Child-life in Art
by Estelle M. Hurll
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Children are God's apostles, day by day Sent forth to preach of love and hope and peace. LOWELL.





The subject of this little book is its best claim upon public favor. Child-life in every form appeals with singular force to the sympathies of all. In palace and in cottage, in the city and in the country, childhood reigns supreme by the divine right of love. No monarch rules more mightily than the infant sovereign in the Kingdom of Home, and none more beneficently. His advent brings a bit of heaven into our midst, and we become more gentle and tender for the sacred influence. Every phase of the growing young life is beautiful and interesting to us. Every new mood awakens in us a sense of awe before unfolding possibilities for good or evil.

The poetry of childhood is full of attractiveness to the artist, and many and varied are the forms in which he interprets it. The Christ-child has been his highest ideal. All that human imagination could conceive of innocence and purity and divine loveliness has been shown forth in the delineation of the Babe of Bethlehem. The influence of such art has made itself felt upon all child pictures. It matters not whether the subject be a prince or a street-waif; the true artist sees in him something which is lovable and winning, and transfers it to his canvas for our lasting pleasure.

Art has produced so many representations of children that it would be a hopeless task to attempt a complete enumeration of them, and the book makes no pretensions to exhaustiveness. The aim has been merely to suggest a convenient outline of classification, and to describe a few characteristic examples in each group. The nature of the undertaking has, of course, necessitated consulting the works of many standard authorities, to whom I gratefully acknowledge my indebtedness. The names of the most prominent are included in the bibliographical list. While faithfully studying their opinions, I have always reserved the right of forming an independent estimate of any painting considered, especially when, as in many cases, I have myself seen the original. I am under great obligations to my friend Professor Anne Eugenia Morgan of Wellesley for first showing me, through her philosophical art-interpretations, the true meaning and value of the works of the masters. From these interpretations I have drawn many of the suggestions which are embodied in the descriptions of the following pages.

While addressing lovers of children primarily, I have also hoped to interest students in the history of art. I have therefore added a few notes containing further details in regard to some of the subjects.

E. M. H.

NEW BEDFORD, MASS., June 1, 1894.





SISTINE MADONNA Raphael Frontispiece



ANGEL HEADS Reynolds 19 From the original painting in the National Gallery, London.

NATURE Lawrence 23

PORTRAIT OF PRINCE JAMES, DUKE OF YORK Van Dyck 33 From a painting in San Luca, Rome, after the Turin portrait by Van Dyck.

PORTRAIT OF PRINCESS MARY STUART AND PRINCE WILLIAM II. OF ORANGE Van Dyck 39 From the original painting in Amsterdam.

PORTRAIT OF THE INFANTA MARIA THERESA Velasquez 45 From the original painting in the Prado, Madrid.

PORTRAIT OF THE INFANTA MARGUERITE Velasquez 49 From the original painting in the Louvre, Paris.

RUSTIC CHILDREN Gainsborough 59

LA CRUCHE CASSEE (The Broken Pitcher) Greuze 71 From the original painting in the Louvre, Paris.

CHILD'S HEAD Bouguereau 77


BEGGAR BOYS Murillo 89 From the original painting in the Pinacothek, Munich.

STREET ARABS Dorothy Tennant Stanley 98

THE MEETING Marie Bashkirtseff 103 From the original painting in the Luxembourg, Paris.


GROUP OF ANGELS. From the Assumption Titian 119 From the original painting in the Academy, Venice.

PIPING ANGEL. Detail of Frari Madonna Bellini 127 From the original painting in Venice.

ANGEL. From Madonna and Child Luigi Vivarini 131 From the original painting in the Church of Redentore, Venice.

ANGEL. From the Vision of Saint Bernard Filippino Lippi 135 From the original painting in the Badia, Florence.


INFANT JESUS AND SAINT JOHN Boucher 155 From the original painting in the Uffizi, Florence.


HEAD OF BOY CHRIST Hofmann 163 Detail of Christ Disputing with the Doctors.

* * * * *



O child! O new-born denizen Of life's great city! on thy head The glory of the morn is shed, Like a celestial benison! Here at the portal thou dost stand, And with thy little hand Thou openest the mysterious gate Into the future's undiscovered land. LONGFELLOW.




If we could gather into one great gallery all the paintings of child-life which the world has ever produced, there would be scattered here and there some few works of a distinctly unique character, before which we should rest so completely satisfied that we should quite forget to look at any others. These choice gems are the work of those rare men of genius who, looking beyond all trivial circumstances and individual peculiarities, discovered the essential secrets of child-life, and embodied them in ideal types. They are pictures of childhood, rather than of children, representing those phases of thought and emotion which are peculiar to the child as such, and which all children possess in common. In their presence every mother spontaneously exclaims, "How like my own little one!" because the artist has interpreted the real child nature. Such pictures may justly take rank among the highest productions of creative art, having proven their claim to greatness by their unquestioned appeal to universal admiration.

In work of this kind one name alone is prominent, a name which England is proud to claim as hers, but to which all the world pays honor,—the name of Sir Joshua Reynolds, Prince of Child-painters. A simple-hearted man, of sweet, kindly disposition, the great portrait-painter, bachelor though he was, possessed in rare measure the mysterious gift of winning the confidence of children. The great octagonal studio in Leicester Square must have often resounded to the laughter of childish voices, as he entertained his little patrons with the pet dogs and birds he used in their portraits, and coaxed them into good nature with a thousand merry tricks. Although the greater number of these little people belonged to the most wealthy and aristocratic families in England, their pictures do not in any way indicate their rank. Still less do they show any distinguishing marks of the artificial age in which they lived. Dressed in the simplest of costumes, of the sort which is never out of fashion and always in the best taste, and posed in the natural attitudes of unconscious grace, they are representatives of childhood, pure and simple, rather than of any particular social class or historical period.

