[119] Watersouchy.

WE will now change our scenery from the rocks of Dalmatia to the levels of Holland, and instead of sailing on the canals of Venice saunter a little by those of Amsterdam. It was in the Kalverstraat, opposite to the hotel of Etanshasts, next door to the Blue Lion, that Watersouchy, whose delicate performances are so eagerly sought after by the curious, first drew his breath. The name of Watersouchy had been known in Amsterdam since the first existence of the republic. Two wax-chandlers, and at least twelve other capital dealers in grease, had rendered it famous, and [120] the head of the family can never be forgotten, since he invented that admirable dish from which his descendents derived their appellation. Our artist's father, from humbly retailing farthing candles, rose, by a monopoly on tallow, to great affluence, and had the honour of enlightening half the city. He was a thrifty diligent man, loved a pipe of reflection in the evenings, and invented save-alls; but it was for the sole use of his own family. This prudent character endeared him so much to Mynheer Bootersac, a rich vintner, his next door neighbour, that he proposed to him his only daughter in marriage, and from this alliance, which happily took place on the 3d of May, 1640, sprung the hero of these memoirs.
[121] The birth of young Watersouchy was marked by a decent though jovial meeting of his kindred on both sides. Much wine was drunk, and ten candles assigned for home consumption. Such festivity had not been displayed in the family since it first began. Nor were these rejoicings without other foundation, as old Watersouchy, who had hitherto toiled and moiled from morn till eve, resolved, at the birth of his child to leave off business, and enjoy at ease the fortune he had acquired. It will be needless to mention particularly the great care that was taken of the young Jeremy (for so he was baptized). Let it suffice to relate, that two years elapsed before he was weaned – so great was the tenderness of his parents, and such their fears lest a change of diet might endanger his con- [122] stitution. It was no wonder that this child inspired such affectionate sentiments in his parents, so winning was his appearance. How could they fail to be struck with the prettiest, primmest mouth in the world, a rose-bud of a nose, large rolling eyes, and a complexion soft and mellow like his paternal candles? This sweet baby gave early signs of delight in rich and pleasing objects. The return of his parents from church in their holiday apparel ever attracted his attention and excited a placid smile, and any stranger garnished with lace might place him on his knee with impunity. He seemed to feel peculiar pleasure at seeing people how to each other, and learnt sooner than any child in the street to handle his knife, to spare his bib and kiss his hand with address. This pro- [123] mising heir of the Watersouchies had just entered into his fifth year, when his father ventured for the first time to take him about to the Bootersacs and his other relations. These good people, enchanted with the neatness of his person and the correctness of his behaviour, never failed to load him with toys, sugar plumbs, and gingerbread; but a spruce set of Aesop's Fables, minutely engraved, and some designs for Brussels point, were the presents in which he chiefly delighted. These delicate drawings drew his whole attention, and they were not long in his bands before be attempted to imitate them, with a perseverance and exactness, surprizing at his years. These infantine performances were carefully framed and glazed, and bung up in Madam Watersouchy's apartment, where they always [124] produced the highest admiration. Amongst those who were principally struck with their merit was the celebrated Francis Van Cuyck de Mierhop, a noble artist from Ghent, who, during his residence at Amsterdam, frequently condescended to pass his evenings at Watersouchy's. Mierhop could boast of illustrious descent, to which his fortune was by no means equal, and having a peculiar genius for painting eatables, old women, and other pieces of still life, applied himself to the art, and made a considerable figure. Watersouchy's table was quite an academy in the branches he wished to cultivate, daily exhibiting the completest old women, the most portly turbots, the plumpest soles, and, in a word, the best conditioned fish imaginable, of every kind. Mierhop availed [125] himself of his friend's invitations to study legs of mutton, sirloins of beef, and joints of meat in general. It was for Madam Watersouchy he painted the most perfect fillet of veal, that ever made the mouth of man to water, and she prided herself not a little upon the original having appeared at her table.
