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Artists rising from the lower to the higher branches. B. Cellini ; Q.
MAINyn į Ibbotson ; Kent ; Towne ; Kirby ; Schiavoni ; llogurth ; Sharp: Thew; C'aslon.-Late Learners. Cromwell; Sir W. Jones; Cato Censor; Alfred; Moliere ; Valerianus ; Vondel; Pilot; Paucton Ogilby.
There is one mode in which ingenious and aspiring workmen have sometimes raised themselves above the trade they were bred up to; of which we may give a few examples, as it does not imply any violent abandonment of their original occupation, but on the contrary arises in some degree naturally out of pursuits into which it has led them. We allude to cases of the mere working mechanic elevating himselt into an artist, in a department kindred to that of his first exertions; and cases of the artist himself making his way trom a lower to a higher department of his art.
Thus, in Italy especially, it has not been uncommon for Working goldsmiths, or those of them at least who have been employed in copying designs in the metal, to carry the study of their prosession so far as to attain praticiency in the art of design itself; and some inductuals, thus exlucaferl, have become eminent painters or seulxers. BENVENUTO CELLINI is one instance, when, while string an apprenticeship to # Balismth, acquired a new levige not only of chasing, but also of draw mg, engraving, and statuary, arxanderwants bevann' ante of the greatest sculptors of his agri and spirral others met de mentioned. Wirken mail and silver, huurver, are not the cuh sukat saths who have in this way attained to a pricky in the fine arts. The old Dutch Painter, Quintin Matsys, was originally a blacksmith and farrier, on which account he is often called, the Blacksmith of Antwerp, the town where he pursued this humble vocation. Having, when a young man, been attacked by a disorder which left him too much debilitated to return to the heavier work of his trade, which was his only means of support for himself and a widowed mother, he was forced to turn his attention to the fabrication of such light and ornamental articles as it was then fashionable to construct of wrought iron; and he obtained considerable reputation, in particular, by an inclosure and covering of this description, which he made for a well in the neighbourhood of the great church of Antwerp. He began, however, at length to find even such work as this too laborious; and was in great difficulties as to what he should do, when the thought occurred to him, or rather to one of his friends, that as he had shewn considerable talent for the art of design, in many of the ornamental articles he had been in the habit of making, it might be worth his while to try what he could accomplish in a simple style of drawing: for example, in painting a few of those small pictures of saints which were wont to be distributed by the religious orders of the city to the people, on occasion of certain of their solemn processions.
The idea was adopted, and Matsys succeeded in his new attempt, to the admiration of everybody.
From that time painting became his profession, and he devoted himself to it with so much zeal and success, as not only to acquire a great deal of reputation in his own day, but to leave several works which are still held in considerable estimation. Among these is one at Windsor, “ The Misers,” which has been often engraved; and certainly deserves all the popularity that has so long been attached to it. It consists of two figures
eagerly employed in counting money. The extreme satisfaction in the countenances of each of these persons is most happily expressed; and this expression indicates a more genial feeling than belongs to the character of the “ Miser.” The probability is, that the picture represents two bankers, or usurers, of the painter's city ; who derive that satisfaction from a contemplation of their riches—their gold, their bills, and their bonds—which the possession of wealth is supposed to communicate in every situation. The accessaries of the picture—the candlestick, the rolls of paper, the parrot—are delineated with a fidelity rarely excelled. " At any rate the work has excellence enough to be considered the chef-d'æuvre of the artist, and such as might fairly have won him the hand of his mistress—who is said to have accepted the “painter," after having rejected the “ blacksmith.”
The late Julius CÆSAR IBBETSON was originally a ship-painter ; but by the cultivation of his talents became so eminent a painter of landscapes, that Mr. West used to compare him to the Dutch Berghem, one of the greatest artists his country has produced in that department. William Kent, another English artist, who practised both history and portrait painting, in the earlier part of the last century, but is better known for his architectural designs, and the graceful and picturesque style of ornamental gardening which he was the first to introduce among us, had acquired the rudiments of his art while serving his apprenticeship to a coach-painter. FRANCIS Towne, a landscape painter of great taste and unrivalled industry, who acquired a handsome fortune in the exercise of that art, but principally as a teacher of drawing, commenced his career under similar auspices. John Joshua KIRBY, who, about the middle of the last century, distinguished himself
by a series of drawings of the monumental and other antiquities of the County of Suffolk, and was elected a member both of the Royal and Antiquarian Societies, was originally a house-paintter. So was the celebrated Italian painter, SCHIAVONI, whose parents were so poor, that although he early shewed a propensity for the art in which he afterwards so eminently excelled, they were unable to afford him any better initiation into it; but who, even in this humble situation, cultivated his talents with so much success, that he recommended himself by his performances to the notice of the great Titian, and was employed by him to paint the ceilings of the Library of St. Mark. The famous Hogarth acquired his knowledge of drawing while serving his apprenticeship to an engraving silversmith; and commenced his professional career by engraving coats of arms and shop-bills. The late WilliAM SHARP whose eccentricities are so well known, but who was certainly also one of the ablest engravers England ever produced, was educated only to the subordinate branch of the profession, called bright engraving, or that which is occupied with such articles as dogcollars and door-plates.* Robert Thew, another English engraver of eminence, originally employed himself merely on visiting cards and shop-bills. Finally, to omit other instances for the present, WILLIAM Caslon, the celebrated type-founder, began life only as an engraver of the ornaments on gunbarrels; from which he proceeded, in the first instance, to attempt cutting letters for the bookbinders. Some of his performances in this line having, we are told, been accidentally seen by Mr. Bowyer, the printer, that gentleman sought him out; and after forming an acquaintance with him, took him one day to a foundery in Bartholomew Close, when, after having shewn him something of the nature of the business, he asked him if he thought he could now undertake to cut types himself. Caslon requested a day to consider the matter; and then answered that he thought he could. Upon this, Mr. Bowyer and two of his friends advanced him a small capital; and with no other preparation, he set up in his new business. In this he speedily acquired such reputation, that instead of the English printers importing their types any longer from Holland, as had before that time been the custom to a very considerable extent, those cast by him were frequently exported to the Continent.
* See p. 52.
The great disadvantage which had to be surmounted by some of the individuals we have just mentioned, and others similarly situated, was the time they had lost before commencing the pursuit to which they eventually dedicated themselves. This circumstance involved the necessity of acquiring an acquaintance sometimes even with the most elementary principles of their art, at a period of life when their habits were already formed, and a certain degree of aversion contracted for what we may call the discipline of apprenticeship in the rudiments of any art or profession.
Considerable as this disadvantage must have been we see how completely it was overcome by their perseverance and honourable ambition. Thus, in another field of enterprize, OLIVER CROMWELL,who never fought a battle that he did not win, was forty-two years old before he entered the army; and his contemporary (born, indeed, the same year with himself), the immortal BLAKE, who stands in the very front rank of our captains and patriots, and may be considered as the founder of the system of naval tactics, adopted after his time, and who was the first of our commanders who ventured to attack a battery with ships, was in his fiftieth year when he first went to sea.