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During the last month, a picture dently contemplated the subjugation of stupendous size, lately imported of the civilized world. It is mani. from Brussels, has been exhibited fest, that the latter class of persons to the public, in the great room, will not regard the picture withi so belonging to the Society of Paint favourable an eye as the former."? ers in Oil and Water-colours, in In the second place, it is probaPall Mall. It represents the Coro
ble that the English speetator, nation of Napoleon Buonaparte, whose acquaintance with the Fine and is the production of M. David, Arts is comprehended in an annual the celebrated French painter, whose visit to Somerset House, may be conduct during the French revolu struck with the great difference tion is well known, and who was between the style in which this sent into exile by Louis XVIII. for picture is executed, and the style his political principles.
to which he is accustomed; and, Before we enter into any par
with a true John Bull feeling, may ticular investigation of the inerits instantly pronounce the former inof this work, we think it but com ferior, because not the same as the mon justice to the artist to state latter. Far, very far, are we froir several general reflections, which denying that it is much inferior : occurred to us on viewing it. all that we deprecate is a sudden,
In the first place, it is probable and ignorant, and partial judgment. that the spectator will be very much The only just criterón of excellence influenced in his judgment of the in the Fine Arts is a comparison of picture by his opinions with res their productions with nature, propect to the real character of the perly understood, and with those extraordinary individual, whose ex works of the great masters which altation to imperial dignity it is have endured the test of centuries, intended to commemorate. By .a and have passed down to the prenumber of persons in this country, sent day, sealed with the admiration that individual is considered as of the competent judges of all counhaving been the illustrious cham- tries. Such a comparison can be pion of liberty and knowledge; las made by few. having warred, and during the In the third place, it is certain greater part of his wonderful ca that no spectator, unless he is a ireer triuinphantly warred,' against professional artist, or one very indespotism and superstition; break timate with professional artists, càn ing the chains with which the one be fully aware of the manifold seeks eyer to enslave, and dispelling miseries attendant on the execution the mists with which the other seeks of such a subject. Several of those ever to blind the human race. But, miseries, and among them the Emby a still greater number of persons, peror's orders, sometimes very difThe is viewed merely as a inilitary ficult to put in harmony with the adventurer, of genius and good exact truth, and also the pretensions fortune ; who availed himself of of powerful men, who were all aunintrigue, and of the ample means
bitious of the most conspicuous which the French Revolution placed place, are slily hinted at in the at his disposal, ito grasp supreme little printed account of the picture, power; and who then lost the sold in the room i where it is exhinoblest opportunity, that man ever bited: but they are only hipted at. -enjoyed, of obtaining a truly glori- It is impossible, however, to doubt ons and immortal fame, by abusing that if M. David chose to publish a that power for the purpose of self- faithful narrative of the obstacles aggrandizement, and for the gra which ignorance, presumption, and tification of an ambition, that evi- caprice, threw in his way, in the
progress of his work, he might 'imperial robes, and, after having easily till an octavo volume. From "crowned himself, first with the in- . the general conception, down to the perial crown and then with the minutest details of finishing, the crown of France, advances to place 'artist's sense of what would be the latter on the head of Josephine. advantageous to his picture must He stands rather to the right of the have been constantly subservient to centre of the picture, at the edge of his sense of the necessity of not the highest step of the altar, in an displeasing the numerous, dignified, erect posture, holding the crown and powerful individuals who con with both hands, his arms stretched tributed to its composition.