The air of Amsterdam agreeing with Mierhop's constitution, and Watersouchy's table not less with his palate, he was quite inspired during his residence there, and took advantage of these circumstances to immortalize himself, by an immense and most inviting picture, in which be introduced a whole entertainment. No part was neglected. - The vapour smoking over the dishes judiciously concealed the extremities of the [126] repast, and gave the finest play to the imagination. This performance was placed with due solemnity in the Butchers-hall at Ghent, of which respectable corps be had been chosen protector.
Whilst he remained at Amsterdam, young Watersouchy was continually improving, and arrived to such perfection in copying point lace, that Mierhop entreated his father to cultivate these talents, and to place his son under the patronage of Gerard Dow,' ever renowned for the exquisite finish of his pieces. Old Watersouchy stared at the proposal, and solemnly asked his wife, to whose opinion be always paid a deference, whether painting was a genteel profession for their son. Mierhop, who overheard their conversation, smiled disdainfully at [127] the question, and Madam Watersouchy answered, that she believed it was one of your liberal arts. In few words, the father was persuaded, and Gerard Dow, then resident at Leyden, prevailed upon to receive the son as a disciple.
Our young artist had no sooner set his foot within his master's apartment, than he found every object in harmony with his own dispositions. The colours finely ground, and ranged in the neatest boxes, the pencils so delicate as to be almost imperceptible, the varnish in elegant phials, the easel just where it ought to be, filled him with agreeable sensations, and exalted ideas of his master's merit. Gerard Dow on his side was equally pleased, when be saw him moving about with all due circumspection, and noticing [128] his little prettinesses at every step. He therefore began his pupil's initiation with great alacrity, first teaching him cautiously to open the cabinet door, lest any particles of dust should be dislodged and fix upon his canvas, and advising him never to take up his pencil without sitting motionless a few minutes, till every mote casually floating in the air should be settled. Such instructions were not thrown away upon Watersouchy: he treasured them up, and refined, if possible, upon such refinements.
Whilst he was thus learning method and arrangement, the other parts of his education were not neglected. A neighbouring schoolmaster instructed him in the rudiments of Latin, and a barber, who often served as a model to Gerard [129] Dow, when composing his most sublime pieces, taught him the management of the violin. With the happiest dispositions we need not be surprized at the progress be made, nor astonished when we hear that Gerard Dow, after a year's study, permitted him to finish some parts of his own choicest productions. One of his earliest essays was in a large and capital perspective, in which a christening entertainment was displayed in all its glory. To describe exactly the masterly group of the gossips, the demureness of the maiden aunts, the puling infant in the arms of its nurse, the plaits of its swaddling-cloaths, the gloss of its ribbons, the fringe of the table-cloth, and the effect of light and shade on a salver adorned with custard-cups and jelly-glasses, would require at least fifty pages. In [130] this space, perhaps, those details might be included; but to convey a due idea of that preciseness, that air of decorum, which was spread over the whole picture, surpasses the power of words. The collar of a lap-dog, a velvet bracelet, and the lace round the caps of the gossips, were the parts of this chef d'oeuvre, which Watersouchy had the honour of finishing, and he acquitted himself with a truth and exactness that enraptured his master, and brought him to place unbounded confidence in the hair strokes of his pencil. By degrees he rose to the highest place in the esteem of that incomparable artist, who after eight years bad elapsed, suffered him to group without assistance. An arm chair of the richest velvet, and a Turkey carpet, were the first compositions of which he claimed the exclusive [131] honour. The exquisite drawing of these pieces was not less observable than the softness of their tints and the absolute nature of their colouring. Every man wished to sit down in the one, and every dog to repose on the other.
Whilst Watersouchy was making daily advances in his profession, his father was attacked by a lethargy, that, insensibly gaining ground, carried him off, and left his son in the undisturbed possession of a considerable sum of money. No sooner was he apprized of this event than he took leave of Gerard Dow, and arrived at his native city time enough to attend the funeral procession, and to partake of the feast which followed it; where his becoming sorrow and proper behaviour fixed him in the esteem of all [132] his relations. This good opinion he took care to maintain, never shewing more attention to one than to another, but as it were portioning out his compliments into equal shares. Having passed the usual time without frequenting the world, and having closed the account of condolence, he began to take pleasure in society, and make himself known. His scrupulous adherence to form and propriety procured him the entré of many considerable houses, and recommended him to the particular notice of some of the principal magistrates of Amsterdam. These grave personages thought he would do honour to their city in foreign parts, and therefore advised his going to Antwerp for the advancement of his reputation.
