« AnteriorContinuar »
During the conflicting storms which lately ravaged the continent of Europe, Great Britain alone presented a bulwark to which foreign nations looked with awe and with respect; and, although at war with her politically, they still confided in her honour and in her strength : they transmitted their moneyed wealth to her public funds, and their collections of art to private individuals, either for protection, or to be disposed of for their use. From this period may be dated a new and a distinct era in the art, with reference to modern times :the collectors of Great Britain, heretofore possessing but few genuine works of the Italian schools, were now enabled to enrich themselves from their precious stores, and British collections were soon placed on a par with those of Rome herself.
Such are the just sentiments of the enlightened author of the elegant work under review; and he afterwards proceeds to describe the different great collections which have been brought into England; and his first article relates to the Orleans collection. He observes that
Philip Regent Duke of Orleans was a man of a high and proud spirit, of a refined and cultivated taste,-he considered that no man could perpetuate his name so effectually with posterity, as by a just and liberal patronage of the fine arts,-he fully appreciated the high value which had been attached to the name of De Medicis, a family, which, having sprung from the commercial classes of society, had, by a liberal and refined encouragement of literature, and of the arts and sciences, founded for themselves a reputation which may be deemed immortal ; neither did he lose sight of the splendid example which François Premier, one of his illustrious predecessors, had left in his own country.
“ Philip, with the power which he possessed in the state, joined to his own wealth, kad ample means afforded him of gratifying his taste, as well as his ambition. He employed some of the most celebrated artists of the day to select for him, by purchase, the finest works of the great masters which could be procured in the various countries of Europe, while many of the minor states desiring to pay their court to him, made presents to the Regent of such works as were likely to yield him satisfaction, or to secure his favour and protection, and, in general, the whole collection was formed upon the broad and liberal view of rendering it one of the most splendid and consequential in Europe. Philip employed twenty years of his life in forming this magnificent gallery.
Queen Christina of Sweden was possessed of forty-seven pictures of the highest importance, which her father had possessed himself of on the reduction of Prague. Among these were tép by Correggio. When she abdicated the crown, she retired to Rome, and carried with her this precious collection of chefs-d'oeuvres. Out of this collection she presented to Louis XIV. the famous picture of the Leda of Correggio ; and,
on her death, these pictures were sold in Rome, and purchased by Livio Odeschalchi, Duke of Bracciano, nephew of Pope Innocent X1., from whose heirs again the Regent Philip made the purchase of this rich collection. mi The other cabinets from which the Regent made acquisitions in the formation of his gallery, were those of the Cardinals de Richelieu, Mazarin, and Dubois ; of Lord Melford, of the Duke de Grammont, the Abbé de Maisainville, Deval, Forest de Nancré, de Nossė, de Seignelay, Tambonceau, Paillet, de Lannay, de la-Ravois, of the Duke de Nouilles, de Menars, de Hautefeuille, of the Duke de Vendome, Corberon, de Bretonvilliers, du Cher, de Lorraine, l'Abbé de Camps, Dorigny, &c. &c. "The above list of amateurs proves the high and
general regard in which the art of painting was held in France, at the period at which this collection was forming; and it is worthy of remark, that it was principally composed of the works of the ancient
“Among the different pictures which were purchased for the regent; the prices which he paid for some of these have come down to us. For the celebrated picture of the Raising of Lazarus, 'now in the Angerstein collection, he paid to the chapter of monks at Narbonne the sum of 24,000 francs ; a sum certainly much under its value even in those days, when it is considered that for the Seven Sacraments of Pouissin, now in the Stafford gallery, he paid 120,000 francs ;' and it was well-known that price never was the bar to the acquisition of whatever was truly excellent: the good fathers, no doubt, had their reasons for ceding this celebrated picture for so small a sum.
