imposing effects, and quiet grace of Angelo and Raphael. These two men were in their natures essentially dissimilar, and looked upon the works of the great masters with very different eyes. How Sir Joshua received the account of Barry's heresy concerning Michael Angelo we are not informed, but we gather from a letter addressed to him soon afterward, that Barry was unwilling to be suspected of coldness or indifference concerning the glories of the Sistine Chapel. But poor Barry was an indifferent dissembler: his raptures were felt to be artificial: the President shrugged his shoulders, as - was his custom, and never advised him more.

In the third year of his residence in Rome, he made an excursion to Naples. "At Nitri, a miserable little town in the Neapolitan Territory," he says in one of his letters, " are monuments which gave me heartfelt pleasure. One is a piece of raw hide, a little broader than the sole of the foot, tied on in the manner of the ancient sandal. I bought a pair of them, which I will put on, to show jou i.r"3 villany of our cursed Gothic shoes, which, by the line which the termination of the upper leather makes upon the stocking, cuts off the foot from the «eg, and loses that fine idea of one limb which is kept up in this vestige of a sandal. Another monument is the manner of tying up the hair of the women. I gave one of them money—made draw ings of it—loosed it, and made drawings again—so that I know every thing about it, and shall be of great use to the ladies when 1 come home. Blessed be the poverty of this people, and long may it continue to their posterity! it has preserved to them, though in a state of ignorance, the elegant notions of their forefathers: it has kept it out of their power to flaunt about after the deliriums and new-fangled whims of fashionable people in great cities; and you shall not be able in your Londons, your Parises and Romes, to cull me out such an object as one of these women standing near a fountain, with her sweet antique-formed vase on her head. At Naples also is to be seen the same way of tying up the hair as in many bustos—the cloth which lies across it in other heads of antiquity, and the reta, net or cap, inclosing all; and even without quitting the vulgar women of Naples, I will show you among them all the different head-dresses of the Nine Muses. I find the love of antiquity growing upon me every day."

After a brief interval, fatigued with studying from the antique, with discovering resemblances between the dresses of the Italian rustics and the classic costume of Attica, and with gazing on Titian, whom he at this time preferred to all painters of these latter days—Barry once more sought amusement in disputes with fellow artists, and in hostile bickerings with wandering virtuosi and pedestrian picture dealers. Burke had long been sensible of this grievous infirmity in his friend's temper, and in a series of eloquent and affectionate letters, endeavoured to sooth down his rugged spirit, and sugar over the bitterness of his nature. It was all in vain. "You have given," thus writes Burke, "a strong and, I fancy, a very faithful picture of the dealers in taste with you. It is very right that you should know and remark their little arts; but as fraud will intermeddle in every transaction of life, where we cannot oppose ourselves to it with effect, it is by no means our duty or our interest to make ourselves uneasy, or multiply enemies on account of it. In particular, you may be assured that the traffic in antiquity, and all the enthusiasm, folly, or fraud which may be in it, never did, nor never can, hurt the merit of living artists: quite the contrary, in my opinion; for I have ever observed that what- * ever it be that turns the minds of men to any thing relative to the arts, brings artists more and more into credit and repute; and though now and then the mere broker and dealer in such things runs away with a great deal of the profit, yet in the end ingenious men will find themselves gainers by the dispositions which are nourished and diffused in the world by such pursuits. I praise exceedingly your resolution of going on well with those whose practices you cannot altogether approve—there is no living in this world upon any other terms."

If Barry ever formed the resolution of living on terms of peace with these men of virtu, his intractable temper soon broke it. He was now, by his own account, become so fastidious in his taste that even Titian could no longer please him—he looked with scorn upon all works below his own airdrawn standard of excellence, and regarded and addressed with sarcastic displeasure all "whose gods were not his gods." It was his misfortune that he uniformly fancied himself the conqueror in these uncivil debates: hence a growing belief that the time must come when there would be a reaction of popular feeling in favour of one who had braved martyrdom in the cause of honesty in picture-dealing. He acknowledged, meantime, the influence of his enemies, in that sensitive part, the pocket, and said they had made his profession unprofitable— which he lamented, not on his own account, but for the sake of his benevolent friend, Burke. "It has been a real grief to me," he writes to his patron, "that I could not contribute to lighten the expense? your good nature and generosity have led you intt for me. I have nothing to say on my own behalf but that I shall carry myself so, both as a man and an artist, as never to bring a blush on your face on my account." He imagines, however, that the incivility of his opponents had done him some service, by confirming him in the resolution of playing a high game in art, and he even attributes to their maliee the great progress he is making in his studies. "I saw from the beginning that I was hated, and hated for the very dispositions that I relied on to recommend me. I saw every avenue shut up from me by their power and industry, except the glorious one of my profession, so I went seriously to work and left to them the cavaliers and the wasting away of their time, in dressing up phantoms and distorted macaronies in my name."

It must be confessed that Barry looked upon life with strange eyes. "Out of the nettle danger he loved to pluck the flower safety." By living at dagger's drawing with his brethren, he avoided the expense, he said, of treats and taverns; and to their satiric comments upon his colouring, he owed, he declared, his knowledge of the merits of Titian! Having unconsciously done him these favours, his enemies commenced an attack upon him personally "This," he says with a smile, "was more in theii power, for though the body and the soul of a picture will discover themselves on the slightest glance, yet you know it could not be the same with such a pock-fritted hard-featured little fellow as I am: .... so that I shall be surprised if you have not been frightened with the terrible accounts given of me." The answer of Mr. Burke to all this is marked by his uncommon qualities of head and heart—it shows intimate knowledge of the world and its ways, and a perfect appreciation of the failings and excellences of the singular person to whom it is addressed. The date is London, 16th September, 1769.

"As to reports, my dear Barry, concerning your conduct and behaviour, you may be very sure they would have no kind of influence here; for none of us are of such a make as to trust to any one's report for the character of a person whom we ourselves know. Until very lately I have never heard any thing of your proceedings from others; and when I did, it was much less than I had known from myself —that you had been upon ill terms with the artists and virtuosi of Rome, without much mention of cause or consequence. If you have improved these unfortunate quarrels to your advancement in your art, you have turned a very disagreeable circumstance to a very capital advantage. However you may have succeeded in this uncommon attempt, permit me to suggest to you with that friendly liberty which you have always had the goodness to bear from me, that you cannot possibly always have the same success, either with regard to your fortune or your reputation. Depend upon it that you will find the same competitions, the same jealousies, the same arts and cabals, the emulations of interest and of fame, and the same agitations and passions here that you have experienced in Italy; and if they have the same effect on your temper, they will have just the same effects on your interest; and be your merit what it will, you will never be allowed to paint a picture. It will be the same at London as at Rome, and the same in Paris as in London : for the world is pretty nearly alike in all its parts: nay, though

« ZurückWeiter »