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ESSA Y VIII.

ON A PORTRAIT OF AN ENGLISH LADY,

BY VANDYKE.

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ESSAY VIII.

ON A PORTRAIT OF AN ENGLISH LADY,

BY VANDYKE.

The portrait I speak of is in the Louvre, where it is numbered 416, and the only account of it in the Catalogue is that of a Lady and her daughter. It is companion to another wholelength by the same artist, No. 417, of a Gentleman and a little girl. Both are evidently English.

The face of the lady has nothing very remarkable in it, but that it may be said to be the very perfection of the English female face. It is not particularly beautiful, but there is a sweetness in it, and a goodness conjoined, which is inexpressibly delightful. The smooth ivory forehead is a little ruffled, as if some slight cause of uneasiness, like a cloud, had just passed over it. The eyes are raised with a look of timid attention; the mouth is compressed with modest sensibility; the complexion is delicate and clear; and over the whole figure (which is seated) there reign the utmost propriety and decorum. The habitual gentleness of the character seems to have been dashed with some anxious thought or momentary disquiet, and, like the shrinking flower, in whose leaves the lucid drop yet trembles, looks out and smiles at the storm that is overblown. A mother's tenderness, a mother's fear, appears to flutter on the surface, and on the extreme verge of the expression, and not to have quite subsided into thoughtless indifference or mild composure. There is a reflection of the same expression in the little child at her knee, who turns her head round with a certain appearance of constraint and innocent wonder; and perhaps it is the difficulty of getting her to sit (or to sit still) that has caused the transient contraction of her mother's brow,—that lovely, unstained mirror of pure affection, too fair, too delicate, too 'soft and feminine for the breath of serious 'misfortune ever to come near, or not to crush it. It is a face, in short, of the greatest purity and sensibility, sweetness and simplicity, or such as Chaucer might have described

" Where all is conscience and tender heart.” I have said that it is an English face'; and I may add (without being invidious) that it is not a French one. I will not say that they have no face to equal this; of that I am not a judge ; but I am sure they have no face equal to this, in the qualities by which it is distinguished. They may have faces as amiable, but then the possessors of them will be conscious of it. There may be equal elegance, but not the same ease; there

may

be even greater intelligence, but without the innocence; more vivacity, but then it will run into petulance or coquetry; in short, there may be every other good quality but a total absence of all pretension to or wish to make a display of it, but the same unaffected modesty and simplicity. In French faces (and I have seen some that were charming both for the features and expression) there is a varnish of insincerity, a something theatrical or meretricious; but here, every particle is pure to the “last recesses of the mind.". The face (such as it is, and it has a considerable share both of beauty and meaning) is without the smallest alloyof affectation. There is no false glitter in the eyes to make them look brighter ; no little wrinkles about the corners of the eye-lids, the effect of self-conceit; no pursing up of the mouth, no significant leer, no primness, no extravagance, no assumed levity or gravity. You have the genuine text of nature without gloss or comment. There is no heightening of conscious charms to produce greater effect, no studying of airs and graces in the

Second Series. Vol. II.

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