At last I have come into dreamland; into the lotus-eater's paradise; into the land where it is always afternoon. I am released from care; I am unknown, unknowing; I live in a house whose arrangements seem to me strange, old, and dreamy. In the heart of a great city I am as still as if in a convent; in the burning heats of summer our rooms are shadowy and cool as a cave. My time is all my own. I may at will lie on a sofa, and dreamily watch the play of the leaves and flowers, in the little garden into which my room opens; or I may go into the parlor adjoining, whence I hear the quick voices of my beautiful and vivacious young friends. You ought to see these girls. Emma might look like a Madonna, were it not for her wicked wit; and as to Anna and Lizzie, as they glance by me, now and then, I seem to think them a kind of sprite, or elf, made to inhabit shady old houses, just as twinkling harebells grow in old castles; and then the gracious mamma, who speaks French, or English, like a stream of silver—is she not, after all, the fairest of any of them? And there is Caroline, piquant, racy, full of conversation—sharp as a quartz crystal: how I like to hear her talk! These people know Paris, as we say in America, "like a book." They have studied it aesthetically, historically, socially. They have studied French people and French literature,—and studied it with enthusiasm, as people ever should, who would truly understand. They are all kindness to me. Whenever I wish to see any thing, I have only to speak; or to know, I have only to ask. At breakfast every morning we compare notes, and make up our list of wants. My first, of course, was the Louvre. It is close by us. Think of it. To one who has starved all a life, in vain imaginings of what art might be, to know that you are within a stone's throw of a museum full of its miracles, Greek, Assyrian, Egyptian, Roman sculptors and modern painting, all there!

I scarcely consider myself to have seen any thing of art in England. The calls of the living world were so various and exigeant, I had so little leisure for reflection, that, although I saw many paintings, I could not study them; and many times I saw them in a state of the nervous system too jaded and depressed to receive the full force of the impression. A day or two before I left, I visited the National Gallery, and made a rapid survey of its contents. There were two of Turner's masterpieces there, which he presented on the significant condition that they should hang side by side with their two finest Claudes. I thought them all four fine pictures, but I liked the Turners best. Yet I did not think any of them fine enough to form an absolute limit to human improvement. But, till I had been in Paris a day or two, perfectly secluded, at full liberty to think and rest, I did not feel that my time for examining art had really come.

It was, then, with a thrill almost of awe that I approached the Louvre. Here, perhaps, said I to myself, I shall answer, fully, the question that has long wrought within my soul, What is art? and what can it do? Here, perhaps, these yearnings for the ideal will meet their satisfaction. The ascent to the picture gallery tends to produce a flutter of excitement and expectation. Magnificent staircases, dim perspectives of frescoes and carvings, the glorious hall of Apollo, rooms with mosaic pavements, antique vases, countless spoils of art, dazzle the eye of the neophyte, and prepare the mind for some grand enchantment. Then opens on one the grand hall of paintings arranged by schools, the works of each artist by themselves, a wilderness of gorgeous growths.

I first walked through the whole, offering my mind up aimlessly to see if there were any picture there great and glorious enough to seize and control my whole being, and answer, at once, the cravings of the poetic and artistic element. For any such I looked in vain. I saw a thousand beauties, as also a thousand enormities, but nothing of that overwhelming, subduing nature which I had conceived. Most of the men there had painted with dry eyes and cool hearts, thinking only of the mixing of their colors and the jugglery of their art, thinking little of heroism, faith, love, or immortality. Yet when I had resigned this longing; when I was sure I should not meet there what I sought, then I began to enjoy very heartily what there was.

In the first place, I now saw Claudes worthy of the reputation he bore. Three or four of these were studied with great delight; the delight one feels, who, conscientiously bound to be delighted, suddenly comes into a situation to be so. I saw, now, those atmospheric traits, those reproductions of the mysteries of air, and of light, which are called so wonderful, and for which all admire Claude, but for which so few admire Him who made Claude, and who every day creates around us, in the commonest scenes, effects far more beautiful. How much, even now, my admiration of Claude was genuine, I cannot say. How can we ever be sure on this point, when we admire what has prestige and sanction, not to admire which is an argument against ourselves? Certainly, however, I did feel great delight in some of these works.

