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Commons' corridors, the slabs which received on their plaster surface "The Expulsion of the Fellows of a College at Oxford for refusing to sign the Covenant,' painted by Mr Cope, and 'The Landing of Charles II.,' executed by Mr Ward. We have limited ourselves to the bare enumeration of these works, each admirable after its kind, in order to leave greater space for the frescoes by Mr Dyce, and the waterglass picture by Mr Herbert-works which, long talked of, now on their completion elicit, as they deserve, the warm encomium of the public. Mr Dyce was cut off in the midst of his labours, and thus has never been permitted to enjoy the honour which years of earnest devotion would have amply won. Those who now enter, perchance for the first time, the Queen's Robing-Room, in which this artist was immured so long, will stand in admiration, not unmingled with sadness, in the midst of works which serve as monuments to the genius and the persistent industry of the great painter whose untimely loss we have to deplore. It is a melancholy fact that the last days of Mr Dyce were embittered by hostile discussions, which arose from the prolonged delay in the execution of these arduous compositions. During the last days of Mr Dyce's life, it was our privilege to see him here in the midst of his pictures, palette in hand. His health evidently had been broken, and the feeling which arose dominant in our mind was, not that the painter had done so little, but rather with thankfulness we rejoiced he had been enabled, encompassed by difficulties, to accomplish so much, and that so well. We revisited this chamber a few weeks since, and the subjects with which its walls are decorated now lie again before us in a series of photographs taken from the frescoes themselves. The theme allotted to Mr Dyce was the legend of King Arthur, in illustration of the virtues of chivalry; and the subjects already carried out are 'Hospitality,' as exemplified in
the admission of Sir Tristram to the fellowship of the Round Table; Religion' or 'Faith,' as seen in the vision of Sir Galahad and his company; 'Generosity,' extended to King Arthur when unhorsed and spared by Sir Launcelot; 'Courtesy,' as when Sir Tristram harped to La Belle Isonde; and 'Mercy,' vouchsafed when Sir Gawaine swore on bended knee never to be cruel to ladies. As an indication of the time and study involved in these compositions, it may be enough to state that the first of the above subjects, the large picture, 'The Admission of Sir Tristram to the Fellowship of the Round Table,' contains upwards of thirty life-size figures, each executed, after the piecemeal process of fresco, upon something like two hundred slabs of wet mortar, each day freshly laid upon the wall to receive the painter's colours. A close examination of this dovetailed mosaic of mortar scarcely reveals the lines of junction, so faultless has been the manipulation of both painter and plasterer. Neither can the execution be found to betray the haste or the incompleteness said to be inseparable from this fresco method: on the contrary, not only are the heads fully mature in expression, but even the accessories of chain armour, sword -hilts, and horses' trappings, have been pronounced in elaborate detail. Taken as a whole, we incline to think that these noble and deliberate works may be accepted as a fulfilment of those sanguine hopes which some years since were entertained when fresco was still in this country a tempting but untried experiment. It were, of course, too much to say that these pictures equal the master works executed in the same material by the great artists of Italy. In some points, however, they will not be found to suffer by comparison, at least with any of the modern revivals in Europe. In colour they are certainly less crude than German frescoes, and in outline less severe and hard. The style is,
after Mr Dyce's accustomed manner, academic. The fault, perhaps, may be found that these compositions want vigour and vitality, -deficiencies which usually afflict schools given to careful compilation.
