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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/60

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MASSYS


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MASSTS


others, seven. He seems to have Iieen a respected personage. As has been seen, lie had relations witlv Krasmus. whose portrait he painted in 1517 (the orig- inal, or an aneient copy, is at Hampton Court), and with the latter's friend, Petrus Kgidius (Peter (iillis), magistrate of .Vntwcrp, whose portrait hy Massys is preserved by Lord Radnor at I-ongford. Diirer went to visit him immediately on his return from his famous journey to the Low Countries in 1519. On 29 .July of that year (Juentin had purchased a house, for which he had perhaps carved a wooden statue of his patron saint. In 1520 he worked together with 250 other artists on tlie triumphal arches for the entry of Em- peror Charles V. In 1524 on the death of Joachim Patenicr he was named guar- dian of the daughters of the deceased. This is all we learn from docimients con- cerning him. He led a quiet, weli-ordereil, middle-class, happy life, which scarcely tallies with tlu- legendary figure of the little smith be- coming a painter through love.

Nevertheless, in this in- stance also, the legend is right. For nothing explains better the appearance in the dull prosaic Flemish School of the charming genius of this lover-poet. It cannot be believed, as Mo- laims asserts, that he was the pvipil of Rogier van der Weyden, since Rogier died in 14S4, two years before Quentin's birth. But the masters whom he might have encountered at Louvain such as Gonts, or even Dirck, the best among them, dis- tress by a lack of taste and imagination a dryness of ideas and style which is the very opposite of Massys's manner. Add to this that his two earliest known works, in fact the only two which count, the "Life of St, Anne" at Brussels and the Antwerp triptych, the "Deposition from the Cross", date respectively from 15(J9 and 1511, that is from a period when the master was nearly fifty years old. Up to that age we know nothing concerning him. The " Banker and His Wife" (Louvre) and the "Portrait of a Young Man" (Collection of Mme. Andre), his only dated works be- sides his ma.sterpieces, belong to 1513 and 1514 (or 1519). We lack all the elements which would afford us an idea of his formation. He seems like an inex- plicable, miraculous flower.

A\'hen it is remembered that his great paintings have Ijeeii almost ruined by restorations, it will 1)C understood that the question of Massys contains insoluble problems. In fact the triptych of St. Anne at Brussels is perhaps the most gracious, tender, and sweet of all the painting of the North. And it will always be mysterious, unless the principal theme, which represents the family or the parents of Christ, affords some light. It is the theme, dear to Memling, of "spiritual conversations", of those sweet meetings of heavenly persons, in earthly cos- tumes, in the serenity of a Paradisal court. This sub- ject, whose unity is wholly interior and mystic, Mem- ling, as is known, had brought from Germany, where it had been tirelessly repeated by painters, especially by him who was called because of this, the Master der


By himself, Uffizi Gallery, Florence


Iliiliqcn. Sippc. Here the musical, immaterial har- miMiy, resulting from a eom[)osition which might be ('.â– illed symplionie. was enhanced by a new harmony, which was th<' feeling of the circulation of the same blood in all the a.s.sembled persons. It was the poem arising from the quite (iermanic intimacy of the love of family. One is reminded of Suso or of Tauler. The loving, tender genius of Massys would be stirred to grave joy in such a subject. The exquisite history of St . .Anne, that poem of maternity, of the holiness of the desire to survive in posterity, has never been ex- pressed in a more penetrating, chaste, disquieting art. Besides, it was the Ijeginning of the sixteenth cen- tury and Italian influences were making themselves felt everywhere. Massys translated them into his brilliant architecture, into the splendour of the tur- quoise which he imparted to the blue summits of the moinitains, to the horizons of his landscapes. A charm- ing luxury mingles with his ideas and disfigures them. It was a unique work, a unique period; that of an ephemeral agreement be- tween the genius of the North and that of the Re- naissance, between the world of sentiment and that of beauty. This harmony which was at the foundation of all the desires of the Sciuth, from Diirer to Rem- brandt and (Joethe, was realized in tlusimple thought of the ancient smith. By force of candour, simplicity, and love he found the secret which others sought in vain. With still greater passion the same qualities are found in the Antvverp "Deposi- tion". The subject is treated, not in the Italian manner, as in the Florentine or Um- brian "Pietas", but with the familiar and tragic senti- ment w-hich touches the Northern races. It is one of the "Tombs" compo- sitions, of which the most famous are those of Saint Mihiel and Solesmes. The body of Christ is one of the most exhausted, the most "dead", the most moving that painting has ever created. All is full of tenderness and desolation.

Massys has the genius of tears. He loves to paint tears in large pearls on the eyes, on the red cheeks of his holy women, as in his wonderful "Magdalen" of Berlin or his "Piet&," of Munich. But he had at the same time the keenest sense of grace. His Hero- diades, his Salomes (Antwerp triptych) are the most l)ewitching figures of all the art of his time. And this exeitable nervousness made him particularly sensitive to the ridiculous .side of things. He had a sense of the grotesfjuc, of caricature, of the droll and the hideous, which is displayed in his figures of old men, of execu- tioners. And this made him a wonderful genre painter. His "Banker" and his "Money Changers" inaugurated in the Flemish School the rich tradition of the painting of manners. He had a pupil in this style, Marinus, many of whose pictures still pass under his name.

Briefly, Massys was the last of the great Flemish artists prior to the Italian invasion. He was the most sensitive, the most nervous, the most poetical, the most comprehensive of all, and in him is discerned the