[133] Antwerp was at this period the centre of arts and manufactures; its public buildings were numerous and magnificent; its citizens wealthy; strangers from every quarter resorted thither, for business, or for pleasure. Rubens had introduced a fondness for painting, and had ornamented his cabinet with the most valuable productions of the pencil. This example was followed, and collections began to be formed by the opulent inhabitants. Where then could a painter, blessed with such talents as Watersouchy, expect a more favourable reception? He soon resolved to follow the advice of his respectable friends, and having settled his affairs and passed a month or two in taking leave of his acquaintance with due form, he began his journey. Many recommendatory letters [134] were given him, and particularly one to Monsieur Baise-la-main, a banker of the first eminence, and an encourager of the fine arts, who united the greatest wealth with the most exemplary politeness. All the way he amused himself in the track skuit with looking over the stock of compliments he had treasured up from his youth, in order to perfect himself in all the rules of that good breeding, he purposed to display at Antwerp. "Consider," said he to himself, "before whom you are to appear; reflect that you are now almost arrived at the zenith of propriety. Let all your actions be regular as the strokes of your pencil, and let the varnish of your manners shine like that of your paintings. Regulate your conduct by the fair example of those you will shortly behold, and do not the small- [135] est thing but as if Monsieur Baise-la-main were before you." Full of these resolutions he drew near to Antwerp. Advancing between spruce gardens and trim avenues he entered the city, not without some presentiment of the fame he was to acquire within its walls. Every mansion with high chequered roofs and mosaic chimnies, every fountain with elaborate dolphins and gothic pinnacles, found favour in his eyes. He was pleased with the neat perspectives continually presenting themselves, and augured well from a regularity so consonant to his own ideas. After a few hours repose at an inn, arranging each part of his dress with the utmost precision, he sallied forth in the cool of the evening, (for it was now the midst of summer) to deliver his recommendatory [136] letters. The first person to whose acquaintance he aspired was Monsieur Baise-la-main, who occupied a sumptuous hotel near the cathedral. Directing his steps to that quarter, he passed through several lanes and alleys with slowness and caution, and arrived in a spotless condition at the area of that celebrated edifice, which was enlivened by crouds of well dressed people passing and repassing each other , with many courteous bows and salutations, whilst two sets of chimes in the spire above them filled the air with sober psalmody. Watersouchy was charmed when he found himself in this region of smirking faces, and stepping forwards amongst them, enquired for Monsieur Baise-la-main. Every body pointed to a gentleman in a modish perruque, blue coat with gold frogs, and [137] black velvet breeches. To this prepossessing personage he advanced with his very best bow, and delivered his letter. No sooner did the gentleman arrange his spectacles, and glance over the first lines of the epistle, than he returned the greeting fourfold. Watersouchy was as prodigal of salutations, and could hardly believe his ears when they were saluted with these flattering expressions. "Your arrival, Mr. Watersouchy, is an event I shall always have the honour to remember. And, Sir, permit me to assure you, from the bottom of my heart, that nobody can feel more thoroughly the obligations I have to my most estimable friends at Amsterdam, for the opportunity, Sir, they give me, of shewing any little, trifling, miserable attentions in my power, to a disciple of Gerard Dow. [138] Let me intreat you to tarry some time in my poor mansion: Indeed, Sir, you must not refuse me - I beg, my dear and respectable Sir, - I beseech" – It was impossible to resist such a torrent of civility. Watersouchy prepared to follow the courteous banker, who, taking him by the hand, led him, with every demonstration of kindness, to the door of his hotel.