A list of Sir Joshua's child pictures may suitably begin with one which, in his own opinion, is among the best and most original of all his works. This is the Strawberry Girl, exhibited in 1773, and repeated many times by the painter,—"not so much for the sake of profit," as Northcote explains, "as for improvement." The model was the artist's pretty niece, Miss Theophila ("Offy") Palmer, who was named for his mother, and whom he loved as an own daughter.

The little girl stands with head slightly drooping, in the sweet, shy way so natural to a timid child. The big eyes are lifted to ours half confidingly, half timidly, while a smile hovers bewitchingly over the mouth. A long, pointed basket hangs on one arm, and the plump hands are folded together in front like a little woman's. The child wears a curious round cap on her head, under which, presumably, her hair is gathered up in womanly fashion, for there are no stray locks to be seen except the two soft curves on the forehead. Altogether, the figure presents just that odd commingling of dignity with childish timidity which we so often notice in our own little maids, and which makes them at once so lovable and so womanly.

Some fifteen years after Sir Joshua's niece posed as the Strawberry Girl, her own little daughter, another "Offy," served the artist uncle as the model for Simplicity. The great-niece was as lovely a child as her mother had been, and critics agree in placing Simplicity among the best works of the painter. The setting is a landscape, in the foreground of which the child is seated, with her lap full of flowers. The sweet face is turned aside in a somewhat pensive poise, and the exquisite purity of its expression is exactly represented by the title. Of a similar character is the Age of Innocence, which portrays a little girl looking out into the world with wide eyes and parted lips, a complete embodiment of the innocence of childhood on the threshold of life. The face, which is presented in profile, is finely cut, and charmingly framed in short, clustering curls.

In looking for ideal types among the child-pictures of Sir Joshua Reynolds, we need by no means be confined to those which bear fancy titles. His portraits are as truly interpretative as his imaginative subjects, and each typifies a distinct element of child-life. The little Miss Bowles sitting on the ground hugging her dog, and Master Bunbury looking out of the canvas with breathless eagerness, arouse a universal interest, which is entirely independent of their individuality. Miss Frances Harris, the serene, and Miss Penelope Boothby, the demure, will be loved as child ideals long after their names are forgotten.

A protege of Reynolds from the first, Lawrence became his successor as Painter-in-Ordinary to the King, and in process of time rose to the proud honor of the presidency of the Royal Academy. Holding thus the two positions which Reynolds had graced so many years, it may be said that the master's mantle fell upon him more truly than upon any other follower.

In technique his painting is criticised by connoisseurs as deficient in that harmonious blending of the flesh tints with the background which so delights us in other artists. Then, too, his insight into character was far less penetrating than that of his predecessor. Nevertheless, his best work has much of the beauty and animation which we so admire in the paintings of Reynolds.

One of his notable pictures is the portrait of Master Lambton, son of Lord Durham, sometimes called, in imitation of the Blue Boy of Gainsborough, the Red Boy. The painting was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1824, where it is said to have completely turned the heads of French critics, so fascinating was the aristocratic melancholy of the beautiful boy it represented.

For a companion piece to this picture, one might choose the portrait of Mr. Peel's daughter, which is considered an exceptionally fine work.

Lawrence's groups of mothers with their children are especially worthy of study. The most famous of these are Lady Dover, with her son, Lord Clifden, in her arms, and the Countess Gower, with her little daughter Elizabeth on her lap.

The latter has been carried by the engraver's art into nearly every country of the world, and often appears under the title, "Maternal Love." Both mother and child are looking with intense interest in the direction toward which the little girl points an eager finger. The child's face is full of vivacious beauty, the sparkling eyes and parted lips perfectly representing the alert, imaginative type of child nature.

The finest of Sir Thomas Lawrence's child pictures is undoubtedly the portrait of the Calmady children, better known by the title of "Nature." This is indeed a picture disclosing the essential truth of the child nature; the two little ones are frolicking together in a perfect abandon of innocent merriment.

The pretty story of the sittings in which this portrait was obtained, is a key to its success. The children romped with the artist as with a boon companion, and the younger relieved the monotony of the hour by relating to him the nursery tales of Dame Wiggins, and the Field Mice and Raspberry Cream. Thus the painter won the confidence of his little friends, and delineated them in all the fresh charm of their youthful vivacity. Nature deserves a place beside Simplicity as a true picture of the heart of childhood.

But after all has been said concerning the child pictures in any way similar to those of Sir Joshua Reynolds, it must still be admitted that his work is entirely unique in what may be termed the universality of its idealism. Other pictures of child-life there are,—many of them of equal and even of superior merit as works of art,—which are marked by a fine quality of idealism; but this idealism is limited in its range to the delineation of individuals, or of particular classes. These pictures naturally fall into groups based upon the social classes which they represent, and by this method of classification, they will be considered in the subsequent chapters.

Miss Penelope's face is one of the most familiar of Sir Joshua's art children, and the first favorite with many for the arch loveliness of her expression. Although her mouth is set in a prim little pucker, we cannot repress the suspicion that behind it lurks a good deal of childish fun. The big mob cap and the voluminous mitts add not a little to the quaint charm of the picture, and make it easily recognized by many who are otherwise unfamiliar with Reynolds's works.

As it was a fashion of eighteenth century art to draw subjects largely from classic mythology, we find among Sir Joshua's child pictures an Infant Bacchus, an Infant Jupiter, and an Infant Hercules. This last was painted to fill a commission from the Empress Catherine of Russia, and is a powerful representation of the young hero, seated on wolf-skins, strangling serpents.

Mercury as a Postman and Cupid as a Link-Boy are companion pieces, painted from the same model,—a mischievous young street boy, whose simulated gravity is irresistibly droll. The artist's keen sense of humor is seen again in that most captivating little rogue, Puck. The saucy elf is perched on a mushroom, resting after a frolic, and apparently plotting new escapades.

