L'Esplendente [part 15]

Instead however [83] of conceiving any mean or jealous sentiments he ran to embrace the Artist with transport -; but when so youthful a Figure advanced to receive his congratulations - he could scarcely credit his eyes or believe him the Author of the piece he admired. - Being at length convinced - he enlarged in his praises & pointed out the Merits - of the Copy - to Teronimo with an animation & energy - totally thrown away on the Fryar's fat intellects - who kept repeating over & over again. - Aye Aye - he has got a pretty notion of the Carnations from me - & a good trick of effort - that may do with painstaking & Labour. - This flegmatic reply disgusted the enthusiastic painter who thought a Genius like Ferdinands deserved - one more sensible of its extent to bring it forwards. - Under this impression he determined to propose himself - to - the young Man - as [84] a Person - fully sensible of his merit & ambitious of giving the little hints & instructions he might further require. - The proposal being eagerly accepted by Ferdinand - nothing remained but the Jews concurrence - which was given without much difficulty - & our young Artist left Teronimo - to place himself under Murillo's protection - This great proficient - became more & more pleased with his Disciple - every Hour - & spared no trouble - to improve him. - He procured the best models - explain'd the anatomical parts - & thus initiated him into the very sanctuary of Character & expression. - The strong conception of effect so conspicuous in Ferdinand was not uncultivated he taught him the force of shadow - the [85] nice & imperceptible gradation of tints - probably it is to these instructions that the Lover of the art are indebted for that aerial softness - that genuine Day Light - which cannot be too warmly admired in our Artists compositions. - Thus far he imitated his Master - but the devine glow - that astonishes on the view of his performances - we owe to Nature Alone. - At her Shrine - he was a constant Votary - every transitory cloud - every fleeting gleam of Sunshine - furnish'd him with studies & how to cast these lights on the characteristic groups - he loved representing was ever his peculiar excellence. - Murillo finding no painter ever combined History & Landscape more successfully than his Disciple - or had more hold on romantic ideas of the great scenery of Nature - strenuously advised his cultivating this double Talent for that purpose - took him - to a little Cottage he [86] possess'd near the port of San Lucar - on the shore of the Ocean. - This small but pleasing habitation - was situated on a rocky Hill - gradually sloping to the Sea - inclosures of reeds [ILLEGIBLE PHRASE] - encircled the rural spot - Few Trees interrupted the boundless prospect of the Main - & it was chiefly to catch the effects of Sun on this Element that Ferdinand was brought there by his Master. - Inspired by - a view so novel & delightful - he repaired at Day break to the bow of the Hills - or seated on promontories above the Waves seiz'd the shades which glanced along their surface - & transfer'd the tints - of the dawning Horizon to his Book. - The pleasures he took in merely watching the progress & motions of the Clouds are inconceivable - How eagerly he marked their breaks - their [87] varying outlines - their ruddy skirts - dipped in tenthousand vivid colours. - Thro' their fluctuating apertures he seemd to behold [ILLEGIBLE] Domes & Palaces eternally/continually transmutating into swelling beauteous forms - These visionary prospects I should not have mentioned did I not know they were the source of his most original Fancies & that it was from their contemplation he derived - that aerial style of - Building - half lost & blended in glowing vapour which distinguishes his Work from those of any other Painter the World has produced. - When he had filled several volumes with - studies of Skies - Murillo was so contented with his progress that he thought him worthy of painting the translation of St Isidro to be placed over an Altar in the private Chapel of the Archbishop of Seville - [88] In a dark gothic Recess - he represented the expiring Saint - whose pale features were suffused with - a faint dawn of opening Heaven. - The holy spirits - leaning oer the Clouds which rested on the foreground - were so shadowy & unsubstantial that the perspective - of the Appartment was discovered thro their medium - Their Wings - lucid & transparent formed a sort of arch - under which two aged Fathers - were seen intranced & prostrate on the ground. - A certain visionary haziness prevailed thro' out the whole performance - of which no adequate idea can be conveyed by words - but whose enchanting effect filld [89] every Spectator with devout Sensations. - The fame of this picture soon reaching Seville the Prelate himself for whom it was intended came to view it & generously presented the artist - with some relicks & what was more acceptable - a weighty purse of Gold. - Encouraged by the success of his first original production - he proceeded to imagine others - in which he might display that universality of which he had - reason to boast. - The Creation was the subject he at length determined upon - This picture - which was of an inordinate size was purchased for the Viceroy of Naples at - extravagant a rate. -It had infinite merit - but most Connoiseurs thought its composition