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.fl‘BY P. M. TURNERM
‘f NE of the chief reasons 1 which have deterred English collectors from turning their attention to the fine productions of the renais' sance has been the diffi' culty, almost amounting to impossibility, of procuring, in the course of a single life-time, sufficient original material to complete the scheme of decoration, on however small a scale. But there can be but small objection to bringing the best modern talent into operation to supply the deficiencies. That an element of danger lurks in this is beyond dispute, for however clever the craftsman may be, he may fail to grasp the spirit of the period he is reproducing, and so defeat the end in view. Still, there are a few men who can recede (if such a term is permissible) into the great artistic epochs of the past, and com— plete such a scheme with real knowledge and insight. An instance of this is the house of Mr. Edgar Speyer. Three styles have been utilised—the gothic, renaissance, and that prevalent in the reigns of Louis XIV, XV, and XVI in France. The woodwork has been taken from the best examples of the Henri II period, the ceilings and pavement from the Chateau de Blois, and the facade of the library from that of the hotel de ville of Beaugeancy. The fine works of art of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries which the house con— tains have been so embraced in the general scheme that they are essential to it, and fur— ther they are so much in harmony with their present surroundings that it is instinctively felt that in their migration from their original to the present environment they have lost nothing of their charm. The hall and staircase are of gothic design. The walls of the entrance lobby are panelled to half their height with oak. Three stalls, designed after those which adorn a Spanish church, have been utilized
effectively to provide seating accommodation on one side, and are balanced by a well-preserved earrone. Above the panelling and standing upon the frieze are carvings in wood arranged to impart relief. The floor is of tiles suggested by those in the chapel of the Chateau de Blois. Sixteenthcentury stained glass has been used as far as possible in the large window which lights the hall. Only pieces harmonizing well one with another have been employed, the deficiency being supplied by modern pieces in which the spirit of the sixteenth century has been well translated. By this means the usually incongruous effect produced by the indiscriminate juxtaposition of inappropriate fragments has been avoided. The soft and multicoloured light which is diffused throughout the hall imparts to it anadditionalcharm. Inthecentre,standing upon a gothic pedestal, and arresting the eye immediately by its symmetry and grace, is a figure of St. Adrian of French workmanship, executed towards the end of the fifteenth century.I The saint is represented clothed in a complete suit or armour, over which, and hanging from his shoulder, is a long cloak reaching to the ground. In his right hand he holds a hammer, and in the left a casket, at which he is intently gazing. The head carries a prolific growth of curly hair, and is surmounted with a flat cap decorated at the sides and front with ornaments. It is difficult to say which one admires the more, the amount of vigour which the sculptor has infused into his work, or the finish of the smallest details. The long tapering fingers grasping the casket and hammer with such natural ease are a triumph of the wood-carver’s art. Another striking feature is the success with which the hard metallic surface of the armour is rendered. The contemplation of such statues as this induces the regret that so few of the men that wrought
I Reproduced on Plate IIII page 553.
Tue H oure and Collection of M r. Edgar Spej/er
them have left any traces of their identity.
The staircase is a free transcription or that at St. Maclou at Rouen. Half way between the ground and the first floors is another beautiful carving, of German fifteenth-century workmanship, representing an abbess in prayer, on each side of which hangs a strip of sixteenth-century embroidery, with medallion subjects upon a blue ground. From the first landing begins a series of four tapestries, which from here to the top are the sole mural decorations. They are Burgundian, of the early years of the sixteenth century, and represent the siege of Troy.2 Monsieur jules Guiffrey, writing in the Revue de l’art in 1879 of the designs which the Louvre had then recently acquired, said :—-‘ C’est d’apres d’autres cartons francais qu’a été tissée une superbe suite sur le meme sujet que nous avons vue recemment chez un collectionneur de Londres.’ As far as regards the design, execution, and preservation, they are one of the best Burgundian series extant.