A complete enumeration and description of Reynolds's child pictures would fill a bulky volume, so eagerly, through a period of over thirty years, were the great portrait painter's services demanded by all the distinguished families of the day. Of special interest and beauty are some of the portraits of mothers with their children. The lovely Lady Waldegrave, clasping her babe to her breast, is one of these, while another is the celebrated beauty, the Duchess of Devonshire, playing with her infant daughter. A charming group is Lady Cockburn and her Boys, which has been engraved under the title of the Roman matron Cornelia and her Children. It is said of this splendid production, that when it was brought into the Royal Academy exhibition to be hung, it was greeted by the assembly of painters with a great demonstration of applause. It is no wonder, then, that this should be one of the few paintings to which the master attached his signature.

Our list of Reynolds's pictures would be defective without some mention of the famous Angel Heads, which is peculiarly a representative work. It consists of a cluster of little cherubs, representing, in five different expressions, the delicate features of a single face, whose original was Miss Frances Isabella Gordon. Painted in 1786, near the close of his great career, it seems to gather up into a harmonious whole those several aspects of childhood which Sir Joshua's long and wide experience had revealed to him as the typical movements of the child mind.

The five totally dissimilar expressions embody those varying attitudes of mind which the child may successively assume in any critical experience of its young life. The clear-cut profile of the lower face at the left suggests the face of the child in the Age of Innocence who first confronts the problem of life. The one just above has the thoughtful poise of the little girl Simplicity, pondering over an important question, while the remaining heads stand for those imaginative and emotional moods which complete the cycle of human experience.

The original of this beautiful picture[1] is in the National Gallery at London, and fortunate indeed are they who have the privilege of standing before it to delight their eyes with the blonde loveliness of the sweet faces, framed in aureoles of golden ringlets.

It would be difficult to estimate the incalculable influence which the life and work of Sir Joshua Reynolds have exerted on the progress of art in the past century. The influence of his paintings was supplemented by the series of discourses which it was his duty as President of the Royal Academy to deliver annually on subjects of art criticism. His unparalleled success brought forth many followers and imitators; but among their works few can be selected as worthy presentations of childhood in ideal types.

Gainsborough and Romney were considered to some extent the rivals of Reynolds, but Gainsborough's child pictures were drawn from rustic life, and Romney's are not worthy of comparison with the master's. We must turn, then, for the best results of Reynolds's influence to the work of Sir Thomas Lawrence, who entered upon his career just as the great portrait-painter was obliged to lay aside his brush from failing sight.



For thrones and peoples are as waifs that swing And float or fall, in endless ebb and flow; But who love best have best the grace to know That Love, by right divine, is deathless King. TENNYSON.



The children of a royal family lead a strange and somewhat lonely life. Impressed, almost from infancy, with a sense of their superiority, and recognizing no equals among their companions and playmates, they live apart in princely isolation, preparing for the future honors which await them. But even the grave responsibilities of their rank cannot altogether extinguish the inherent joyousness of youth, and children will be children to the end of time. The stately ceremonies of the court have to yield in turn to innocent amusements, and childhood reasserts its natural right to simple and spontaneous happiness.

The combination of royal dignity with pure childishness is a unique subject for art, and one which few have had the genius to portray. Two great painters are famous in history for their remarkable success in this line of work,—Van Dyck, of Belgium, and Velasquez, of Spain.

In many respects the lives of these two painters ran in parallel lines. They were born in the same year, 1599; and beginning their art studies when still very young, with great opportunities for the development of their talent, both had won an enviable reputation by the time they had reached early manhood. Both held appointments as the court painters of kings who were unusually liberal and appreciative in their patronage,—Van Dyck under Charles I. of England, and Velasquez under Philip IV. of Spain. Both artists drew great inspiration from the Italian masters, whose works they studied in Venice and Rome, particularly the great Titian. Here, however, the comparison may end; for the nature of the subjects which each chose, the influence of their nationality upon their style, and, above all, their own personal individuality as artists, have rendered their work strikingly dissimilar.

Van Dyck was in every sense a man of the world and a courtier; widely travelled, broadly cultured, fond of music, brilliant in conversation, handsome of face, and graceful in bearing, by turns an elegant host and a distinguished guest. Thus all his thoughts, interests, and pleasures were thoroughly identified with the court life, and he was peculiarly fitted for the artistic interpretation of royalty.

The family of Charles I. of England afforded a most attractive field for the exercise of the court painter's talent, and many and varied are the groups in which they were represented.[2] Some of the most interesting of these are in the collection at Windsor. In one, the king and queen are seen, with their two sons, Prince Charles and Prince James; while another portrays the same boys, with their mother, Henrietta Maria. The latter painting is an exceedingly beautiful work, repaying long study. The boys have that indefinable air of nobility which Van Dyck knew so well how to impart to his subjects, and which none can imitate or explain. Even Prince James, who is an infant in arms, holds his little head erect, like the prince that he is. The artist has shown us, however, that royal dignity is by no means incompatible with the true child nature, and the two young princes are always depicted as genuine children, with frank, winning faces.

The most popular of Van Dyck's portraits of the Stuart children is the famous group at Turin, in which the two young princes, Charles and James, stand one on each side of their sister Mary. All three bear themselves with an air of conscious superiority, a gentle and serene dignity born of their faith in the divine right of kings. Prince Charles is dressed in scarlet satin, richly embroidered with silver lace, with a broad lace collar falling over his shoulders. His large round eyes look out towards the spectator with the dreamy expression of one who builds splendid air-castles. The Princess Mary is in white satin, and is a dainty little figure, a second edition of her queen mamma, with ringlets carefully ranged on each side of her pretty forehead, and her exquisite hands holding lightly the lustrous folds of her dress.