“For the Saint Roch and Angel, by An. Caracci, which was formerly in the Church de St. Eustache at Paris, he paid 20,000 francs; and for the Saint John in the Desert; by Raphael, he paid likewise 20,000 francs ; but it has been asserted, that; had this last picture been indubitable, it must even at that period have cost four times that sum, as The works of Correggio, which cannot be placed above those of Raphael, were paid for in that proportion.
"By the means of these various acquisitions, the gallery of the duke regent contained, during his life-time, 485 pictures, of the best choice, and in the finest state of preservation."
Of the sale of this great collection, Mr. Buchanan gives the following account :-
In 1792, the Duke d'Orleans, for the purpose of procuring money to agitate the national spirit, of which he always hoped ultimately to profit, sold all the pictures of the Palais Royal. A banker of Brusselles, named Walkuers, bought those of the Italian and French schools, at the price of 750,000 livres, who again sold them to Monsieur Laborde de Mereville; a gentleman of fortune, for 900,000 frs. This gentleman, either as an amateur, or guided by feelings of national pride and philanthropy, made this purchase with the sole view of preserving the collection for France. For this purpose, he gave orders to build a superb gallery, connected with his own hotel, in the Rue d'Artois. The works were already far advanced, when the storm of the revolution burst put in all its force, and obliged Mons. Laborde, with thousands of other refugees, tą seek safety in England, whither he had the good fortune to transport his collection which proved to him a resource during this period of his misfortunes. They did not, however, stop here; for, anxious to revisit his native country, for motives at present unknown, he was recognized by the reigning faction of the day, and fell a sacrifice to the revolutionary cause.
The pictures of the Flemish, Dutch, and German schools, were likewise sold in 1792, by the Duke of Orleans, to Thomas Moore Slade, esq. who paid for them 350,000 francs, and who by great management succeeded in having them sent to this country at the moment that matters begun in France to wear the most serious aspect. This purchase was made for the late Lord Kinnaird, Mr. Morland, and Mr. Hammersley, in conjunction with Mr. Slade.
“The principal part of this magnificent collection, consisting of the Italian schools, was consigned, on the part of Mons. Laborde de Mereville, to a house of eminence in the city of London, and it is believed that they were in the hands of that house when a treaty was entered into by the late Mr. Bryan, as authorised by and on the part of the late Duke of Bridgewater, the present Earl of Carlisle, and the Earl Gower, now Marquis of Stafford, for the purchase of that part of the collection, including also the French school, which was agreed on at the price of 43,0001. sterling.”
“When this important purchase was concluded, which secured for England one of the richest collections, and at the same time one of the most valuable acquisitions, which had presented itself in modern times, it was determined on by these three noblemen to select a certain proportion of the pictures for their own private collections, and to allow the remainder to be sold by private contract, under an exhibition to be made of the entire collection. This exhibition commenced on the 26th of December, 1798, in the rooms belonging to Mr. Bryan, in Pall Mall, and at the Lyceum in the Strand, neither of these places being individually sufficiently extensive to contain the collection. It continued for six months; at the end of which time all pictures sold were delivered to the purchasers.
“The pictures reserved for the original purchasers are indicated in the following catalogue, at their estimated valuation, and amount to 39,000 guineas. Those sold during the sale by private contract amounted to 31,000 guineas, while the residue sold after wards by Mr. Coxe, joined to the receipts of exhibition, which were considerable, amounted to about 10,0001. more, thus leaving a valuable collection of pictures to the purchasers, as a bonus and just reward, for securing for this country so splendid a collection, and enriching it with works of the first class.
The next collection which was transferred to England was that of M. De Calonne, and the history of the affair is given in the following terms:
“ The collection of Monsieur de Calonne, who, previous to the Revolution, had been Prime Minister of France, was one of the most important in that country. Seeing a storm gathering in France, he, at an early period, transferred the principal part of his
property to England, of which his celebrated collection of pictures formed a part-and he fully intended to spend the remainder of his life quietly in England, in the peaceful retirement of a private gentleman, Circumstances, however, afterwards occurred which induced him to alter this determination. He was invited to join the French Princes and nobility who were at Coblentz, and his fortunes were made the sacrifice to his feelings of loyalty and duty.