The dining-room upon the ground floor is an agreeable contrast to the hall. It is entirely renaissance in character. A beautiful Louis XII chimney-piece occupies the greater portion of one end of the apartment. At each side are carved bases from which delicately-chiselled pillars rise, picturesque in their indecision between the gothic and the renaissance. These carry broader supports for the upper portion. Above the ends of the latter are niches surmounted with figures. The central part is divided into three equal compartments. That in the middle is composed of a garland of fruit and flowers, surrounding an emblem having three thistles. The other two are exquisitely carved with a renaissance design composed of foliage, figures, and fishes. Above each compartment rises a semicircular niche, which from its Obviously fifteenth-century Italian sentiment seems
"I See Plate IV, page 555.
to have been culled from some work produced in that country. The general effect is that of artistic completeness, of a maximum utilization of ornamentation without over-elaboration. At the opposite end of the room is a sideboard cunningly fashioned on sixteenth-century lines. The nucleus consisted of two delicately carved sixteenthcentury figures of boys, of I 8 inches or so in height. These have been used in the construction, the remainder is embellishedwith sculptured foliage and grotesques. The whole has now acquired such a patina that it necessitates a close inspection to differentiate between the old and the new. A niche forms the centre, and in it stands an elegant sixteenth-century marble fountain, the stem and base carrying floral ornamentation. The underside of the basin is relieved with grotesque heads. To complete the enremole the fountain is surmounted with a modern cire perdue bronze, representing a young girl carrying a swan, by Antonin Mercié, created specially for this position. Upon this sideboard a small but choice collection of maiolica is displayed.3 At each end is a fine fifteenth-century hispano-moresque dish, with metallic refletr. Next to the one on the left is an Italian vase with two handles of the same century. The pendant of the latter is a sixteenth-century Caffaggiolo vase decorated with an interlaced design. But the most important specimens here are three superb Tuscan vases. These bear the mark of the Hospital of Florence, for which they were made in the fifteenth century. The origin of this rare maiolica has been much discussed in the past. At one time Spain was confidently accredited with its production. Nor was this theory without substantial foundation, on account of the similarity of feeling to much contemporary and earlier maiolica which was known to have come from Spain. But this Spanish faience was imported into Italy in large quantities, and there is no
I See Plate I, page 549.
reason to doubt that it was from specimens which thus came into his hands that the Tuscan potter received his inspiration. These are three of the finest examples in England at the present time, and with the exception of a small defect in one they are in good preservation. All are decorated with foliage in manganese upon a light buff ground, in the midst of which upon each is an animal also carried out in manganese—on one a lion, on the second a bird resembling a stork, and on the third a dog pursuing a rabbit. It is interesting that we have here ahispanomoresque plate which demonstrates the reasonableness of the former assumption that these Tuscan pieces had their origin in Spain. This is of the fifteenth century, with pale metallic reylets. In the centre is a griflin, masterly in treatment, which both in action and position possesses a remarkable resemblance to the animals upon the hospital pieces in this collection and elsewhere. There is, however, a further vase which, although not carrying the mark of the hospital, is doubtless a production of the same pottery. It has the same beautiful form of handles, and the design of the ornamentation shows even a greater degree of moresque influence than its companions, insomuch that it ignores the animals altogether. This decoration consists of a bold and elaborate fleur-de-lys pattern, executed in manganese upon the same ground as the others.
The centre of the sideboard is occupied by a large terra-cotta representing St. Lawrence, by Luca della Robbia. The saint is represented as a young man of pleasing countenance, and is clothed in a loose and thick garment which terminates in a double collar. The sleeves, which are ornamented at the cuffs, are full, and hanging from each side of the collar relieve the monotony of the habit. In his left hand he holds a book and in his right the palm of the martyr.
