« PreviousContinue »
nearly related, and that Conrad Meit was no stranger to them may be accepted as certain. Of them all I should like to associate with him the Vienna pair and the busts in the British and Berlin museums.
We have not yet done with the interesting figure of the Regent of the Netherlands and with her favourite sculptor. In the collection bequeathed to the nation by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, known as the Waddesdon bequest, from which also other treasures have been selected for this book, are two portrait busts. They are, according to the catalogue, of walnut, and represent a young man and a young woman in the costumes of the early sixteenth century. As examples of skilful portrait sculpture, neither too realistic nor over idealized, they would be remarkable in any material, and are, therefore, of still greater interest in that they represent in wood, with the others with which they are connected, the highest excellence of any examples which could be produced. Whatever ultimate conclusions we may come to, there is certainly not a little to be said in favour of the supposition that in the lady we have a portrait of Margaret of Austria herself. There is in the Bavarian National Museum another bust in many respects identical, which Dr. Bode unhesitatingly considers to be of that princess. In the British Museum example Margaret is in widow's weeds, so that if the ascription is correct it would not be difficult to be fairly accurate as to date: that is to say, not earlier than 1504 or later than 1530. And, if we may judge the age of the lady, she would be somewhere about forty. The museum catalogue, however, thinks this to be about twenty to twenty-five. Beautiful, Margaret was not, perhaps, though her sepulchral figures at Brou are full of sweet expression, but with little resemblance, it may be said, to these busts. In the busts there is no flattering, toning-down of the rather puffy features, and though that of the British Museum is the younger of the two, in both there are the same broad, thick nose, fleshy cheeks and chin, and prominent thick lips. The Renaissance Museum in Berlin possesses, curiously enough, a bust of a young man which is also as nearly identical with the one in the London Museum as in the case of the lady. Very interesting is the man's costume: the fur-bordered robe and the broad hat half covering the elegant net which confines the hair. The latter fashion came in in the first quarter of the sixteenth century, probably not earlier than 1515, and was common throughout the greater part of Northern Europe, and even in Italy, during almost the whole of the century. We shall find it repeated again and again in the medallion portraits next to be considered. In itself, it disposes of the earlier identification of the busts with Charles the Bold and Margaret, sister of our own King Edward 1v. The medallion on the hat of the London male figure (that on the Berlin bust is now missing) bears a St. Margaret killing the dragon, and the motto 1e • Ne • scAi: very possibly a medallion of a much earlier date than the time of the wearer. The costume of the British Museum lady, with the plain, partly open chemisette, close-fitting body, and well-executed drapery of the loose sleeves, and the simple bead necklace, is much more elegant and attractive than the pleated guimpe which conceals the neck and bust in the case of the Munich figure. Judging from the costumes, then, and the apparent age of Margaret, if it is she, the date of these busts would be about 1520-1530. But Philibert died young in 1504. The young man cannot, therefore, be that prince. What, then, is the connexion? And, again—if Dr. Bode is correct in the case of one at least—what is there to explain two such similar figures as those of the lady; both to be ascribed to Meit, but the one in widow's weeds for a husband who died in 1504, the other more youthful? In addiBOXWOOD BUSTS
tion to this we are to be precluded by the costume from dating, what seem to be companion busts, earlier than 1515, when Margaret, however devoted a wife we know her to have been, would surely have put off her mourning. But yet again, is it the same personage in both the busts of a lady? In the one case it will be noticed that the hair is smooth and straight, in the other wavy. Can we then be certain that in either we have a portrait of Margaret of Austria? Perhaps not, and it may be remarked that while Dr. Bode unhesitatingly identifies with her the Munich bust, he cautiously labels the British Museum one a 'junge Frau only. Finally, we have also in the British Museum a boxwood medallion of the Regent, which offers practically no resemblance to the busts in question. A brief allusion must be made to the fine honestone busts in the Dreyfus collection at Paris, which represent a younger man and woman in almost identical costumes with the wooden ones, and are evidently by the same sculptor. That is, by Meit, if it be he in any one of the cases. The material here used would seem still further to complicate the question. A short mention must suffice also for two rather larger busts in wood, said to be of Philip the Bold and the Elector Frederick 11. in the Munich Museum: probably Augsburg work of about 1540. They have been attributed to Haguenauer, to whose medallion work we shall come presently.
Every country, in Gothic and early Renaissance times, had its own favourite, or popular, subjects. In Germany and the Netherlands none was more so, in painting and in sculpture, than the story of our first parents. We are familiar with the Adam and Eve of the Ghent altarpiece. There are famous examples by Dtirer and the other great etchers and engravers, and figures and busts innumerable. Such are the busts at Kensington, or, again, such bas-reliefs as the small pearwood panel in the same museum with the Durer cipher or signature, and there are many others in metal or honestone. Even in wood we could not attempt to follow them all. But it is necessary to take one more pair. They introduce us to a comparatively new name, although, unfortunately, it is hardly more than a name, so scanty, as usual, is our information concerning the bearer. In the Basel Museum there is a group of small boxwood figures—about six inches in height —of Adam and Eve, which have much in common with the type with which we have just been occupied. In this case they form part of a pictorial representation of the Fall. The boxwood figures are set on a landscape ground of limewood. Eve smilingly holds out the apple to Adam, and, in the background, is the tree with the serpent. In both we have again the same unrestrained realism in which a by no means perfect model is relentlessly copied, defects and all. Less physically plastic, perhaps, than the type from which Meit worked his Judith, it is the same short and plump Eve dear to the German taste of the time. Her head is charming, the soft waving hair restrained by the fillet encircling it. But the Adam surely is a wretched creature. He is thin, weak, flat-chested, narrow-shouldered, with prominent collar-bones, thin, almost muscleless, limbs with unduly-strained sinews, and the too-large curly head characteristic of this art of the time. Eve smiles seductively as she tenders the apple. Adam is distressed, hesitating, imploring. There is perhaps more art in these figures, after all, than we might be inclined to accord to them from a first comparison with the more attractive pair of the Vienna collection. The presence of the initials—H on one block of limewood, W on the other—has led to the opinion of recent critics that we are to ascribe this group to the sculptor of the Visit of the Magi (also in wood) in the cathedral of Freiburg-im-Breisgau. That is to say, to a certain