“The collection of pictures belonging to Monsieur de Calonne was one of the first objects which could be rendered available to his views : he procured a considerable sum of money upon the credit of it, which he carried to the cause of the falling fortunes of his country. After some years had passed over, the mortgagees of his property became impatient for a return of the capital advanced, and the splendid collection of pictures of Monsieur de Calonne was brought to public sale by Messrs. Skinner and Dyke, on the 23d March, 1795, at the Exhibition Rooms in Spring Gardens."
From the Preface to the Catalogue, we transcribe the following paragraphs :
“No collection offered to the public ever abounded with that variety of chefs-d'oeuvres contained in this; nor are we to be surprised at the immense sum it has cost, when we consider that it contains no less than 10 pictures by Titian, 3 by Paul Veronese, 6 by Tintoret, 3 by Giorgione, 2 by Pordenone-the Annunciation by that scarce master, Michael Angelo Buonarotti, which was purchased at Venice, by M. de Calonne, out of the family for which it was painted-a Holy Family by Raphael, a ditto by Leonardo da Vinci-4 pictures by P. de Cortona, 1 by Correggio, 3 by Parmegiano, 1 by Schidone, 4 by Caracci, 10 by Guido, 2 by Domenichino, 3 by Guerchino, 4 by Albano, 8 by S. Rosa, 4 by Murillo, 10 by N. Poussin, 8 by Claude, 3 by Vernet, and 3 by Greuze.
Of the Dutch and Flemish Schoo's, &c.—14 pictures by Rubens, 2 by Pourbus, 8 by Vandyke, 7 by Rembrandt, 6 by Wouvermans, 7 by. Teniers, 2 by F. Meiris, 1 by Metzu, 1 by Vanderwerff, 3 by G. Dow, 2 by A. Ostade,
3 by P. Potter, 3 by Berghem, 5 by Cuyp, 2 by A. Vandevelde, 3 by Pynaker, 2 by K. Dujardin, 1 by W. Vanderveldt, 2 by Sir Joshua Reynolds, &c. &c.”
The other collections noticed in the first volume are those of Trumbull, Bryan, Fagel, Holderness, and Count Vitturi; and the anecdotes relative to them and to the pictures are very precious, not merely to lovers of art, but to every reader of taste.
The second volume describes at length the history and sale of the Day, Udney, Ottley, Buchanan, Talleyrand, aud other collections; for the interesting details of which we must refer the reader to the work itself. Nor does the author omit to record the labours of speculative importers, often as useful in forming British collections as the transfers of entire galleries. The author details his own importations; and, from their consequence, they fully merit the 200 pages which he has devoted to them. They alone could prove his qualifications to write the work before us, were other proof wanting than the materials which he has so judiciously assembled. Mr. Irvine, at Rome, became his agent and correspondent; Mr. Wallis, in Spain; and he visited France, Flanders, and Holland, in person. The letters of Mr. Irvine abound in curious anecdotes of Italian pictures, which will be read with interest. Since such activity, aided by unlimited capital, was scouring the continent, it cannot be wondered that England now possesses the finest pictures of every master.
“Mr. Buchanan had long an eye upon the collection of Malmaison, belonging to the Empress Josephine, which he knew, from friends residing in the French capital, might be procured, provided a certain sum in ready money could be found to purchase the same. The affair of the fine pictures, however, sent over by Mr. Wallis, and of others which might at that time have been procured, had damped very much his ardour for acquisitions of a class which could only be obtained for large sums of money; and, in the interim, political events occurred which put the attainment of that collection, in the regular train of purchase, entirely out of the question. There was indeed a moment, after the entering of the allied troops into Paris, when the same might have been
obtained on very moderate terms, but at the same time under circumstances of considerable risk. Sir James Erskine, who was at that time in Paris, mentioned to the author of these pages, that the entire collection might have been obtained for the small sum of £10,000. No one, however, who could find such a sum would stand the risk ; and the first alarm having passed over, property again began to find its value. The attention of the Emperor Alexander having, in the mean time, been called to these subjects, his Imperial Majesty agreed to purchase the collection of Malmaison upon fair and liberal terms, disclaiming altogether the advantages which the circumstances of the times had placed in his power; and he concluded a bargain for that select collection for a sum of money which the author of these pages will not even here mention, lest it might appear an exaggeration.
