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Hermitage History.part 8

Oct - 25 - 2013

Hermitage Museum

The Hermitage picture gallery of Flemish painters of the XVII century is very vast and of the highest quality. The collection of paintings by Rubens, who headed that school of art, amounts to 42 pictures being one of the largest in the World.

Creations of y Rubens (1577-1640) Whose name ranks among the first not only in Flemishart but also among the greatest artists of the Whole world, is full of high vitality
and optimism; he glorifios man, his physical strength, beauty, energy, and passions; he sings ardent hymns to the powers of the elements and the magnificence of nature, to nature’s creative forces. In his art eternally reviving nature and man continually straining his strength in the battle of life, are tied together with unbreakable bonds. They are always in motion: nature changing in eternally living variety, in the richness of its variegated colours, -man in the storms of passion, in ardent manifestations of bodily strength and will power. But inspite of all the vitality and concreteness of the images created by Rubens, immediate reflection of the reality of life remains strange to him; in his creative imagination he turns its phenomena into poetical figures, recurring to ancient mythology and often making use of allegories. However, with Rubens allegory loses its abstract excogitated nature and acquires concreteness of shape and form. His “Alliance of the Earth and the Water” (plate 31) is an excellent specimen of a monumental-decorative work of that kind, showing the apotheosis of the vital powers of nature, personified by Cyibele, the goddess of earth, and Neptune, the god of the sea. “Perseus and Andromeda” (plate 32) is one of his masterpieces. Rubens, who possessed a powerful knowledge of classical antiquity here approached the mythological subject with complete freedom, without an attempt to imitate antique sculpture, and introducing his images into a freely invented story, while the images themselves were created on a basis of directly studied nature. That is why his Andromeda is so womanly and fascinatingly beautiful, and the stood is so full of mighty power. Landscape occupies an important place in the works of Rubens; his “Carters” (plate 33) should be considered as one of the remarkable pictures of that kind, showing the stern magnificence of the powerful elements. The portrait of an unknown young girl occupying a modest post of a chambermaid of the governess of Netherlands (plate 34) is one of the best likenesses created by Rubens; it is unsurpassed for its freshness and innocence.

The art of another great master of Flemish painting and one of the greatest portrait-painters of the world Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) is fully represented in the Hermitage by 27 works of his.

From his “Self-Portrait” (plate 36) a handsome young man inclined to languid dreaminess and dressed with exquisite elegance looks at us; later on he became a creator of a series of aristocratic portraits, but at an earlier period, living in the circle of his middle-class compatriots, van Dyck created strictly realistic portraits, pervaded with fine psychological characteristics. One of his best works of that kind is the “Family Portrait” (plate 37). His “Portrait of a Man” (plate 38) also pertains to the height of the artist’s activity, it is said to be the portrait of an Antwerp physician Maharkeisus, and is apparently affected by the author’s careful study of Venetian portrait-painting. Of his several excellent aristocratic portraits, made by the master on his moving to England, where he became the court-painter of king Charles I, our album includes the elegant “Portrait of Philadelphia and Elizabeth Cary” (plate 39).

The somewhat rough and simple-hearted J. J0r daens (1593-1678), possessing a powerful talent for painting, was his direct opposite. One of his favourite subjects was to depict family parties of Antwerp burghers (plate 40) brimful of unconstrained joviality. The Hermitage possesses a brilliant collection of works of another excellent Flemish painter F. Snyders (1579-1657), an enthusiast of the abundent gifts of nature; his “Fish Shop” (plate 41) is included in our album.
The chief masters of genre-painting, which achieved a comparatively mild development in Flanders, if compared to Holland, are A. Brouwer (about 1606-lG38), and D. Teniers (1610-1690). Of the stormy artistic temperament and democratic tendencies of the former we may judge by a wonderfully painted study of a “Flute Player” (plate 42). The “Village Fcast” (plate 43) by Teniers is one of the best and most characteristic works of the painter, who made pictures of somewhat embellished country life his speciality.

 V.F. Levinsol – Lessing


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