It remains that we should notice the great water-glass picture by Mr Herbert, which has been received, as it deserves, with a favour waxing to furor. Some ten years ago Mr Herbert accepted a commission to prepare designs for a series of paintings to be executed on the walls of the Peers' RobingRoom. The theme committed to his charge was Justice on Earth, and its development in Law and Judgment, subjects commencing with Moses bringing down the Tables of the Law,' proceeding by intermediate steps to 'The Judgment of Solomon,' 'The Visit of the Queen of Sheba,' and ending with The Vision of Daniel.' Other events are included in the series, which, if ever completed, will consist of no less than nine compositions. The first of these only is finished, Moses bringing down the Tables of the Law.' We read in the 34th chapter of Exodus, that "it came to pass, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tables of the testimony, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with the Lord. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come nigh unto him." This is the moment selected by Mr Herbert. It will be remembered that, for the sake of dramatic action, Leonardo, in the composition of his 'Last Supper,' chose the time when Jesus said, "One of you shall betray me." For a like reason—that is, for the purpose of attaining variety in action and intensity of expression-Mr Herbert has seized the situation indicated in the text, when Moses, having been with the Lord forty days and forty nights, his countenance radiant with light and glory, fills at his
approach the rulers and the congregation of the people with wonder and dismay. The figure of Moses, the personation of a law given amid thunder and lightnings, stands the centre of the composition. Around him, some retreating back through awe, others drawing near by fellowship in office, are grouped the Levites and princes of the people, Aaron and his two sons, Nadab and Abihu, Joshua, his father Nun, and Eleazar, Caleb the guide of the camp, and Miriam, the singer and prophetess, kneeling, her timbrel lying on the ground. Above rise the heights of Sinai, beneath stretches the valley in which the tribes of Israel are seen encamped. Such is the subject of this grand composition, occupying the entire end of the room, a space upwards of twenty feet in length by ten in height. As a work of art, various excellencies are worthy of note. The composition is symmetric and equally balanced. Moses, crowned by a nimbus traversed with radiant horns, is made the centre or culminating point, and all subordinate or accessory figures encircle or radiate from him, the hero of the scene. The colour is varied, but not decorative; serious, as befits the subject, without being austere. The light is luminous to the last degree-more radiant, indeed, than in any fresco we can recall; qualities, no doubt, in great measure dependent on the painter having covered the wall as a preliminary with a coating of white paint. For detail, also, we must concede that this work, executed in water-glass- a process which admits of retouching and endless elaboration-goes far beyond the comparatively broad sketchy manner which usually contents the rival method of fresco. This power of expressing the minutest of facts has by the painter been turned to good account: not only does he reproduce the Oriental turban in its richness and variety of colour, but he is enabled at the same time, in his
figures, to mark the anatomy of every limb, and in the faces to work out delicate traits of expression. Speaking generally of the style, we should say it is more naturalistic than academic or ideal. Yet at the same time the work maintains a naturalism which, by its nobility, is delivered from the degradation which Horace Vernet and others of the French school brought upon sacred art. The frescoes of Mr Dyce we have designated as pertaining to the style academic. The treatment adopted by Mr Herbert is in great degree free from any such traditional restraint. Thus his picture becomes, as we have said, in the best sense of the word, naturalistic-that is, it seeks after forms realistic, yet at the same time noble, truthful, and beauteous; and herein art and nature are, in the end, shown to be one and indivisible. In fine, taken for all in all, Moses bringing down the Tables of the Law' is the grandest and most satisfactory mural painting yet revealed in this country. We have here, indeed, a signal example of high historic art, in the best and truest sense of the terms.
We had hoped to have concluded this article with brightening pro
spects for the future. thought that the Report of the Royal Commission, recommending bold reforms in the Academy, would have been followed by immediate and salutary results. But from the notorious incapacity of the present Government in the department of public works, and from the feeling now strong in the House that every plan propounded by the Ministry demanding supplies for the erection or purchase of public buildings must be nothing else than a weak compromise and a job, the wellgrounded hope that the Academy and the National Gallery were about to be put in a position worthy of a great nation has been once more frustrated. Melancholy is it thus to see the arts in this country ever made the sport of faction, the victims of ignorance and incapacity. By a capricious and ill-considered vote of the House of Commons the well-considered scheme of the Royal Commissioners is rendered, at least for an indefinite period, absolutely nugatory. And thereby the Academy is now again under a premium to maintain existing abuses in fullest force, in order to raise still higher the price to be paid by the nation as the consideration for imperative reforms.
1864.] Padre Bandelli Proses to the Duke Ludovico Sforza, &c. 103
PADRE BANDELLI PROSES TO THE DUKE LUDOVICO SFORZA ABOUT LEONARDO DA VINCI.
Two steps, your Highness-let me go before,
To the main entrance here so jealously,
The work shows talent-that I must confess;
I pray your Highness' pardon for my zeal-
And eight long months (though that, of course, for us
Not mine, but His, the praise, who all bestows)———
'Tis twenty months since first upon the wall
More than you leave-that's not the way to paint;
There was St John's head, that I verily thought
I thought it done, but still he wrought and wrought,
To work at all-went off and locked the door-
Or worse than folly. Does your Highness pay
If so, the reason's very clear to see.
No? Then his brain is touched, assuredly.
At last, however, as you see, 'tis done—
With eyes fixed on the ground, hour after hour,
His hands behind him, just as if he saw
Some curious thing upon its leaves, and then,
Had struck his mind, there, standing on the spot,
Brother Anselmo tells me that the book