“This important affair having passed over, the next of any consequence which presented itself was that of the collection of Monsieur de Talleyrand, which Mr, Buchanan had known for a long time to be attainable on terms which did not appear by any means unreasonable. This and another collection, which was in the beginning of 1817 sold in France, determined him on going to Paris, for the purpose of seeing what might be done, at the same time that he had heard of some other collections in Flanders and Holland, which contained some objects of first-rate importance, and which he desired to see, to be enabled to judge for himself.
“ At this period, the collections in France had become weak; most of the older one had been broken up, and those of more recent date were only in progress of being formed. The collections of Praslin, Poullain, Choiseul, Robit, Sereville, &c. &c. &c. had entirely disappeared; and, except those of Monsieur de Talleyrand, the Baron de Lessert, the Count Noir de Bruhl, the Count Morel de Vinde, the Count Portalis et Gouger, and the collection of Murillos, belonging to Marechal Soult, very few others could be named as being of consequence; while the collections of Monsieur Aynard, Monsieur Valedau, Monsieur Erard, and Monsieur Perregaux, were at that time only in the first stage of being formed.
“ The same fatal effects of war and revolution had extended themselves to Flanders and Holland. The old and valuable collections of these countries had every year become fewer in number; and, when Mr. Buchanan made the tour of them, very few entire collections were to be found: that of Mademoiselle Van Winter, of Amsterdam, alone appeared to be an entire and genuine collection of the best works of the principal masters of the Dutch school. In many private families in Holland, however, he found a few fine pictures of the first class of the
Flemish and Dutch schools, in particular in the collections of Van Havre, at Antwerp, Van loon, Van Breen, and Van Goll
, at Amsterdam ; while the public galleries at the Hague and Amsterdam also contained works of the finest class of the Dutch school.
“ The rich and splendid collections of Antwerp, which had so much distinguished that city at the period of its greatest importance, and which had given a splendour and consequence to the wealth of its commercial inhabitants which no other species of riches could have bestowed on them, had entirely disappeared. A few of Rubens' best works still remained in her churches and museum, or had been restored to these from the French capital; but the collections of individuals appeared entirely stripped of their former riches, and, with the exception of four pictures by Rubens, which were in the possession of the family of Van Havre, and some fine portraits by Vandyck, which belonged to the Baron Steers, nothing else existed to attract the attention of the connoisseur, or which could excite that interest for the arts for which Antwerp had formerly stood so pre-eminent among the cities of the Low Countries.
“At Brussels the same lack of fine pictures existed as at Antwerp. The collection of the banker Danoot remained nearly the same as at the period when
it was visited by Sir Joshua Reynolds, with this difference, that the fine studies by Rubens, so much extolled by Sir Joshua, had been overcleaned, and lost much of their original value. The collection formed by De Burtin was more a collection of high sounding names than one of high merit. A pompous description of it had been printed in two vols. octavo; but, nevertheless, it was “ Nomen et preterea nihil.” The collection of Monsieur Reyndaers possessed a few genuine pictures of the most esteemed masters of the Flemish and Dutch schools, and the best of these Mr. Buchanan purchased; in particular, a Storm, by Backhuysen, and a large picture of a Stag-hunt, by Philip Wouvermans, both of which are now in the possession of Edward Gray, Esq. He also purchased from Mons. Reyndaers two fine landscapes by Hobbima, which are well known to the English public, from having been afterwards sold by Mr. Christie at the public sale of Mr. Watson Taylor's collection in 1823, for the large sum of £1750.