Above and fixed to the wall hangs a
medallion of della Robbia ware, constructed on the lines of those in the church of St. Vincent at Rouen. Two stalls stand one on each side of the door. The panels are sixteenth-century. From this point the panelling begins, and is extended until it reaches the end walls. The space above is occupied with oblong panels of tapestry with subjects in medallions, the leading characteristics in the design being carried forward for the decoration of the remaining wall-space. The ceiling is adapted from that at the Chateau de Blois, and the windows, which are filled with tesselated glass, are surrounded by shutters carved uniformly with the panelling. From here a good view is obtained of the renaissance garden. In the centre is an elegant fountain which came from the Palazzo Strozzi. The background is occupied by the library, whose facade is a copy of that of the hotel de ville at Beaugeancy.
In the morning-room the panelling has been adapted from that in the Louvre of the period of Henri II. A large open fireplace fills the space opposite the door, and firedogs and accessories are contemporary in period. At each side are fluted pillars surmounted with elegant ornaments, which support the upper portion. The latter consists of four panels, carved with grotesque figures—each with a head in the centre. On the top some maiolica is displayed. The ceiling, which dates from the close of the fifteenth century, was brought from Orvieto, and is of great beauty. It is divided into six squares, three of which are sub-divided into four equal parts, each ornamented with a fleur-de-lys in relief, and the remaining three with one large fleurde-lys in the centre. These are used alternately. The ground is of dark blue and the jleurs-de-lys are gilt. The effect is further enriched by a renaissance design carried out in a low tone.
The room is lighted by two windows, filled with sixteenth-century stained glass, both in
Tne H ouse and Collection of M r. Edgar Slog/er
grirail/e and colour. Above the panelling, pictures chiefly of the Dutch school of the seventeenth century arehung. Perhaps, on the whole, the most important is a small example of Rembrandt. The face, whilst displaying a certain strength of character, is somewhat spoiled by a weak mouth. He is a typical Dutchman of the period, with hollow cheeks partially hidden by whiskers terminating in a beard and moustache. The grey hair is covered with a brown hat, broadly trimmed with fur, which is placed on the left side. The face is forcefully modelled, and there is the vigour and directness which one so frequently finds in these small pictures-by the master. It is probably of the later middle period—between 164.5 and 1650. From this we turn to a characteristic panel by Frans Hals.4 If the Haarlem master is incomparably Rembrandt’s inferior in his grasp of character, he is quite his equal in technique. The picture is a typical example of the middle period of the master, when he had thrown off the restraint and timidity of his earlier fears, and was no longer hampered in presenting his theme with all its gusto by any lack of confidence as to his ability to catch its essentials. The subject and arrangement were popular with the painter, for we find him repeating it with variations many times. One of the most characteristic examples is to be found in the Corporation Art Gallery at Glasgow. The present one is the more pleasing. Here we have a boy of ruddy complexion, whose every gesture is full of the exuberance of animal spirits, clutching a shaggy little dog lying in a precarious position on his right shoulder. His unkempt hair is flowing in the breeze as he rushes past, laughing with a heartiness which knows neither care nor vice. Amongst the other pictures are good examples of Dirk Hals, Jan Miense Molenaer, Gerard Terborch, and Thomas de Keyser.
‘ See Plate 1V, page 555.
From the first-floor landing we pass through two finely wrought iron gates into the drawing-room.5 The same renaissance scheme as we have seen below is achieved, with the addition, however, of a wealth of detached ornamentation to render it more suitable to the room. The door is a copy of the bench of the notaries, the work of Domenico del Tasso in the Sala del Cambio at Perugia, and with its richly carved upper portion, in which is a figure of Justice in a niche, is most impressive. The panelling again is carried out in the same spirit, and on the frieze above are arranged Italian and French bronzes, Faenza and Urbino plates of the sixteenth century, and ivories.