Its frontispiece, rich with allegorical figures, of which I never could obtain a satisfactory explanation, was distinguished from more vulgar entrances, and seats of coloured marble on each side added to its magnificence. Let my readers figure to themselves Monsieur Baise-la-main, leading the obsequious Watersouchy thro' several large halls [139] and long passages, ‘till they entered a rich apartment, where a circle of company, very splendidly attired, rose up to receive them. Half an hour was spent in presenting the artist to every individual. At length a pause in this ceremony ensued, and then the congratulations, with which he had been first received, were begun anew with redoubled ardour. Watersouchy, finding himself surrounded by so many solemn ruffs and consequential farthingales, was penetrated with the sublimity of etiquette, and thought himself in the very Athens of politeness. This service of rites and ceremonies, with which strangers in those times were ushered into Antwerp, being hardly ended, the company began at length to relax into some degree of familiarity.
[140] Mieris and Sibylla Merian were now announced. These two exquisite artists had carried the minute delicacy of the pencil to the highest pitch, and were pleased with an opportunity of conversing with one of the most promising disciples of Gerard Dow. Our artist was equally happy in their society, and a conversation was accordingly set on foot, in which Mons. Baise-la-main joining displayed infinite knowledge and precision. Having disserted previously upon his own collection, this great patron of the arts led them into his interior cabinet, where Elsheimers, Rowland Saveries, Albert Durers, Brughels, and Polemburgs, collected at an immense expence, appeared on all sides. Mieris and Merian had also contributed to render it the most complete in the Nether- [141] lands. Their performances entirely engrossed the choicest corner in an apartment, which a profusion of gilding and carved work rendered superlatively fine. The chimney-piece was encrusted with the right old porcelain of China, and its aperture, in this season, was closed by a capital Pietâ of Julio Romano, which immediately struck Watersouchy as an eye sore. He detested such colossal representations, such bold limbs and woeful countenances: conscious they were out of his reach, he condemned them as out of nature. With such sentiments, we may suppose he did not bestow much attention on the Pietâ, but expatiated with delight on the faithful representation of an apothecary's shop by Mieris, and a cupid, holding a garland of flowers, by Merian. This ingenious lady was high [142] in his esteem. He adored the extreme nicety of her touch, and not a little admired that strict sense of propriety which had induced her to marriage; for it seems she had chosen jean Graff of Nuremburg for her husband, merely to study the Nud in a modest way. After he had felicitated Madam Merian and Mieris upon their innumerable perfections, he took a cursory survey of the rest of the collection. He commended Albert Durer; but could not help expressing some discontent at Polemburg. The woody landscapes, which this painter imagined with so much happiness, were in general interspersed with the remains of antique temples, with rills and bathing nymphs in a style our artist could never taste. He liked their minuteness, but condemned the choice of subjects. “O!" said [143] Monsieur Baise-la-main, "I love Polemburg; he is the essence of smoothness and suavity. But I agree, that there is something rather confused and unintelligible in his buildings, far unlike those comfortable habitations which our friend Mieris represents with such meritorious accuracy." Mieris bowed, and Watersouchy, encouraged by Monsieur Baise-la-main's coincidence with his opinion, continued his critique. He shook his head at a picture wherein Polemburg had introduced a group of ruins, and exclaimed – "Why not substitute, for example, the great church of Antwerp flourishing in the height of its perfection, in the room of those Roman lumps of confusion and decay? – Instead of representing the flowers of the parterre, he crouds his foreground with all manner of [144] woods, and bestows as much pains on a dock leaf as I should on the most estimable carnation in your garden. Naked figures too I abhor: Madam Merian's cupids excepted, they are unfit to be viewed by the eye of decorum. And what opportunities does an artist lose by the banishment of dress! In dress and drapery are displayed the glory of his pencil! In ear-rings and bracelets the perfection of his touch-in a carpet all his science is united - grouping, colouring, shading, effect, every thing! Polemburg might have been a delightful master, had he remained with us; but he removed to Italy, and quitting the manner of Elsheimer for the caprices of Raphael, no wonder his taste should have been corrupted." Monsieur Baise-la-main and the artists listened attentively [145] to this harangue, and conceived great ideas of Watersouchy's taste and abilities. The banker thought himself possessed of the eighth wonder of the world, and from this moment resolved to engross it entirely.
