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Germany from the Earliest Period Volume 4   By: (1798-1873)

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First Page:

GERMANY

FROM THE

EARLIEST PERIOD

BY

WOLFGANG MENZEL

TRANSLATED FROM THE FOURTH GERMAN EDITION

By MRS. GEORGE HORROCKS

WITH A SUPPLEMENTARY CHAPTER OF RECENT EVENTS

By EDGAR SALTUS

VOLUME IV

THE HISTORY OF GERMANY

PART XXI

THE RISE OF PRUSSIA

(CONTINUED)

CCXLIV. Art and Fashion

Although art had, under French influence, become unnatural, bombastical, in fine, exactly contrary to every rule of good taste, the courts, vain of their collections of works of art, still emulated each other in the patronage of the artists of the day, whose creations, tasteless as they were, nevertheless afforded a species of consolation to the people, by diverting their thoughts from the miseries of daily existence.

Architecture degenerated in the greatest degree. Its sublimity was gradually lost as the meaning of the Gothic style became less understood, and a tasteless imitation of the Roman style, like that of St. Peter's at Rome, was brought into vogue by the Jesuits and by the court architects, by whom the chateau of Versailles was deemed the highest chef d'oeuvre of art. This style of architecture was accompanied by a style of sculpture equally unmeaning and forced; saints and Pagan deities in theatrical attitudes, fat genii, and coquettish nymphs peopled the roofs of the churches and palaces, presided over bridges, fountains, etc. Miniature turnery ware and microscopical sculpture also came into fashion. Such curiosities as, for instance, a cherry stone, on which Pranner, the Carinthian, had carved upward of a hundred faces; a chessboard, the completion of which had occupied a Dutchman for eighteen years; golden carriages drawn by fleas; toys composed of porcelain or ivory in imitation of Chinese works of art; curious pieces of mechanism, musical clocks, etc., were industriously collected into the cabinets of the wealthy and powerful. This taste was, however, not utterly useless. The predilection for ancient gems promoted the study of the remains of antiquity, as Stosch, Lippert, and Winckelmann prove, and that of natural history was greatly facilitated by the collections of natural curiosities.

The style of painting was, however, still essentially German, although deprived by the Reformation and by French influence of its ancient sacred and spiritual character. Nature was now generally studied in the search after the beautiful. Among the pupils of Rubens, the great founder of the Dutch school, Jordaens was distinguished for brilliancy and force of execution, Van Dyck, A.D. 1541, for grace and beauty, although principally a portrait painter and incapable of idealizing his subjects, in which Rembrandt, A.D. 1674, who chose more extensive historical subjects, and whose coloring is remarkable for depth and effect, was equally deficient. Rembrandt's pupil, Gerhard Douw, introduced domestic scenes; his attention to the minutiƦ of his art was such that he is said to have worked for three days at a broomstick, in order to represent it with perfect truth. Denner carried accuracy still further; in his portraits of old men every hair in the beard is carefully imitated. Francis and William[1] Mieris discovered far greater talent in their treatment of social and domestic groups; Terbourg and Netscher, on the other hand, delighted in the close imitation of velvet and satin draperies; and Schalken, in the effect of shadows and lamplight. Honthorst[2] attempted a higher style, but Van der Werf's small delicious nudities and Van Loos's luxurious pastoral scenes were better adapted to the taste of the times. While these painters belonged to the higher orders of society, of which their works give evidence, numerous others studied the lower classes with still greater success. Besides Van der Meulen and Rugendas, the painters of battle pieces, Wouvermann chiefly excelled in the delineation of horses and groups of horsemen, and Teniers, Ostade, and Jan Steen became famous for the surpassing truth of their peasants and domestic scenes. To this low but happily treated school also belonged the cattle pieces of Berchem and Paul de Potter, whose "Bull and Cows" were, in a certain respect, as much the ideal of the Dutch as the Madonna had formerly been that of the Italians or the Venus di Medici that of the ancients... Continue reading book >>




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