Among the pictures occupying the wall is a beautiful Raffaellino del Garbo 6—--a master who is still unrepresented in Trafalgar Square. It represents the Madonna and Child. The Virgin is garbedin red, over which hangs a dark blue robe. The sleeves are of a green hue. The hair is partially enveloped in a transparent material which hangs over the shoulders. The Infant, nude, with the exception of the covering afforded by a small amount of thin drapery, is in the act of blessing the infant St. John. The latter, from whose left shoulder a red cloak loosely hangs, is kneeling in the act of adoration. In the background is an undulating landscape with trees remarkable for the sense of atmosphere which it displays. The eye is led through a delicious country past a small building until it finally rests upon a group of distant hills bathed in glorious sunshine. Although in this work Raffaellino has not thrown off entirely the traditions of his master Filippino Lippi, yet it betrays considerably more the influence of Domenico Ghirlandaio, by whom at this period he appears to have been profoundly influenced.
The carpets are sympathetically united with their surroundings, the centre of the
room is occupied by two i"auteuz'ls p/z'anter in carved walnut which are of sixteenthcentury origin, whilst at each side is a settee, the backs composed of oblong pieces of sixteenth-century embroidery, petitpoint, with beautiful figures and foliage. On each side of the lower tier of the chimney—piece is a Deruta vase, and in the centre an enamelled terra-cotta of St. John by Andrea della Robbia. The youthful saint is represented as a young man whose delicate features wear an expression of divine beauty. His head is surrounded with long curly hair falling over his shoulders. He is clothed in a blue cloak, opened at the chest, disclosing a red under-garment, the edges finished with a border of blue. Simple as the theme undoubtedly is, the master has infused a wonderful amount of tenderness into this small bust. He has succeeded in giving to St. John an air of humility, and has at the same time retained a dignity which accentuates its charm. Opposite the fireplace a carrone carries, in addition to some bronzes, a peculiarly interesting thirteenthcentury Madonna and Child of the school of Auvergne.
But chief of all the attractions here is the ceiling! It is of the fifteenth century and in excellent preservation. Time, too, has so mellowed the tones that there does not remain any point of aggressiveness, in spite of its sumptuous and ornate decorations. It was brought directly from Orvieto. The design is constructed around an octagonal centre, inside which is a wreath of laurel leaves forming a shield. Upon this latter is a decoration in gold of remarkable spirit and beauty, divided into two equal portions by three broad blue crosses joined together. Outside the octagon is a square, at each corner of which is an octagon smaller than the central but of the same character. In the centre of each is a rosette-shaped ornament, gilded. Equi
7 See Plate 11, page 55:.
distant from the ends, each side of the square is broken by the insertion of a panel, oblong in shape, containing a winged half-length female figure in high relief in gilt, the lower extremities developing into scrolls issuing into a bold sweep, those outside terminating in vases with fruit. The intervening space between the square and the octagon in the centre is occupied with figures in brown, red, white, and green costume, who arrange themselves in pairs and join hands, dancing amidst a wealth of foliage and flowers. These are doubtless by the same hand which ornamen ted the frescoes by Luca Si gnorelli in u'tu at Orvieto. Again, outside the square on two sides are a series of oblong figures, divided alternately by the parent octagon in a diminished size, and by a rectilineal parallelogram utilizing the chief elements of the design which runs through the whole. These panels are enriched with grotesques carried out in red upon a blue ground. The boudoir opens from the drawing-room and is a free copy of that of Rambouillet.
The magnificent music salon has been constructed on the lines of the cour d’appe/ at Rennes. An oblong apartment with parquet flooring, it has a raised platform at one end, behind which is a panel of wellpreserved seventeenth-century Flemish tapestry, bearing the mark of Brussels and representing a group of figures with flora in the centre. The ceiling is decorated by pupils of the eminent sculptor Antonin Mercié. Around the sides are arranged four beautiful white-marble female busts which were specially created by Mercié for their present position. They are mounted upon carved oak pedestals, and are symbolical of the great epochs in art—the antique, the gothic, the renaissance, and the eighteenth century. Such is the impression which the principal apartments create; the remaining apartments are of equal beauty, but the space at our disposal will not permit further description.