Supper being served up, the company left the cabinet and entered a large hall, ornamented with the decollation of Holophernes by Mabuse, and a brawn's head by Mierhop. – In the midst appeared a table covered with dainties, in dishes of massive plate, and illuminated by innumerable wax lights, around which the company was assembled. Watersouchy was placed betwixt Monsieur Baise-la-main and the Burgomaster Van Gulph, a solemn upright man of glowing nose and fair complexion. Our [146] artist could not for some time take his eye from off the Burgomaster's band, which was edged with the finest lace, and took an opportunity, whilst the other guests were closely engaged with the entertainment, to make a sketch from it, that did him honour and served to confirm him in his patron's good opinion.
The repast was conducted in the most orderly manner. By the time the Hippocras and Canary wines were handed about, universal satiety and good humour prevailed. The little disappointments of those, who were too late for one dish, or too full to taste another, were forgotten, and the respectable Van Gulph, having swallowed his usual portion of the good things of this world, began to expand, and pledged Water- [147] souchy with much affability, who loudly descanted on the taste and discernment of Monsieur Baise-la-main, so apparent in his rare collection. Mieris taking the hint, seconded the observation, which was enforced by Madam Merian, whose example was followed by the rest of the ladies – Every one vied with his neighbour in steeping sugar'd cakes in sweet wine, and bestowing the amplest commendations on the cabinet of Monsieur Baise-la-main, who, in the midst of transport, exclaimed, "Now truly my pictures pay me interest for my money!" The dessert was ushered in with profusion of applause: All was smirk and compliment, whilst this sweetmeat was offered and that declined. At length it grew late, and the company separated after the accustomed formalities. – Watersouchy [148] was conducted to his apartment, which corresponded with the magnificence of the mansion; and lulled asleep by the most flattering reflections, dreamt all the night of nothing but of painting the Burgomaster and his band. At breakfast next morning, he expressed to Monsieur Baise-la-main the ambition he had of distinguishing himself at Antwerp, and begged to seclude himself a small space from the world, that he might pursue his studies. Monsieur Baise-la-main approved of this idea, and assigned a room for his reception, where he soon arranged his pallet, pencils, &c. with all the precision of Gerard Dow. Nobody but the master of the house was allowed to enter this sanctuary. Here our artist remained six weeks in grinding his colours, composing an admirable varnish, [149] and preparing his canvass, for a performance be intended as his chef d'oeuvre. A fortnight more passed before he decided upon a subject. At last he determined to commemorate the opulence of Monsieur Baise-la-main, by a perspective of his countinghouse. He chose an interesting moment, when heaps of gold lay glittering on the counter, and citizens of distinction were soliciting a secure repository for their plate and jewels. A Muscovite wrapped in fur, and an Italian glistening in brocade, occupied the foreground. The eye glancing over these figures highly finished, was directed thro' the windows of the shop into the area in front of the cathedral; of which, however, nothing was discovered, except two sheds before its entrance, where several barbers were represented at their different [150] occupations. An effect of sunshine upon the counter discovered every coin that was scattered upon its surface. On these the painter had bestowed such intense labour, that their very legends were distinguishable. It would be in vain to attempt conveying, by words, an idea adequate to this chef d'oeuvre, which must have been seen to have been duly admired. In three months it was far advanced; during which time our artist employed his leisure hours in practising jigs and minuets on the violin, and writing the first chapter of Genesis on a watch-paper, which he adorned with a miniature of Adam and Eve, so exquisitely finished, that every ligament in their fig-leaves was visible. This little jeu d'esprit he presented to Madam Merian.
[151] When the hour of publicly displaying his great performance was drawing near, Monsieur Baise-la-main invited a select company of connoisseurs to a splendid repast, and after they had well feasted, all joined in extolling the picture as much as they had done the entertainment itself. Were I not afraid of fatiguing my readers more than I have done, I should repeat, word for word, the exuberant encomiums this master-piece received upon this occasion; but I trust it will be fully sufficient to say, that none of the connoisseurs were uninterested, and every one had a pleasure in pointing out some new perfection. The ladies were in extasies. The Burgomaster Van Gulph was so charmed that he was resolved to have his portrait by this delicate hand, and Monsieur Baise-la-main immediately settled a pension [152] upon the painter, merely to have the refusal of his pieces, paying largely at the same time for those he took.