out before him, and somewhat ele. In the fourth, and last place, vated. Josephine kneels on great allowance must be made for cushion, placed on the lowest step of the insufficient size of the apartment the altar; her head bowed, and her in which the picture is shown. Al hands closed, as in prayer.' The though large, it is not large enough Pope, in his pontifical robes, is Ito permit the spectator to retire to seated immediately behind Napoa station, whence he might embrace leon, and near the altar; his right the whole picture at one glance; hand and arm gently raised in the and thereby be enabled to judge act of benediction. Close to his -fairly of the effect. Some remedy holiness are Cardinal Caprara, (the for this evil is attempted by sus- legate to the French court,) Cardipending a mirror on the wall oppo nal Braschy, .a Patriarch of the site - the picture. This, however, Greek church, and several other would be a poor expedient, even if dignified ecclesiastics. Behind this there were only a single spectator groupe is the great altar. At some present, and is entirely unavailing distance on the other side, and fillin the usually crowded state of the ing up the space between the papal room,
groupe and the altar, are the variHaving made these preliminary, ous foreign ambassadors, resident and we trust not uncandid remarks, at the time in Paris. In the forewe shall proceed to describe the ground, towards the right hand picture, and afterwards briefly to corner of the picture, are the Duke express our opinion of it; endea. of Plaisance, holdirg the imperial vouring to divest ourselves of pre- sceptre, the Duke of Parma, (Camjudice, from whatever cause arising; baceres) bearing the wand of justice, but at the same time not permitting the Prince of Wagram, (Berthier) any apprehension that we may be holding the Imperial globe of Charsuspected of being biassed by pre- lemagne, and the Prince of Benejudice to deter us from the frank vente, (Talleyrand) carrying the declaration of our sentiments. basket containing the imperial
The original picture was painted mantle. On the steps of the altar, by Buonaparte's express command. and rather more distant than the last As, in the somewhat mysterious mentioned personages are Prince language of the printed account, Eugene Beauharnois (Josephine's “it exists no more for the public, son) the Duke of Vicenza, (Caulinthe present picture, which is, “a court) and the Prince of Porte repetition by the same artist, con- Corvo, (Bernadotte, 'now King of siderably improved,” is probably Sweden) just before them are the the largest in the world; being Cardinals Pacca and Fesch, and thirty-three feet long, and twenty- just behind are several Roman one high; the Marriage in Cana, clergy to assist in filling up the - by Paul Veronese, hitherto entitled composition to the side of the picto that distinction, being only thir- ture which object is completed by ty-three feet long, and eighteen part of a descent from the cross, in high. It contains the portraits of marble, elevated on a pedestal. We two hundred and ten persons; near now return to the centre of the ly eighty of whom are represented picture., Josephine's train is supfrom head to foot. The scene is the ported by her ladies of honour, choir of Notre-Dame, at Paris. The Madame de Lavalette and the period chosen is when Napoleon, Countess of La Rochefoucault. On after having been attired in the the side opposite to the spectator
and of course fronting him, are seen dency; occasionally swelled, ocPrince Murat, (afterwards King of casionally indented with just as Naples) the Duke of Conegliano, much variety as the nature of the (Moncey) the Duke of Treviso, subject would admit. Bessierre) Conte Segur, the Pope's The chiaro-scuro, also, is evidentcross bearer, and several Roman ly the result of nuch experience prelates. Ata small distance behind and study. The principal light the ladies of honour appear the falls on the gronpe near the centre, three sisters of Napoleon, namely, of which Napoleon is, as it were, Maria Annunciade Carolina, (Prin. the focus. , It is contrasted by the cess Murat) Maria Paulina, (Prin- dark figures of the Duke of Plaiscess Borghese) and Maria Ann
ance, Cambacéres, Berthier, and Eliza, (Princess of Lucca and Piom- Talleyrand, in the fore-ground, and bino). On their left, are Hortense is carried off the other
way by genEugenia Beauharnois, (daughter of tle gradations, until it dies into Josephine, and wife of Lewis Na- half-tint. Some larger masses of poleon) and Maria Julia Clary, deep shadow would unquestionably (wife of Joseph Napoleon). Ap- have strengthened and improved the proaching the fore-ground, towards effect; but it ought to be recollected, the left hand corner of the picture, that they could not have been stand Lewis Napoleon, (afterwards easily introduced without sacrifices, King of Holland) and Joseph Na- which it is probable the artist could poleon, (successively King of Na- not venture to make. ples, and King of Spain.) The It has been said by some, that the interstices between them and the moment of time is not well selected; ladies, and on the further side of the for that the picture represents the latter, are filled up by the Cardinal Coronation of Josephine, and not of du Belloy, (Archbishop of Paris) Napoleon. This objection does not allowed to sit in consideration of appear to us to be just. An artist his great age, the Duke D'Abrantes, is not bound to adhere to the very (Junot) the Duke of Dantzic, (Le letter of accuracy in such a case. Febvre, the Duke of Frioul, (Duroc) He is to exercise his own judgment and about a dozen other men of and discretion. To have epre high rank. There are several galle- sented Napoleon placing the crown ries. In the principal one, which on his own head would have been to is in the centre, is represented Ma- represent an awkward action. And dame Napoleon's mother, (who, besides, French gallantry would however, was not actually, present scarcely have tolerated the introducat the ceremony) attended by her tion of Josephine as a spectator, inladies in waiting, and the officers of stead of a participaton of her hus, her household. In the other galle- band's elevation. ries are a number of spectators; Of the colouring, and mechanical among the most conspicuous of execution of the picture, we regret whom are M. David, with his wife to say that we are unable to speak and daughters, the painter Vien, in terms of high commendation, the poet Lebrun, and the musician, With the exception of the central Gretry,
group, which is comparatively warın * To arrange such a multitude of and pleasant, the whole çanyass
, is individuals on the canvas, in a pervaded by a coldness of hue, that way whieb, while it conveyed the in some parts, becomes absolute ice. idea of fulness, should avoid that of The drapery is painted with great confusion, must have been a mat care, and occasionally, with success; ter of much consideration and diffi- but, in general, it savours too much culty. We think M. David has of the lay-figures, and wants.