The little Prince James is so short that he stands on a platform at the side, to bring his figure into harmonious relation to the group. His dress is blue satin, of stiff, full skirt, which, with the close white cap on his head, makes him a quaint little figure. A chubby, innocent looking baby, he is nevertheless a personage who fully realizes the important place he occupies in the family group, and is determined to fill it with becoming gravity.

Next in popularity to the Turin picture is a group of five children, the original of which is at Windsor, and a replica at Berlin. The painting is dated 1637, fixing the age of Prince Charles as seven. Having now outgrown the frocks of the earlier pictures, he stands in a graceful boyish attitude, wearing satin knickerbockers and waistcoat, and still retaining the beautiful lace collar on his aristocratic shoulders. His eyes have the same dreamy look as in other portraits. On his right are his sisters Mary and Elizabeth, the former demurely complacent as before, the latter timid and dainty. On the left the little Princess Anne frolics with Prince James in simple childish fashion. As a composition, the picture is somewhat stiff and artificial, but the single figures are all rendered with characteristic beauty.

It is sad to place beside Van Dyck's glowing canvases, the dark pictures in which historians have painted the after-life of these charming children. The dreamy-eyed Prince Charles grows at length into the corrupt and unprincipled King Charles II., whose tyrannies are limited only by his indolence. The sweet, round-faced baby, Prince James, becomes King James II., whose reign is even more inglorious than that of the brother whom he succeeds. The Princess Mary has in the mean time married Prince William II. of Orange, and now, in England's hour of need, it is her son, William III. of Orange, who is summoned to the aid of his mother's native land. With his cousin wife Mary, the daughter of the unworthy king, he assumes the head of affairs, and wisely conducts the interests of the people throughout a prosperous reign.

The fact that the Princess Mary's marriage with William II. of Orange was productive of so great a benefit to England gives special interest to Van Dyck's painting of the betrothed lovers, which may now be seen at Amsterdam. The princess stands on the left side of the picture, bearing herself with characteristic dignity. Prince William, beside her, holds her left hand lightly in his right, and turns his face to meet our gaze with steadfast, serious eyes. He is a fine, manly figure, in every way the true Prince Charming for his pretty lady-love. Both children have a thoughtful, intelligent look, far beyond their years, as if conscious that England's destiny turns upon their union.

From Van Dyck's exquisitely idealized portraits of royal children we turn to the work of Velasquez, to find a faithful reproduction of the totally different type of child-life represented at the court of Spain. Appointed court painter at the age of twenty-four, and retaining this connection until his death, in 1660, the Spanish artist has left to posterity a vivid panorama of the royal life at Madrid during a period of nearly forty years. His delineations are so realistic, his technique is so masterly, his posing of figures so entirely natural, that his pictures seem to place the living reality before us. Often representing the characters he painted as occupied in their customary daily pursuits, his works are a truthful reflection of the life of his times, and are as full of historical interest as of artistic merit.

The court to which the young painter was introduced in 1623 might almost be called A Court of Boys, the king, Philip IV., being but eighteen years of age, and his two brothers, the Cardinal Infant Don Fernando, and the Prince Carlos, seventeen and thirteen respectively. The youthful king was, of course, his first royal patron, and was painted in a magnificent equestrian portrait, which at once established the artist's fame.

With the birth of the king's first child, the Prince Balthasar Carlos, in 1629, the court painter's duties began in earnest; and from that time on he was most assiduous in portraying the royal family.

Prince Balthasar was represented in almost every imaginable position, first as a tiny child in frocks, and later as a young boy in court dress,[3] military costume, or hunting-garb.

In his most attractive portraits he is a gallant young horseman, seated with an easy grace, as if born to the saddle. Two of these are scenes in the riding-school, and are admirable compositions. The most remarkable, however, is that in the Madrid Museum, in which the little prince rides alone on a bright bay. The beautiful pony bounds out of the picture with great spirit and grace, guided by his happy, round-faced rider, whose right hand lifts a baton, and whose left holds the bridle. The brilliant colors of his riding-costume make the picture exceedingly effective in rich, warm tints,—the green velvet jacket and the red-and-gold scarf,—while the young cavalier's fluttering streamers and the horse's sweeping mane and tail give a swift breezy motion to the whole scene.

Next in age to Prince Balthasar came the Princess Maria Theresa, who afterwards became the queen of Louis XIV. of France. Velasquez painted various portraits of this little princess to be sent to the European courts where negotiations for her marriage were under consideration; but, unhappily, the fate of most of these is shrouded in mystery. One interesting painting, however, may be seen in the Royal Gallery at Madrid.[4] The child has a sweet, demure face, which seems very narrow and delicate-looking in its broad frame of elaborately arranged hair. Her bearing is dignified, in spite of her uncomfortable dress. In one hand she carries an immense handkerchief, and in the other a rose, both resting lightly on the outer edge of the huge hemisphere, of which her slender figure forms, as it were, the central axis. Her sad and lonely after-life as a neglected queen, in the gay and dissolute French court, makes the picture singularly pathetic. There is a look of sweet patience in the face, which seems to anticipate the coming years.

By King Philip's second marriage he brought to the Spanish court as his wife the Princess Mariana of Austria, who was then only fourteen years of age. The young queen was of course frequently portrayed by the court painter, but she did not make a very attractive subject for his skill, with her rather dull eyes and her full lips, and cheeks plentifully bedaubed with rouge.

As there was a difference of but three years in the ages of the child-wife and the Princess Maria Theresa, the two were constant companions; and when the Princess Margaret was christened, the elder sister stood as godmother with great dignity. A pretty story is related that on the way to the chapel for the christening, Maria Theresa let slip from her finger a costly ring, which a poor woman picked up to return to her. "Keep it," said the little princess, with true royal tact; "God has sent it to you."

