Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Charles I and Painting


The national bias in favor of portraiture received in King Charles' time a most powerful stimulus in the naturalization of probably the most notable genius in that walk of art whom the world has seen — Vandyke. An earlier and in some respects even greater portrait painter, Hans Holbein, had, it is true, in the preceding century planted the germs of the art in British soil. Holbein's example developed itself in after time in England chiefly in the direction of portrait painting in miniature, in which he himself had contributed inimitably beautiful works, and by Nicholas Hillyard, the Olivers, Cooper Hoskins and other native professors of the art, his successors in the land, the great school of English portrait miniature painting was rapidly developed. This national specialty, be it said, by the way, down even to our own times unrivaled in any other country, we have ourselves seen virtually extinguished by a deadening frost of scientific discovery — photography, that democratic leveler in art and inevitable bane of true genius.

Charles I, with all his artistic instincts, seems nevertheless to have had but comparatively narrow views and aims in the matter of collecting. At the very time that he acquired the famous Mantau collection of pictures or soon afterward he had expatriated a wonderful and most precious series of works of art, nothing less than the ancient gatherings of the English crown in goldsmiths' work and jewelry — historic treasure of infinite interest, which at the present time would be of untold pecuniary value. — Nineteenth Century.

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