capricious & the form of the supreme Being - which filled - all the Sky - too gigantic. - The lower part of the peice - was lost in clouds & darkness - then appeared tumultuous waves - just emerging from [90] obscurity by the glare of Meteors - in the distance - a small part of the Globe discovered itself - relieved by the clearest azure - & under the brightest Sunshine still behind - & seemingly affar of - rose the awful shadows of the Deity - Such was the picture - which has been criticised with reason; - but its greatest Opponents alow that for bold masses of Light - & health of shade it is unequaled. - They admire too the drawing & sublime attitude of the principal Figure tho' most condemn its introduction. - 'Tis difficult to determine which element is best rendered in this chef doeuvre - whether the Air - the Earth or the Waters - Some give the preverence to the - Meteors illuminating the agitated Sea - & I should incline to their opinion - Ferdinand having compleated his Creation - & receiv'd a very considerable sum in payment from the Viceroy thought no more at present of any great designs. - Tho' solicited by many of the Sevillian Nobles to ornament [91] their Cabinets he constantly refused - cho[o]sing to amuse himself with lighter sketches & suites of his own romantic ideas. - Still remaining at the Cottage near San Lucar - he used to pass his morning Hours - in rambles on the shore. - gazing intently on the Ocean - & making innumerable strange conjectures about the ships that were sailing by - of the Climes from which they came or the remote ports to which they were destined. - He would often as out of mere wantoness fill a volume with the designs of their imaginary Adventures. - & represent - grotesque Cities - at the extremities of rocky Bays with fleets at anchor under venerable Mountains - & the natives whimsically dressd - moving in procession - to pagods - as exotic & singular; - Of a Night - twas his greatest pleasure to frequent the coves & recesses of the Cliffs on the Coast - where the Gitanos assembled. & leaning over the mossy acclivities - to notice [92] their sports below - Sometimes he would join the - Revellers - share all their freaks & plung into the Waters with the foremost of the Band - shew himself as active & pliant as themselves. - This prowess was not unobserved by the Female part of the Company - who did not disdain - accepting him as a partner in the Dance which generally suceeded these marine expeditions - In this exercise he soon excelled - & after the second Evening gained the prize of suppleness & agility. - The sly looks & inviting glances of his Companions stole into his Heart. - He found himself subdued by their bewitching gestures & thought the Morning approached too soon [93] which summond them away. - In their absence the Hours dragged - heavily - his only comfort was to make pictures of the revels of the night - In these he has often introduced himself reclined beneath the Cliffs amidst a circle of uncouth beauties - whose half closed eyes & languid attitudes receiv'd additional softness from the gleamings of the Moon. - The dubious Light he cast over these delicious paintings added inexpressibly to their charms - & there was a something - so undecided in the colours of the Sky - in the whole tone in [ILLEGIBLE] of the composition that no one could contemplate them unmoved. - Murillo - could not find it in his heart to oppose a way of Life - in his disciple - which was productive of such agreeable designs & allowed young Ferdinand to riot undisturbed amongst the Gitanos - for every Night he pass'd in their company - encreased the treasures of his pencil. & furnish'd him with - the most faithful & unaffected. - studies [94] Occasionally to vary the Scene - our Artist - repaired to the playa de San Lucar a walk near the Port which at this period was crowded with Strangers of all Nations Merchants of every Country busied in the lucratif concerns of the Indies. - A lively animated hustle filled the whole town - Musick was heard in the street - & merchandise just imported was aired in another - Each individual was eagerly engaged in his different pursuits - The Votaries of pleasure as well as of Riches were daily arriving Jugglers & Mountebanks made their entrance to day - grave traders - & venetian Embassies to morrow - All were confounded of an Evening in the Walk - the gay & the serious - the silent & the talkative - The Ladies of Seville & their obsequious Admirers - gave no small splendor to the Crowd. - & here & there - a solemn Turk or African stalking compleated the variety of the Scene. - Ferdinand enraptured with the motley collection - [95] roved about from circle to circle & knot to knot with the greatest hilarity - The [ILLEGIBLE] Figures that were instantaneously presenting - themselves afforded him the most laughable ideas - & he enjoyd committing them [add shapes & features] to the Book of Sketches he was never without - Upon his return - he gave Murillo the caricatures who sold them to great advantage admiring the versitility of his Disciple's Genius. - & - wondring to what point - it would be next transported - The young Man remaind the whole Winter at the Cottage - never tired of viewing the prospects it commanded & seldom resorting either to Seville or San Lucar. - The society of his Master was all he at present desir'd - even the Gitanos were neglected & his thoughts were