The Princess Margaret became the darling of the court, and her blonde beauty is immortalized in many portraits by Velasquez. The most famous of these is the picture called "Las Meninas," or The Maids of Honor, in which the young princess is the central figure of a group of devoted attendants. The composition is a veritable masterpiece, representing with perfect naturalness a daily scene in the palace. The princess rules with a sweet, complacent smile, and one can well imagine what an object of admiration her fair hair and blue eyes must have been among the swarthy, dark-eyed Spaniards.

Another celebrated painting of the same child is in the Louvre at Paris, where it is a centre of attraction for art lovers and copyists, on account of the exquisite delicacy of its technique. It is a half-length portrait, showing a winning face, with wide, earnest eyes, and a demure little mouth. The fair hair is parted at one side, where it is caught back with a ribbon bow,—a style which the princess is said to have retained even after her marriage with the Emperor Leopold.

From an artist's point of view, the beauty of the Velasquez child portraits is greatly injured by the grotesque fashions of the times. A long stiff corset and an immense oval hoop entirely precluded any possibility of grace in the attitude of the little princesses, while a ridiculously artificial style of dressing the hair completed the absurdity of a costume which was the laughing-stock of Europe.

Van Dyck was in this respect far more fortunate in his surroundings, and the full, lustrous folds of satin in which the English royal children were arrayed, gave him ample scope for an exquisite disposition of light and shade.

Independently of purely artistic principles, we should be sorry to lose from the pictures of either artist that element of interest and fascination which the costumes of an earlier epoch always arouse. The Princess Maria Theresa would be less interesting without her big hoop, and the Princess Mary less dignified without her voluminous satin; Charles would scarcely be the prince that he is, if lacking his broad lace collar, and Prince Balthasar would lose much of his charm, deprived of his red and green bravery. There is, in fact, no detail in any of these pictures which does not throw light upon the phase of life which they portray.

Other great masters besides Van Dyck and Velasquez have been called to the portraiture of royalty,—Titian,[5] Holbein,[6] Rubens,—but for various reasons they painted but few pictures of royal children, and these are by no means notable when compared with their other works.

Van Dyck and Velasquez, therefore, stand out the more prominently for this unique class of court portraits, and so long as their works endure, they will take first rank as a revelation of the peculiar grace and charm of the life of children born to the purple.



O for boyhood's painless play, Sleep that wakes in laughing day, Health that mocks the doctor's rules, Knowledge never learned of schools, Of the wild bee's morning chase, Of the wild-flower's time and place, Flight of fowl, and habitude Of the tenants of the wood;—

For, eschewing books and tasks, Nature answers all he asks; Hand in hand with her he walks, Face to face with her he talks, Part and parcel of her joy,— Blessings on the barefoot boy! WHITTIER.



The most fortunate children in the world are those whose first lessons in life have been learned on the lap of Mother Nature. Taught by her to know and love all the beautiful things of the glad green earth; versed in the mystic language of woodland birds and beasts; trained to the skilful use of eye and muscle,—they possess the secret of a happiness which knows no equal. Theirs is a life of perfect liberty, untrammelled by the false conventions of society, uninjured by over-indulgence, untainted by contact with vice. Growing up under these conditions into a healthy and vigorous beauty, the children of field and village have long been a source of delight and inspiration to both poet and painter.

In genre painting, Holland gave the initiative to the art world in the works of Jan Steen, the Teniers, and others. The influence of the Dutch school at length made itself felt in England; and after the renaissance of British art, in the middle of the eighteenth century, many painters arose to interpret the conditions of rustic life peculiar to England.

First on this list stands the name of Thomas Gainsborough.[7] From early boyhood he loved nature with all the intensity of a true artist's soul, and many picturesque scenes in the vicinity of his native Sudbury were indelibly impressed upon his youthful mind. Later in life, when at the height of his success as a great London painter, his favorite summer resort was Richmond, where, wandering about the country from day to day, he met many an interesting village child whose face was transferred to his canvas. Fortunate little models, these; for the artist always rewarded them for their sittings with lavish generosity.

One particular boy, Jack Hill by name, so charmed Gainsborough that he actually adopted the lad, and immortalized his handsome features in two paintings.[8] Jack Hill did not live up to his privileges, and, preferring his old free life to the restrictions of a more elegant household, he ran away. He was, however, never forgotten; and after Gainsborough died, his good widow provided amply for the youth's welfare.

Perhaps the most extensively known of all Gainsborough's delineations of country child-life is the Rustic Children of the National Gallery. The central figure is a young girl, standing, with a child in her arms; a boy sits on the bank beside her with a bundle of fagots. The group is artistically conceived, with one of Gainsborough's characteristic landscapes as a background, showing a cottage home. The children are graceful and natural, with that indefinable poetic charm peculiar to the painter's work.

A picture attracting a great deal of admiration in the lifetime of Gainsborough, was the Boy at the Stile. While this treasure was still in the hands of the artist, he was visited one day by Colonel Hamilton, then considered the finest violinist of his times. Gainsborough, a devoted lover of music, begged him to play, and when the first air was finished, rapturously exclaimed, "Now, my dear Colonel, if you will but go on, I will give you that picture of the Boy at the Stile, which you so wished to purchase of me."

In half an hour the prize was won, and both parties were well satisfied with the agreement.

In studying Gainsborough's rustic children as a class, it is noticeable that he emphasizes the pathetic side of their life; instead of a thrifty, tidy appearance, in which England's village children are by no means lacking, he gives his subjects a careless, neglected air. The Rustic Children of the National Gallery are unnecessarily ragged; their hair is wild and dishevelled, and their general appearance untidy. Many of the children of the most celebrated pictures are attractive from a delicate, refined beauty, rather than from the robust and healthy vitality we naturally associate with country life. This makes their surroundings incongruous, and we feel sorry that they are not in their true sphere. The child who stands, half-clad, before the hearth-fire, in the painting called the "Little Cottager," has the delicate features of a true aristocrat. No cottage boy this, with shapely hands and large, melancholy eyes. His wistfulness is so touching that we would fain snatch him from his surroundings, and set him down amidst the soft luxuries which belong to him by right.