One of my favorites was Rembrandt. I always did admire the gorgeous and solemn mysteries of his coloring. Rembrandt is like Hawthorne. He chooses simple and everyday objects, and so arranges light and shadow as to give them a sombre richness and a mysterious gloom. The House of Seven Gables is a succession of Rembrandt pictures, done in words instead of oils. Now, this pleases us, because our life really is a haunted one; the simplest thing in it is a mystery, the invisible world always lies round us like a shadow, and therefore this dreamy golden gleam of Rembrandt meets somewhat in our inner consciousness to which it corresponds. There were no pictures in the gallery which I looked upon so long, and to which I returned so often and with such growing pleasure, as these. I found in them, if not a commanding, a drawing influence, a full satisfaction for one part of my nature.

There were Raphaels there, which still disappointed me, because from Raphael I asked and expected more. I wished to feel his hand on my soul with a stronger grasp; these were too passionless in their serenity, and almost effeminate in their tenderness.

But Rubens, the great, joyous, full-souled, all-powerful Rubens!—there he was, full as ever of triumphant, abounding life; disgusting and pleasing; making me laugh and making me angry; defying me to dislike him; dragging me at his chariot wheels; in despite of my protests forcing me to confess that there was no other but he.

This Medici gallery is a succession of gorgeous allegoric paintings, done at the instance of Mary of Medici, to celebrate the praise and glory of that family. I was predetermined not to like them for two reasons: first, that I dislike allegorical subjects; and second, that I hate and despise that Medici family and all that belongs to them. So no sympathy with the subjects blinded my eyes, and drew me gradually from all else in the hall to contemplate these. It was simply the love of power and of fertility that held me astonished, which seemed to express with nonchalant ease what other painters attain by laborious efforts. It occurred to me that other painters are famous for single heads, or figures, and that were the striking heads and figures with which these pictures abound to be parcelled out singly, any one of them would make a man's reputation. Any animal of Rubens, alone, would make a man's fortune in that department. His fruits and flowers are unrivalled for richness and abundance; his old men's Leads are wonderful; and when he chooses, which he does not often, he can even create a pretty woman. Generally speaking his women are his worst productions. It would seem that he had revolted with such fury from the meagre, pale, cadaverous outlines of womankind painted by his predecessors, the Van Eyks, whose women resembled potato sprouts grown in a cellar, that he altogether overdid the matter in the opposite direction. His exuberant soul abhors leanness as Nature abhors a vacuum; and hence all his women seem bursting their bodices with fulness, like overgrown carnations breaking out of their green calyxes. He gives you Venuses with arms fit to wield the hammer of Vulcan; vigorous Graces whose dominion would be alarming were they indisposed to clemency. His weakness, in fact, his besetting sin, is too truly described by Moses:—

  "But Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked;
   Thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick,
   Thou art covered with fatness."

Scornfully he is determined upon it; he will none of your scruples; his women shall be fat as he pleases, and you shall like him nevertheless.

In this Medici gallery the fault appears less prominent than elsewhere. Many of the faces are portraits, and there are specimens among them of female beauty, so delicate as to demonstrate that it was not from any want of ability to represent the softer graces that he so often becomes hard and coarse. My friend, M. Belloc, made the remark that the genius of Rubens was somewhat restrained in these pictures, and chastened by the rigid rules of the French school, and hence in them he is more generally pleasing.

I should compare Rubens to Shakspeare, for the wonderful variety and vital force of his artistic power. I know no other mind he so nearly resembles. Like Shakspeare, he forces you to accept and to forgive a thousand excesses, and uses his own faults as musicians use discords, only to enhance the perfection of harmony. There certainly is some use even in defects. A faultless style sends you to sleep. Defects rouse and excite the sensibility to seek and appreciate excellences. Some of Shakspeare's finest passages explode all grammar and rhetoric like skyrockets—the thought blows the language to shivers.

As to Murillo, there are two splendid specimens of his style here, as exquisite as any I have seen; but I do not find reason to alter the judgment I made from my first survey.