“Ghent, once of so much importance, is now only interesting to the traveller for the splendour of its cathedral and other
churches. In private collections it is as poor as the other cities of Flanders. Beyond the collection of the Baron Schamp, which possesses a capital historical picture, by Rubens, of figures half the size of life, and a few pic tures of the Flemish school, of a good class, no other can well be cited as likely to create much interest. Around Ghent, however, the tourist passes through a country in which he sees the landscapes of Hobbima at every turning. The cottages, the fields, the trees, are evidently those from which that master has drawn his compositions. Fifty years ago a fine picture, by Hobbima, was considered well sold at from £50 to $100, while a landscape by Velvet Breughel would fetch from £100 to £150. Now, a fine picture by Hobbima will bring £500, while a landscape by Breughel is well sold at £50. Capricious as taste and fashion may be in regard to art in general, and frequently falling into gross error, yet, in the present instance, the change of taste, as respects these masters, may be considered as correct. Time brings every thing to its proper level.”
We cannot refrain from giving the author's account of the purchase of the Talleyrand collection, in which the address of both parties is neatly displayed :
“The collection of cabinet pictures of the Flemish and Dutch schools, formed by Monsieur de Talleyrand, had long been considered one of the most select in France. It .was composed of chefs-d'oeuvres drawn from the various collections of Hesse Cassel, Malmaison, the Prince de Conti, the Duc de Valentinois, the Duc d'Alva, the Duc de Choiseuil, de Poullain, of Randon de Boisset, de Tolozan, Van Leyden, de Schmidt, Clos, Solirène, the Duc Dalberg, and Robit; and had the advantage of being formed under the direction of Monsieur le Brun, one of the most intelligent connoisseurs of the French capital.
“In the year 1817, Monsieur de Talleyrand having expressed himse.ff inclined to dispose of his collection by private contract, the author of these sketch us waited upon him in Paris, for the purpose of making proposals to purchase the same, and after a short conversation with Monsieur de Talleyrand, and having examined the collection, he agreed to give him the sum at which the collection had been valued, provided he would reserve a Claude which hung in a situation too high to be examined critically, and make a deduction of 30,000 francs for the same, being the sum at which it had been valued. To these terms Monsieur de Talleyrand would not consent at the time, and would make no deduction whatever ; but he desired to take the proposition regard ing the Claude into consideration, and to give an answer the following day.
“In the mean time, a gentleman who had introduced Mr. Buchanan to Monsieur de Talleyrand wrote a letter to the secretary of that nobleman, without the knowledge of the for.ner, proposing some modification of the offer in regard to the collection without the Claude, which it appears had given offence either to Morsieur de Talleyrand himself, or to his secretary; for, on the following day, when Ms. Buchanan attended by appointment to conclude the transaction (and he had determined not to allow the affair of the Claude to stand in the way of it), he was informed that Monsieur de Talleyrand had gone from home, and that the pictures were no longer risible.
Finding his views defeated from this casualty, and no probability of again having an iriterview with the proprietor himself, and ing at the same time informed that Monsieur de Talleyrand had changed his intention of selling this fine collection of pictures, he returned to England, and had been there for several weeks, when he was again informed that this collection was to be sold on the "th of July by public sale in Paris, of which he received a printed catalogue.
Having previously received intimation that something of this kind might be the case, IMr. Buchanan had taken care to have credits in readiness to operate on at a short notice, as one of the principal causes for not terminating the affair at the first interview with Monsieur de Talleyrand was, his not having carried with him credits for a sum a dequate to that which would have been required, (argent comptant,) had the terms proposed been agreed to; and the affair of the Claude was intended either to create a diminution on the aggregate sum, if accep'ted, or to keep the affair open until the proper arrangement for the payment of the while should be made, and the money received irom England. On the second occasion, therefore, as he was prepared for the affair, wbatever shape it might assume, he set off immediately for Paris to negotiate with the gentleman who he was informed had be en named as agent for the disposal of these pictures, being anxious to secure for this country so celebrated a collection, if it were possible.