The Shepherd Boy in a Storm has the face and expression of a poet, as he lifts his beautiful eyes to the overhanging clouds, with nothing of fear or shrinking, but with apparent admiration for the grandeur of Nature.

Gainsborough painted many scenes of child-life in which animals are introduced, as in the picture of a girl holding a child on a donkey, and in one representing two shepherd boys looking on at fighting dogs. He did not hesitate before a subject which would have appalled most artists, and which, in other hands, would have been vulgar and common,—A Girl Feeding Pigs. This he painted with such skill that Reynolds instantly recognized its greatness, and eagerly purchased it for a sum far in advance of the price modestly named by the painter. The amusing anecdote is related concerning this work that a countryman, who studied it attentively some time, gave it as his opinion that "they be deadly like pigs; but nobody ever saw pigs feeding together but what one on 'em had a foot in the trough."

Gainsborough[9] is pronounced by Ruskin the purest colorist of the English school, taking rank beside Rubens, and adding a lustre to the fame of British art which time can do nothing to dim. His style is so peculiarly individual in its characteristics that it cannot properly be compared with that of any other artist; but his predilection for subjects drawn from rural child-life finds a parallel in the work of his French contemporary, Jean Baptiste Greuze.[10]

The pictures by which Greuze made his early reputation, and which perhaps he never excelled in later times, were the Father Explaining the Bible to his Children,[11] and the Village Bride.[12] Both represent family scenes among village people, and contain, as their most charming features, some delightfully natural children. One could scarcely find anything more deliciously childlike than the mischievous little ones who gather about the table to listen to the Father Explaining the Bible, and whose love of fun even this solemn occasion cannot repress. Equally attractive are the young people gathering affectionately and tearfully about their pretty elder sister, the Village Bride, who comes with her lover to receive the parental blessing.

The appearance of these two compositions made their artist famous, and won for him the ardent admiration and powerful friendship of the encyclopaedist Diderot. Continuing his work along this new[13] line of subjects, Greuze went on to paint many other scenes in the child-life of the country. Two notable companion pictures of this kind are the Departure of the Cradle, and the Return from the Nurse, founded upon a phase of French village life quite unknown in many other countries, namely, the custom among busy working-people of sending their infants out to board with nurses. Unnatural as was the custom, it by no means indicated a lack of family affection, as is seen in these charming compositions. In both cases, the child, at first an infant, and later a little boy a year or two old, is the centre of the group, fondled and admired by all.

The pre-eminence of Greuze was due not only to the entire novelty of his chosen range of subjects, but to the exquisite beauty of his technique. He excelled in painting those fresh carnations, "mixed with lilies and roses," as the French used to say, and diversified with blue-gray shadows and warm reflected light. Such characteristics are easily carried to extremes, and were often exaggerated by Greuze himself; but when held in true control they are a delight to the eye of the true color-lover.

An example of his coloring, in its most lovely aspects, is the Trumpet. The scene is a cottage interior, in which a young mother, with a babe in her arms, sits beside a cradle containing another little one, and turns to quiet her roguish boy, who stands somewhat sulkily by her chair, reluctant to forego the pleasure of blowing on his trumpet. "Silence! do not awaken him!" is what the mother seems to say; and these words form the title under which the picture first appeared.

Greuze could not altogether escape the blight of that artificiality which was everywhere characteristic of his times, and nowhere more conspicuous than in France. "Soyez piquant, si vous ne pouvez pas etre vrai," was his advice to a fellow artist, Ducreux; and his own work too often shows evidence of the sacrifice of truth to piquancy. His single figures and heads are not, as a class, so true to nature as his compositions, although they are much better known to the public. Scattered far and wide through all the great art galleries of the world, they have been greatly admired for their delicate coloring, and for those qualities of prettiness which are always attractive.

Nearly all these purport to be representations of children, but they are certainly not like the children of our own households, nor, indeed, like those of the same artist's domestic pictures. They reverse the proverb, by being young heads on old shoulders, the face and features of childhood on the mature and well-developed figure of womanhood. The expression, too, is a curious combination of childlike simplicity with the sentimental melancholy of young maidenhood; and one cannot escape the impression that the models are not genuine peasant children, but pretty and somewhat worldly young women, masquerading in pastoral costumes for a fancy ball.

From the long list of examples of this class, both figures and heads, a few well-known subjects will suggest the type: The Milkmaid, the Little Pouter, Simplicity, the Girl with an Orange, and the Broken Pitcher.

The last is probably more familiar than any other work of Greuze. It attained an immense popularity in the lifetime of the artist, attracting many people to his studio. Among the visitors was Mademoiselle Philipon, afterwards known to fame as Madame Roland, and her delightful description[14] gives a complete idea of the picture:—

"It is a little girl, naive, fresh, charming, who has just broken her pitcher; she holds it on her arm, near the fountain where the accident occurred. Her eyes are downcast, her lips half parted; she tries to account for her mishap, and does not know if she is in fault. Nothing could be more piquant and charming. The only criticism one could suggest is that Monseiur Greuze has not made the little maid sorry enough, so that in the future she will not be tempted to return to the fountain!"

The heroine of the broken pitcher is dressed in white, has blue eyes and auburn hair, cherry lips, and pink-and-white complexion.

For twenty-five years Greuze was the fashion in Paris. With all his faults, he was immeasurably superior to his French contemporaries, and his work was a decided step towards a new era. With the great political and social changes inaugurated in France early in the nineteenth century, an entirely new style of art, literary and graphic, was made possible, and a new school of painters arose to portray French peasant life.