that eminently succeeded in this respect. union and breadth, that neglect of In: strict accordance with the old small folds, in order to communimaxim, “Ars est celare artem," great cate greater value and dignity to skill in the general plan of the the large, so essential to the chacomposition is concealed under the racter of historical painting. The appearance of complete simplicity. Alesh is very indifferent indeed. Some It forms an, extensive sweep, ota of the older, heads are tolerably, circular, or rather of an oval ton- and only tolerably coloured, the shia
dows being all heavy and opaque; five individuals, who have the slightbut every attempt to represent the est pretension to be exempted; and tender and pearly tints of youth and of those we cannot say much in beauty has so completely failed, as praise. The attitude of Josephine to have been prodnctive of little but is graceful; but her countenance is the resemblance of lead, wax, and vacant. Of her two attendants, one snow. Great deficiency also is be- is singularly plain, and ill-shaped. trayed in that quality of the art The face of the Pope resembles that which is technically,called “ keep of a dull boor, by Teniers; and ing.” This is peculiarly manifest even in Napoleon himself there is in the galleries; where, although scarcely the least indication of that the tone of colours is properly profundity of intellect, which all enough diminished in strength, there who have seen that extraordinary is nothing of that slurring of distinct person concur in declaring to have ness in form, inseparable from dis been the marked and distinguishing, tance. With regard to the execution characteristic of his head, and which, are no friends to slovenliness or
is so powerfully expressed in the bravura of pencil; and we willingly noble and unrivalled bust of him by admit, that the English school, Canova, now, we believe, in the posthough reforming, has still much to session of the Emperor Alexander. correct in that point; but we are As for the surrounding spectators, sure that to those who are familiar we must confess we never saw so with the works of the great masters many unmeaning, and, where not of ảntiquity, and with the bold, unmeaning, hideous visages assempainter's feeling, which those works bled together. epincé,—-bold, in the confidence of Such is our opinion of this labo- : knowledge, not in the audacity of rious but spiritless production; an ignorance, the constraint and lit- opinion which has been most contřeness in the handling of this pic-' scientiously formed, under a thoture'must be very disagreeable. rough sense of the numerous dis
But there is a fault yet untold, in advantages to which M. David must comparison with which all other de have been subjected, and on which fects shrink into insignificance. We we have already thought it due to allude to the absence of mind in the hiin to dwell. It would be a work picture. The personages of whom of supererogation to enter into any it is composed are, generally speak, further consideration of minor iming, the essence of tameness and perfections, otherwise, we might insipidity. So far are they from re comment on the absurdity of répre, sembling intelligent and sensitive senting Josephine as about eighteen" human beings, assisting (to use the years of age, in the presence of a French idiom) at the performance son and daughter, who appear quite , of an 'august and interesting cere old enough to exchange relations mony, that they have not even the with her; -we might remark on the second-hand expression of the thea- vulgarity of Napoleon's sisters ; a tre. There they stand, like so many vulgarity which, even if it actually statues, or, rather, puppets; and, belonged to them, ought to have indeed, it is difficult to believe, that been softened, if not obliterated, by M. David did not, in addition to the refining pencil of the artist; his own, borrow all the Manequins, we might point out the unpardonawhich are so abundant in the.atté-" ble bad taste, which, on the one liers of the leading artists in Paris; hand, refused to mitigate the avowed and, having clothed them in appro- ugliness and deformity of the Counpriate costumes, did not make them tess de la Rochefoucault, and, on his sole models, without further re the other hand, chose to display flection, or any troublesome and dis. her, thus ugly, and thus deformed, concerting 'reference' to' nature. in full view, instead of making her From these remarks, there are but change places with the beautiful
* Canova execated nearly thirty busts of Buonaparte, in marble; but the one to which we allude (and which was at Malmaison), far transcended all the rest.