Here is his celebrated picture of the Assumption of the Virgin, which we have seen circulated in print shops in America, but which appears of a widely different character in the painting. The Virgin is rising in a flood of amber light, surrounded by clouds and indistinct angel figures. She is looking upward with clasped hands, as in an ecstasy: the crescent moon is beneath her feet. The whole tone of the picture— the clouds, the drapery, her flowing hair—are pervaded with this amber tint, sublimated and spiritual. Do I, then, like it? No. Does it affect me? Not at all. Why so? Because this is a subject requiring earnestness; yet, after all, there is no earnestness of religious feeling expressed. It is a surface picture, exquisitely painted—the feeling goes no deeper than the canvas. But how do I know Murillo has no earnestness in the religious idea of this piece? How do I know, when reading Pope's Messiah, that he was not in earnest—that he was only most exquisitely reproducing what others had thought? Does he not assume, in the most graceful way, the language of inspiration and holy rapture? But, through it all, we feel the satisfied smirk of the artist, and the fine, sharp touch of his diamond file. What is done from a genuine, strong, inward emotion, whether in writing or painting, always mesmerizes the paper, or the canvas, and gives it a power which every body must feel, though few know why. The reason why the Bible has been omnipotent, in all ages, has been because there were the emotions of GOD in it; and of paintings nothing is more remarkable than that some preserve in them such a degree of genuine vital force that one can never look on them with indifference; while others, in which every condition of art seems to be met, inspire no strong emotion.

Yet this picture is immensely popular. Hundreds stand enchanted before it, and declare it imbodies their highest ideal of art and religion; and I suppose it does. But so it always is. The man who has exquisite gifts of expression passes for more, popularly, than the man with great and grand ideas who utters but imperfectly. There are some pictures here by Correggio—a sleeping Venus and Cupid—a marriage of the infant Jesus and St. Catharine. This Correggio is the poet of physical beauty. Light and shadow are his god. What he lives for is, to catch and reproduce fitting phases of these. The moral is nothing to him, and, in his own world, he does what he seeks. He is a great popular favorite, since few look for more in a picture than exquisite beauty understood between us that his sphere is to be earth, and not heaven; were he to attempt, profanely, to represent heavenly things, I must rebel. I should as soon want Tom Moore to write me a prayer book.

A large saloon is devoted to the masters of the French school. The works of no living artists are admitted. There are some large paintings by David. He is my utter aversion. I see in him nothing but the driest imitation of the classics. It would be too much praise to call it reproduction. David had neither heart nor soul. How could he be and artist?—he who coolly took his portfolio to the guillotine to take lessons on the dying agonies of its victims—how could he ever paint any thing to touch the heart?

In general, all French artists appear to me to have been very much injured by a wrong use of classic antiquity. Nothing could be more glorious and beautiful than the Grecian development; nothing more unlike it that the stale, wearisome, repetitious imitations of it in modern times. The Greek productions themselves have a living power to this day; but all imitations of them are cold and tiresome. These old Greeks made such beautiful things, because they did not imitate. That mysterious vitality which still imbues their remains, and which seems to enchant even the fragments of their marbles, is the mesmeric vitality of fresh, original conception. Art, built upon this, is just like what the shadow of a beautiful woman is to the woman. One gets tired in these galleries of the classic band, and the classic headdress, and the classic attitude, and the endless repetition of the classic urn, and vase, and lamp, as if nothing else were ever to be made in the world except these things.

Again: in regard to this whole French gallery, there is much of a certain quality which I find it very difficult to describe in any one word—a dramatic smartness, a searching for striking and peculiar effects, which render the pictures very likely to please on first sight, and to weary on longer acquaintance. It seems to me to be the work of a race whose senses and perceptions of the outward have been cultivated more than the deep inward emotions. Few of the pictures seem to have been the result of strong and profound feeling, of habits of earnest and concentrated thought. There is an abundance of beautiful little phases of sentiment, pointedly expressed; there is a great deal of what one should call the picturesque of the morale; but few of its foundation ideas. I must except from these remarks the very strong and earnest painting of the Méduse, by Géricault, which C. has described. That seems to me to be the work of a man who had not seen human life and suffering merely on the outside, but had felt, in the very depths of his soul, the surging and earthquake of those mysteries of passion and suffering which underlie our whole existence in this world. To me it was a picture too mighty and too painful—whose power I confessed, but which I did not like to contemplate.