No modern artist has chosen a field which exactly corresponds to that of Greuze, the tendency being rather to neglect the child element to which he devoted so much energy. One painter may be mentioned, however, who has contributed a few valuable additions to this department of art,—William Adolphe Bouguereau.

The remarkable number of works which Bouguereau has produced since his first great success in 1854 have made him distinguished for a large variety of subjects; but the pictures by which he has touched the hearts of the people are those in which he portrays the peasants of his own sunny land,—sweet, shy, dark-eyed girls, with masses of black hair pushed back loosely from their foreheads.

One is a Little Shepherdess, who stands with careless grace poising a crook across her shoulders, while her eyes meet ours with a frank yet modest gaze. Again the same girl rests from her labors, sitting on a stone, lost in revery. Another sweet child is the girl seated by a well, with a broken pitcher lying on the ground beside her. Her hands are clasped on her knee, as she bends slightly forward in a pensive attitude, her large eyes full of childish pathos. Cajolery also belongs to this set, and is so named from the caresses with which a little girl begs some favor of an older sister, whose merry eyes show that she fully understands the secrets of child diplomacy.

Younger than any of these children is the bewitching little gypsy, whose tangled curls frame a round, dimpled face, with rosebud mouth, and big black eyes looking bashfully askance. There is a peculiar charm in the child's shyness, as if, like some wild creature of the woods, she would turn and flee before a nearer approach.

Bouguereau's work, academic in style, and always refined and elegant in manner, has qualities of artistic excellence which place him in the foremost rank; and we are glad to believe that for many generations to come his lovely little peasant girls will be widely known and loved.

From the dark-eyed children of sunny France to the fair-haired sons and daughters of the Saxon race is a long step, which introduces us to child-life of a totally different type. Childhood in the rural districts of Germany and Switzerland has been very completely portrayed by Johann Georg Meyer, better known as Meyer von Bremen,—the name he has taken in honor of his native city.

With an intense sympathy for all the pleasures of childhood, Meyer unites a wonderfully delicate sense of the artistic and picturesque. His fertility of invention seems well-nigh inexhaustible. He has given us cottage scenes and out-of-door life with impartial liberality, and has shown equal skill of treatment, whether he handles groups or single figures.

His subjects are drawn largely from life in the Hessian, Bavarian, and Swiss Alps, where he has carefully studied the manners and customs of the people. The cottage interiors have all the characteristic quaintness and charm of these peasant homes. High wooden chairs, of the "fiddle-back" pattern, are the conspicuous pieces of furniture; rich old cabinets stand against the walls, and oddly shaped earthern jars are ranged on shelves. The light comes through little diamond-paned windows, and gleams on floors of hard wood, unadorned with carpet or rug. In these surroundings, groups of flaxen-haired children sport in all the sweet innocence of healthy, happy childhood. Sometimes they gather eagerly about the table to play with their Pet Canary; at another time they cluster about their mother's knee to peep admiringly at the wonderful new baby in her arms, and to hear the mysterious announcement that The Storks Brought It. Again, the centre of their attention is the tiny brother gleefully taking his first uncertain steps towards the outstretched arms of his young mother.

The out-of-door scenes have the picturesque mountain scenery of the Alps for their background, and sometimes a pretty cottage is included in the scene. A characteristic example is the Little Rabbit-Seller. A group of children gather round a little girl, who carries, suspended from her shoulders, a large basket of rabbits. Two of the number peep with intense interest into the basket, delighted with the opportunity to feed the pretty creatures. The others are talking with the young merchant,—a school-boy with book satchel held behind him, and an older girl holding a curly-haired child on her back. The pure, gentle face of the young girl is one not to be easily forgotten, and which reappears on other canvases of the artist. The affectionate care of this older sister for the child she carries is one of many instances in which the same trait is shown in Meyer's pictures, and is eminently characteristic of the Germans.

The earnest piety in which the children of these simple-hearted people are reared is beautifully expressed in the companion pictures, Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, as well as in one called Simple Devotion, where a little girl offers a bouquet to the Virgin of a wayside shrine.

In whatever mood the children are portrayed, they are always entirely unconscious of observers, never posing for the artist, but caught unawares on his canvas, in the midst of their pursuits. In this way they always make pictures with "stories" in them, of just the kind to delight the heart of a child.

Such art carries a beautiful and enduring lesson, whether the scenes it represents are German or French, English or American. In these visions of the simple and joyous life of the country, we are brought, as it were, face to face with Nature, to enjoy her sweetest and most beneficent influence.



When I was a beggarly boy, And lived in a cellar damp, I had not a friend nor a toy, But I had Aladdin's lamp; When I could not sleep for cold, I had fire enough in my brain, And builded, with roofs of gold, My beautiful castles in Spain! LOWELL.



Ragged, dirty, and unkempt; untrained in all the pretty graces of refinement; deprived of all the fostering care of the home, how can the children of the street afford the artist any subjects for his canvas? Because, in spite of deprivation and poverty, they possess the imperishable treasure of a happy heart; and happiness is the true secret of the beauty of childhood. The child's buoyant vitality is proof against any disadvantages in his external surroundings; for his horizon is limited to the present. Yesterday's hunger is quickly forgotten in to-day's plenty; the fatigue of the morning's toil vanishes in the evening's frolic; even the wounds of a cruel blow are readily healed by a friendly word. Unconscious of any disparity between himself and others, he is equally contented with his lot, whether his clothing be velvet or rags, whether his play-ground be a royal park or the streets of a great city.