These were the golden days of Watersouchy, who, animated by so much encouragement, was every week producing some agreeable novelty. Attaching himself strongly to the manner of Mieris, he, if possible, excelled him: his lilies were more glossy, and his carnations softer, and so harmonious, that the Flemish ladies, ever renowned for their fresh complexions, declared they had now found a painter worthy of portraying their beauty. Thus our happy artist, blown forwards by a continued gale of applause, reached a degree of merit unknown to his contemporaries, and soon left Gerard Dow and Mieris behind him. [153] His pictures were eagerly sought after by the first collectors, and purchased at so extravagant a rate, that he refused sketching a slipper, or designing an ear-ring under the sum of two hundred florins. Every body desirous of possessing one of these treasures approached him with purses of gold, and he was so universally caressed and admired, that I (as a faithful biographer) am obliged to say, he soon mistook his rank among the professors of the art, and grew intolerably vain.
Become thus confident, he embraced, without hesitation, the proposal of drawing the Burgomaster Van Gulph. All his skill, all his minuteness was exhausted upon this occasion. The Burgomaster was presented in his formalities, sitting in his magisterial chair: his band was not [154] forgotten; it was finished to the superlative degree. The very hairs of his eyelashes were numbered, and the pendent carbuncle below his nose, which had baffled Mieris and the first artists, was at length rendered with perfect exactitude and splendour. During the execution of this incomparable portrait, he absented himself from Monsieur Baise-la-main, and established his abode at Van Gulph's, whose inflexible propriety surpassed even that of the banker. Watersouchy, flattered by the pomp and importance of this great character, exclaimed, "You are truly worthy to possess me!" The Burgomaster's lady, who was a witness to his matchless talents, soon expressed an ambition of being immortalized by his pencil, and begged to be honoured the next with his consideration. He [155] having almost determined never to undertake another portrait after this chef d'oeuvre of her consort, with difficulty consented.
At length he began: Ambitious of shewing his great versatility, and desirous of producing a contrast to the portrait just finished, he determined to put the lady in action. She was represented watering a capsacum, with an air of superior dignity mingled with ineffable sweetness. Every part of her dress was minutely attended to; her ruffle was admirable; but her hands and arms exceeded all idea. Gerard Dow had bestowed five days* labour on this part of Madam Spiering's person, whose portrait was one of his best performances. Wa- [150] tersouchy, that he might surpass his master, spent a month in giving only to his patroness's fingers the last touch of perfection. Each had its ring, and so tinted, as almost at first sight to have deceived a discerning jeweller.
When he had finished this last masterpiece, he found himself quite weak and exhausted. The profound study in which he had been absorbed, impaired his health, and his having neglected exercise for the last two years brought on a hectic and feverish complaint. The only circumstance that now cheared his spirits was the conversation of a circle of old ladies; the friends of Madame Gulph. These good people had ever some little incident to entertain him, some gossiping narration that soothed and unbended [157] his mind. But all their endeavours to restore him could not prevent his growing weaker and weaker. At last he took to cordials by their recommendation, became fond of news and tulips, and for a time was a little mended; so much indeed, that he resumed his pallet, and painted little pieces for his kind comforters; such as a favourite dormouse for Madam Dozinburg, and a cheese in a China dish with mites in it for some other venerable lady, whose name has not descended to us. But these performances were not much relished by Monsieur Baise-la-main, who plainly saw in them the approaching extinction of his genius. One day at the Burgomaster's, he found him laid on a couch, and wheezing from under a brocade nightgown. "I have been troubled with an [158] asthma for some time," said the artist in a faint voice. "So I perceive,”answered M. Baise-la-main. More of this interesting conversation has not been communicated to me, and I find an interval of three months in his memoirs, marked by no other occurrence than his painting a flea. After this last effort of genius, his sight grew dim, his oppression increased, he almost shrunk away to nothing, and in a few weeks dropped into his grave.

* See Vies des Paintres Flamands, vol. 2. 217.


Aldrovandus Magnus
::: Andrew Guelph, and Og of
Basan, Disciples of Aldrovandus Magnus
Sucrewasser of Vienna
::: Blunderbussiana ::: Watersouchy