On the whole, French painting is to me an exponent of the great difficulty and danger of French life; that passion for the outward and visible, which all their education, all the arrangements of their social life, every thing in their art and literature, tends continually to cultivate and increase. Hence they have become the leaders of the world in what I should call the minor artistics—all those little particulars which render life beautiful. Hence there are more pretty pictures, and popular lithographs, from France than from any other country in the world; but it produces very little of the deepest and highest style of art.

In this connection I may as well give you my Luxembourg experience, as it illustrates the same idea. I like Paul de la Roche, on the whole, although I think he has something of the fault of which I speak. He has very great dramatic power; but it is more of the kind shown by Walter Scott than of the kind shown by Shakspeare. He can reproduce historical characters with great vividness and effect, and with enough knowledge of humanity to make the verisimilitude admirably strong; but as to the deep knowledge with which Shakspeare searches the radical elements of the human soul, he has it not. His Death of Queen Elizabeth is a strong Walter Scott picture; so are his Execution of Strafford, and his Charles I., which I saw in England.

As to Horace Vernet, I do not think he is like either Scott or Shakspeare. In him this French capability for rendering the outward is wrought to the highest point; and it is outwardness as pure from any touch of inspiration or sentiment as I ever remember to have seen. He is graphic to the utmost extreme. His horses and his men stand from the canvas to the astonishment of all beholders. All is vivacity, bustle, dazzle, and show. I think him as perfect, of his kind, as possible; though it is a kind of art with which I do not sympathize.

The picture of the Décadence de Rome indicates to my mind a painter who has studied and understood the classical forms; vitalizing them, by the reproductive force of his own mind, so as to give them the living power of new creations. In this picture is a most grand and melancholy moral lesson. The classical forms are evidently not introduced because they are classic, but in subservience to the expression of the moral. In the orgies of the sensualists here represented he gives all the grace and beauty of sensuality without its sensualizing effect. Nothing could be more exquisite than the introduction of the busts of the departed heroes of the old republic, looking down from their pedestals on the scene of debauchery below. It is a noble picture, which I wish was hung up in the Capitol of our nation to teach our haughty people that as pride, and fulness of bread, and laxness of principle brought down the old republics, so also ours may fall. Although the outward in this painting, and the classical, is wrought to as fine a point as in any French picture, it is so subordinate to the severity of the thought, that while it pleases it does not distract.

But to return to the Louvre. The halls devoted to paintings, of which I have spoken, give you very little idea of the treasures of the institution. Gallery after gallery is filled with Greek, Roman, Assyrian, and Egyptian sculptures, coins, vases, and antique remains of every description. There is, also, an apartment in which I took a deep interest, containing the original sketches of ancient masters. Here one may see the pen and ink drawings of Claude, divided into squares to prepare them for the copyist. One compares here with interest the manners of the different artists in jotting down their ideas as they rose; some by chalk, some by crayon, some by pencil, some by water colors, and some by a heterogeneous mixture of all. Mozart's scrap bag of musical jottings could not have been more amusing.

On the whole, cravings of mere ideality have come nearer to meeting satisfaction by some of these old mutilated remains of Greek sculpture than any thing which I have met yet. In the paintings, even of the most celebrated masters, there are often things which are excessively annoying to me. I scarcely remember a master in whose works I have not found a hand, or foot, or face, or feature so distorted, or coloring at times so unnatural, or something so out of place and proportion in the picture as very seriously to mar the pleasure that I derived from it. In this statuary less is attempted, and all is more harmonious, and one's ideas of proportion are never violated.

