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fire-fly from light to darkness in one oscillation, ranging from the fullest prism of solar colour to the coldest greys of twilight, and from the silver tinging of a morning cloud to the lava fire of a volcano : one moment shutting himself into obscure chambers of imagery, the next plunged into the revolutionless day of heaven, and piercing space, deeper than the mind can follow or the eye fathom; we find him by turns appalling, pensive, splendid, profound, profuse; and throughout sacrificing every minor quality to the power of his prevalent mood. By such an artist it might, perhaps, be presumed that a different system of colour would be adopted in almost every picture, and that if a chiaroscuro ground were independently laid, it would be in a neutral grey, susceptible afterwards of harmony with any tone he might determine upon, and not in the vivid brown which necessitated brilliancy of subsequent effect. We believe, accordingly, that while some of the pieces of this master's richer colour, such as the Adam and Eve in the Gallery of Venice, and we suspect also the miracle of St. Mark, may be executed on the pure
Flemish system, the greater number of his large compositions will be found based on a grey shadow; and that this grey shadow was independently laid we have more direct proof in the assertion of Boschini, who received his information from the younger Palma: 'Quando haveva stabilita questa importante distribuzione, abboggiava il quadro tutto di chiaroscuro ;' and we have, therefore, no doubt that Tintoret's well-known reply to the question, What were the most beautiful colours?'Il nero, e il bianco,' is to be received in a perfectly literal sense, beyond and above its evident reference to abstract principle. Its main and most valuable meaning was, of course, that the design and light and shade of a picture were of greater importance than its colour ; (and this Tintoret felt so thoroughly that there is not one of his works which would seriously lose in power if it were translated into chiaroscuro); but it implied also that Tintoret's idea of a shadowed preparation was in grey, and not in brown.
But there is a farther and more essential ground of difference in system of shadow between the Flemish and Italian colourists. It is a well-known optical fact that the colour of shadow is complemental to that of light: and that therefore, in general terms, warm light has cool shadow, and cool light hot shadow. The noblest masters of the northern and southern schools respectively adopted these contrary keys; and while the Flemings raised their lights in frosty white and pearly greys out of a glowing shadow, the Italians opposed the deep and burning rays of their golden heaven to masses of solemn grey and majestic blue, Either, therefore, their preparation must have been
different, or they were able, when they chose, to conquer the warmth of the ground by superimposed colour. We believe, accordingly, that Correggio will be found—as stated in the notes of Reynolds quoted at page 495-to have habitually grounded with black, white, and ultramarine, then glazing with golden transparent colours; while Titian used the most vigorous browns, and conquered them with cool colour in mass above. The remarkable sketch of Leonardo in the Uffizii of Florence is commenced in brown-over the brown is laid olive
on which the highest lights are struck with white.
Now it is well known to even the merely decorative painter that no colour can be brilliant which is laid over one of a corresponding key, and that the best ground for any given opaque colour will be a comparatively subdued tint of the complemental one; of green under red, of violet under yellow, and of orange or brown therefore under blue. We apprehend accordingly that the real value of the brown ground with Titian was far greater than even with Rubens ; it was to support and give preciousness to cool colour above, while it remained itself untouched as the representative of warm reflexes and extreme depth of transparent gloom. We believe this employment of the brown ground to be the only means of uniting majesty of hue with profundity of shade. But its value to the Fleming is connected with the management of the lights, which we have next to consider. As we here venture for the first time to disagree in some measure with Mr. Eastlake, let us be sure that we state his opinion fairly.
'The light warm tint which Van Mander assumes to have been generally used in the oil-priming was sometimes omitted, as unfinished pictures prove. Under such circumstances, the picture may have been executed at once on the sized outline. In the works of Lucas van Leyden, and sometimes in those of Albert Durer, the thin yet brilliant lights exhibit a still brighter ground underneath. (p. 389.) ; . . It thus appears that the method proposed by the inventors of oil painting, of preserving light within the colours, involved a certain order of processes. The principal conditions were: first, that the outline should be completed on the panel before the painting, properly so called, was begun. The object, in thus defining the forms, was to avoid alterations and repaintings, which might ultimately render the ground useless without supplying its place. Another condition was to avoid loading the opaque colours. This limitation was not essential with regard to the transparent colours, as such could hardly exclude the bright ground. (p. 398.). . . The system of colouring adopted by the Van Eycks may have been influenced by the practice of glass-painting. They appear, in their first efforts at least, to have considered the white panel as representing light behind a coloured and transparent medium, and aimed at giving brilliancy to their tints by allowing the white ground to shine through them. If those painters and their followers erred, it was in
sometimes too literally carrying out this principle. Their lights are always transparent (mere white excepted) and their shadows sometimes want depth. This is in accordance with the effect of glass-staining, in which transparency may cease with darkness, but never with light. The superior method of Rubens consisted in preserving transparency chiefly in his darks, and in contrasting their lucid depth with solid lights. (p. 408.). • . Among the technical improvements on the older process may be especially mentioned the preservation of transparency in the darker masses, the lights being loaded as required. The system of exhibiting the bright ground through the shadows still involved an adherence to the original method of defining the composition at first; and the solid painting of the lights opened the door to that freedom of execution which the works of the early masters wanted.' (p. 490.)