entirely bestowed in forming a correct & determined style. - 'Twas now that he refined upon the choice of Subjects rejecting those that were without the circle of the Art & totally adhering to Nature [96] & simplicity. - Nothing could be more pure, more select than his compositions. - every Object - that did not immediately tell its meaning was banishd - Accesories became not principals every part - tho studied - seemed perfectly natural - & was imperceptibly conducive to the general effect. - A sense of grace & exacted beauty - was adopted in the same grotesque magnificence. - Some Volumes of antique Figures - had infinitly improved his conception & discovered to him - a new World of Taste - Murillo - saw & acknowledg'd himself surpass'd in this particular - that great Painter was conscious he had never entered these inspiring regions - his studies had been solely confined to Nature in her present & degenerated state. - In Landscape too our aspiring Artist - made rapid advances. - The Foliage of his Trees - was characteristic of their different tribes - & their situations were eternally varied. - Sometimes we observe - them huddled together in the most luxuriant masses - tinted with all the hues of Autumn - sometimes [97] distant & thinly scatterd - often thrown across broken rocks - or tumbld down impetuous Torrents - not Salvator himself designed a forest of wild & blasted Oaks with greater Energy - At the same time that his pencil described these bold & rugged Scenes - it loved in other compositions to assume the serenity of Claude - We then behold calm rivers & distant countries - mellowed by the gleams of a declining Sun - meads glowing with yellow light & woods lamps - with the mildest radiance beneath whose peaceful shades - Nymphs & benign Satyrs appear lulled to repose - The picture upon which he placed the greatest value - a picture on which - he could not help gazing himself with the fondest pleasure - represents such Scenes as these - He had been reading in some eloquent Spanish Author - a description of Andalusia in its near ancient state - before the incursions of Goths or Romans - before any Moors - had crossed over from Africa, [98] when the Quadalquivir was called Baetis by the Mariners of Tyre - & when the most blameless of Mankind inhabited its banks - The Dreams of this golden Age possess'd his fancy - He designed a vast woody Landscape - interspersed with rivers - meandring to the Sea - amongst which the Bætis rolled its superior tide. - Near the eye were a multitude of graceful Figures - reclind without fear or suspicion & slumbering in eachothers arms. - The very soul of Harmony & innocence seem'd to breath in this primaeval group. - no stern features - or haughty attitudes - were displayed - A sacred quiet - reign'd thro out the whole prospect - the time was midnight - & the full moon - suspended above the ocean - diffused a placid hazy gleam. - The colouring was smooth & equal - not checqued with little dazling [99] lights - one fluid misty tint prevailed - the distance quite melted away - the Sea which termined the prospect faded so gradually - that its termination was lost in the Horizon -; & the shadows on the woods & rivers - had a truth & softness - which can only result from the most constant observation of Nature. - No colours predominated in this lovely Landscape - its hues were all blended - there was no contour - no outline perceptible - in the Figures - & so perfect an expression of sleep that they seemed alive only cast by enchantment into a lasting Slumber. - Ferdinand took such delight in reviving this golden Age - that he could think on no other subject whilst he was painting it - nor converse on any other topic. - He would linger the whole Day on the Hill - under Murillo's Cot - stretched out on the [100] turf & lamenting he was not born in - those happy - guiltless Days. when Deceits & superstition were unknown - Those fortunate times - he would exclaim - when all was peaceful - when one might have roamd about this - fertile province as free as the breezes which refresh its bosom have slept secure in its woods - & have entered into that Hospitable Hut & communed with its inhabitants - or walkd into that garden - culling its Fruits & flowers without molestation. - These visionary excursions were wont to lead him away for Hours - & whilst under their influence he forgot - his situation - his food - his every thing - When awakened from them he would drink some milk with bread crumbld into it & snatching his pallet & pencils - crie out - I must go & watch my Sleepers - Then shutting himself up in an Appartment Murillo had given him - retouch & [ILLEGIBLE] - the Landscape of which I have attempted conveying a slight idea. - From this he would never part - the more he refused its Sale - the more [101] it was sought after - but all Offers to obtain it were in vain. - Can I abandon for mercenary motives - the greatest consolation of my existence - was the reply he made a Grandee - who came on purpose to view it from his Castle near Cordova - & who was so astonishd & enraptured that he invited our Artist to return with him in the most pressing & friendly terms. -

[Continued in Part 16]


Introduction to L'Esplendente
Part 1 ::: Part 2 ::: Part 3 ::: Part 4 ::: Part 5 ::: Part 6
Part 7 ::: Part 8 ::: Part 9 ::: Part 10 ::: Part 11 ::: Part 12
Part 13 ::: Part 14 ::: Part 15 ::: Part 16 ::: Part 17 ::: Part 18