My favorite among all these remains is a mutilated statue which they call the Venus de Milon. This is a statue which is so called from having been dug up some years ago, piecemeal, in the Island of Milos. There was quite a struggle for her between a French naval officer, the English, and the Turks. The French officer carried her off like another Helen, and she was given to Paris, old Louis Philippe being bridegroom by proxy. Savans refer the statue to the time of Phidias; and as this is a pleasant idea to me, I go a little further, and ascribe her to Phidias himself.

The statue is much mutilated, both arms being gone, and part of the foot. But there is a majesty and grace in the head and face, a union of loveliness with intellectual and moral strength, beyond any thing which I have ever seen. To me she might represent Milton's glorious picture of unfallen, perfect womanhood, in his Eve:—

  "Yet when I approach
   Her loveliness, so absolute she seems,
   And in herself complete, so well to know
   Her own, that what she wills to do or say
   Seems wisest, virtuousest, discreetest, best.
   All higher knowledge in her presence falls
   Degraded; wisdom, in discourse with her,
   Loses discountenanced, and like folly shows.
   Authority and reason on her wait,
   As one intended first, not after made
   Occasionally; and to consummate all,
   Greatness of mind, and nobleness, their seat
   Build in her, loveliest, and create an awe
   About her, like a guard angelic placed."

Compared with this matchless Venus, that of Medici seems as inane and trifling as mere physical beauty always must by the side of beauty baptized, and made sacramental, as the symbol of that which alone is truly fair.

With regard to the arrangements of the Louvre, they seem to me to be admirable. No nation has so perfectly the qualifications to care for, keep, and to show to best advantage a gallery of art as the French.

During the heat of the outburst that expelled Louis Philippe from the throne, the Louvre was in some danger of destruction. Destructiveness is a native element of human nature, however repressed by society; and hence every great revolutionary movement always brings to the surface some who are for indiscriminate demolition. Moreover there is a strong tendency in the popular mind, where art and beauty have for many years been monopolized as the prerogative of a haughty aristocracy, to identify art and beauty with oppression; this showed itself in England and Scotland in the general storm which wrecked the priceless beauty of the ecclesiastical buildings. It was displaying itself in the same manner in Germany during the time of the reformation, and had not Luther been gifted with a nature as strongly aesthetic as progressive, would have wrought equal ruin there. So in the first burst of popular enthusiasm that expelled the monarchy, the cry was raised by some among the people, "We shall never get rid of kings till we pull down the palaces;" just the echo of the old cry in Scotland, "Pull down the nests, and the rooks will fly away." The populace rushed in to the splendid halls and saloons of the Louvre, and a general encampment was made among the pictures. In this crisis a republican artist named Jeanron saved the Louvre; saved the people the regret that must have come over them had they perpetrated barbarisms, and Liberty the shame of having such outrages wrought in her name. Appointed by the provisional government to the oversight of the Louvre, and well known among the people as a republican, he boldly came to the rescue. "Am I not one of you?" he said. "Am I not one of the people? These splendid works of art, are they not ours? Are they not the pride and glory of our country? Shall we destroy our most glorious possession in the first hour of its passing into our hands?"

Moved by his eloquence the people decamped from the building, and left it in his hands. Empowered to make all such arrangements for its renovation and embellishment as his artistic taste should desire, he conducted important repairs in the building, rearranged the halls, had the pictures carefully examined, cleaned when necessary, and distributed in schools with scientific accuracy. He had an apartment prepared where are displayed those first sketches by distinguished masters, which form one of the most instructive departments of the Louvre to a student of art. The government seconded all his measures by liberal supplies of money; and the Louvre is placed in its present perfect condition by the thoughtful and cherishing hand of the republic.

These facts have been communicated to me from a perfectly reliable source. As an American, and a republican, I cannot but take pleasure in them. I mention them because it is often supposed, from the destructive effects which attend the first advent of democratic principles where they have to explode their way into existence through masses of ancient rubbish, that popular liberty is unfavorable to art. It never could be so in France, because the whole body of the people are more thoroughly artistic in their tastes and feelings than in most countries. They are almost slaves to the outwardly beautiful, taken captive by the eye and the ear, and only the long association of beauty with tyranny, with suffering, want, and degradation to themselves, could ever have inspired any of them with even a momentary bitterness against it.

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