We think we cannot have erred in concluding from these scattered passages that Mr. Eastlake supposes the brilliancy of the high lights of the earlier schools to be attributable to the under power of the white ground. This we admit, so far as that ground gave value to the transparent flesh-coloured or brown preparation above it; but we doubt the transparency of the highest lights, and the power of any white ground to add brilliancy to opaque colours. We have ourselves never seen an instance of a painted brilliant light that was not loaded to the exclusion of the ground. Secondary lights indeed are often perfectly transparent, a warm hatching over the under white; the highest light itself may be so—but then it is the white ground itself subdued by transparent darker colour, not supporting a light colour. In the Van Eyck in the National Gallery all the brilliant lights are loaded ; mere white, Mr. Eastlake himself admits, was always so; and we believe that the flesh-colour and carnations are painted with colour as opaque as the white head-dress, but fail of brilliancy from not being loaded enough; the white ground beneath being utterly unable to add to the power of such tints, while its effect on more subdued tones depended in great measure on its receiving a transparent coat of warm colour first. This may have been sometimes omitted, as stated at p. 389; when it was so, we believe that an utter loss of brilliancy must have resulted ; but when it was used, the highest lights must have been raised from it by opaque colour as distinctly by Van Eyck as by Rubens. Rubens' Judgment of Paris is quoted at p. 388 as an example of the best use of the bright gesso ground:-and how in that picture, how in all Rubens' best pictures, is it used? Over the ground is thrown a transparent glowing brown tint, varied and deepened in the shadow ; boldly over that brown glaze, and into it, are struck and painted the opaque grey middle tints, already concealing the ground totally; and above these are loaded the high lights like gems—note the sparkling strokes on the peacock's plumes. We believe that
Van Eyck's high lights were either, in proportion to the scale of picture and breadth of handling, as loaded as these, or, in the degree of their thinness, less brilliant. Was then his system the same as Rubens'? Not so; but it differed more in the management of middle tints than in the lights: the main difference was, we believe, between the careful preparation of the gradations of drawing in the one, and the daring assumption of massy light in the other. There are theorists who would assert that their system was the same—but they forget the primal work, with the point, underneath, and all that it implied of transparency above. Van Eyck secured his drawing in dark, then threw a pale transparent middle tint over the whole, and recovered his highest lights; all was transparent except these. Rubens threw a dark middle tint over the whole at first, and then gave the drawing with opaque grey. All was opaque except the shadows. No slight difference this, when we reflect on the contrarieties of practice ultimately connected with the opposing principles; above all on the eminent one that, as all Van Eyck's colour, except the high lights, must have been equivalent to a glaze, while the great body of colour in Rubens was solid (ultimately glazed occasionally, but not necessarily), it was possible for Van Eyck to mix his tints to the local hues required, with far less danger of heavi. ness in effect than would have been incurred in the solid painting of Rubens. This is especially noticed by Mr. Eastlake, with whom we are delighted again to concur :
* The practice of using compound tints has not been approved by colourists; the method, as introduced by the early masters, was adapted to certain conditions, but, like many of their processes, was afterwards misapplied. Vasari informs us that Lorenzo di Credi, whose exaggerated nicety in technical details almost equalled that of Gerard Dow, was in the habit of mixing about thirty tints before he began to work. The opposite extreme is perhaps no less objectionable. Much may depend on the skilful use of the ground. The purest colour in an opaque state and superficially light only, is less brilliant than the foulest mixture through which light shines. Hence, as long as the white ground was visible within the tints, the habit of matching colours from nature (no matter by what complication of hues, provided the ingredients were not chemically injurious to each other) was likely to combine the truth of negative hues with clearness.'— Ib., p. 400.
These passages open to us a series of questions far too intricate to be even cursorily treated within our limits. It is to be held in mind that one and the same quality of colour or kind of brilliancy is not always the best; the phases and phenomena of colour are innumerable in reality, and even the modes of imitating them become expedient or otherwise, according to the aim and scale of the picture. It is no question of mere authority whether VOL. LXXXII, NO, CLXIV.
the mixture of tints to a compound one, or their juxtaposition in a state of purity, be the better practice. There is not the slightest doubt that, the ground being the same, a stippled tint is more brilliant and rich than a mixed one; nor is there doubt on the other hand that in some subjects such a tint is impossible, and in others vulgar. We have above alluded to the power of Mr. Hunt in water-colour. The fruit-pieces of that artist are dependent for their splendour chiefly on the juxtaposition of pure colour for compound tints, and we may safely affirm that the method is for such purpose as exemplary as its results are admir. able. Yet would you desire to see the same means adopted in the execution of the fruit in Rubens' Peace and War? "Or again, would the lusciousness of tint obtained by Rubens himself, adopting the same means on a grander scale in his painting of flesh, have been conducive to the ends or grateful to the feelings of the Bellinis or Albert Durer? Each method is admirable as applied by its master; and Hemling and Van Eyck are as much to be followed in the mingling of colour, as Rubens and Rembrandt in its decomposition. If an award is absolutely to be made of superiority to either system, we apprehend that the palm of mechanical skill must be rendered to the latter, and higher dignity of moral purpose confessed in the former; in proportion to the nobleness of the subject and the thoughtfulness of its treatment, simplicity of colour will be found more desirable. Nor is the far higher persection of drawing attained by the earlier method to be forgotten. Gradations which are expressed by delicate execution of the darks, and then aided by a few strokes of recovered light, must always be more subtle and true than those which are struck violently forth with opaque colour; and it is to be remembered that the handling of the brush, with the early Italian masters, approached in its refinement to drawing with the point-the more definitely, because the work was executed, as we have just seen, with little change or play of local colour. And—whatever discredit the looser and bolder practice of later masters may have thrown on the hatched and pencilled execution of earlier periods--we maintain that this method, necessary in fresco, and followed habitually in the first oil pictures, has produced the noblest renderings of human expression in the whole range of the examples of art: the best works of Raphael, all the glorious portraiture of Ghirlandajo and Masaccio, all the mightiest achievements of religious zeal in Francia, Perugino, Bellini, and such others. Take as an example in fresco Masaccio's hasty sketch of himself now in the Uffizii; and in oil, the two heads of monks by Perugino in the Academy of Florence; and we shall search in vain for any work