The artistic possibilities of street material lay long undiscovered through the first centuries of the Art Renaissance, when the subjects were chiefly religious and mythological. It is then to Murillo and his matchless pictures of the beggar boys of Seville that we may attribute the real origin of this department of genre painting. Murillo had himself known something of poverty and homelessness. Left an orphan at the age of eleven, he was thrown entirely upon his own resources at nineteen, his equipment for life being a few years' apprenticeship in the studio of his uncle, Juan del Castillo. In the years of hard work that followed, he laid the foundations of a career destined to be one of the most notable in the history of art.

There was held one day every week, in a large public square of Seville, an open-air market called the Feria, at which meat and fish, fruit and vegetables, old clothes and old iron, were heaped upon stalls or piled upon the pavement for the examination of customers. Last but not least of all the commodities here displayed were paintings, offered for sale by the artists themselves, who were supplied with brushes and colors to adapt the details to the purchasers' taste. It may be imagined that these pictures of the Feria were not works of high art, nor was there much stimulus to artistic talent in their production. Nevertheless, it was in this business that the young Murillo began his career; and it was in this way, doubtless, that he came to observe closely, and to store up in his artist's memory the picturesque effects among the children who swarmed in the sunny square. Perfect types of glowing health were these nut-brown sons and daughters of Andalusia, enjoying life with the indolence and simple merriment characteristic of a southern race. It was Murillo's delight to portray them in their happiest moods. Sometimes they are playing games on the pavement, as in the Dice Players; again, they are feasting upon the luscious native fruits, as in the celebrated pictures of the Munich Gallery. With what delicious enjoyment do the little vagabonds poise above their open mouths a cluster of purple grapes or a slice of rich melon! Their ragged garments scarcely suffice to cover them; their arms and legs are bare; their abundant dark curls have known no combing, and they are undeniably dirty. And yet they are perfectly charming. The rich tints of their sunburned skin; the dark liquid eyes of the Spanish race; the beautiful curves of their plump necks and shoulders; the free grace of their attitudes,—all combine to make them picturesque and attractive.

The dirt is rendered with an unsparing realism which, in a few instances, is carried beyond the limits of good taste. Such is the case with El Piojoso of the Louvre, which represents a little beggar removing vermin from his body, and which Mr. Ruskin has severely denounced. Another picture in Munich, and one at St. Petersburg, belong to the same class; but these may be considered exceptions to the rule. The general statement holds true, that the real motif of Murillo's beggar-boy pictures is the simple, natural enjoyment which may render attractive, and even beautiful, the most unlovely surroundings.

The artist shows a fine insight into human nature in his appreciation of the companionship between the street boy and the small dog. The famous Beggar-boy of the Hermitage Gallery at St. Petersburg is a capital example. The boy, standing by a wall, with a basket of fruit in his hand, turns to smile at his dog, with a perfect expression of good comradeship. In several other paintings, where the boys are eating, a little dog stands by, watching the tempting morsels enviously, with the hope of getting a share in due time.

England is especially rich in examples of Murillo's street scenes. Besides the well-known picture in the National Gallery, there are three fine works at Dulwich College,[15] and many others scattered through the galleries of private collectors. This fact may be the reason that Murillo was first popularly known in England for this class of subjects, rather than for his religious art.

One of Murillo's most ardent admirers among modern English artists is Mrs. Henry M. Stanley, first known in the art world as Dorothy Tennant. She gayly avers that the most interesting object to her, when as a small girl she was taken for her daily walk, was "some dear little child in tatters." The small young lady's interest in street children was something more than philanthropic; it was intensely artistic. As soon as she could wield a pencil, she began to make ragamuffin pictures, and to dream of a career as the "champion painter of the poor." Gifted with a keen sense of humor, she was quick to see the happy side of a life whose exterior is apparently one of misery; and it was this side which she determined to portray. Murillo's happy beggar boys were her ideal; Hogarth's work also commanded her admiration. Following in the footsteps of these great predecessors, she sought for her models "the merry, reckless, happy-go-lucky urchin; the tomboy girl; and the plump, untidy mother, dancing and tossing her ragged baby."

Such subjects would naturally be more difficult to find in London than in Seville; and one could not walk about the streets of the bleak northern metropolis without seeing many little waifs whose pitiable condition contrasts sadly with the jocund poverty of Murillo's Andalusian beggars. Thus it is that, in spite of the most cheerful intentions, Mrs. Stanley has often produced pictures full of pathos. The wan little violinist, sitting on the edge of his poor bed, and clasping his sister in his arms, is a sad little figure. Another picture, that brings tears of sympathy to our eyes, is the hungry-looking boy, also a violinist, gazing wistfully into the window of a pastry-cook's, where a placard proclaims that hot dinners are five-pence. Equally pathetic is a scene inside the same shop, where a little waif is held, fainting, in the arms of the proprietor, while other children gather round to see.

It is a relief to turn from these to the subjects which are the artist's most characteristic field, and to enjoy with her the romps and pranks of the street Arabs. A clever picture of this class is the big boy using a smaller one as a wheelbarrow, the small boy's arms supporting the machine, and his legs furnishing the handles. Of kindred nature is a sort of double pick-a-back, or pyramid, in which three ragged urchins are enjoying themselves hugely in the attempt to carry out so remarkable a feat. In the line of gymnastics, also, is the really admirable painting exhibited at the New Gallery in 1890, which portrays three delicious youngsters turning somersaults over a rail, while a little girl at each end looks on admiringly. The original of the little chap hanging head downward may have been the "Boy Taylor," of dragon fame, of whom the artist writes in her "Street Arabs." Having once figured in a circus as a green demon, or dragon, his experience made him very quick at catching attitudes; and, proud of his powers of endurance, he begged Mrs. Stanley to paint him standing on his head, assuring her that he preferred that position to any other!

Larger pictures of merry street life are a company of young people dancing to the music of a hand-organ, a group of children playing blind-man's buff, and so many others that the description would become tiresome. Many of these were made to illustrate children's stories in "Little Folks" and the "Quiver," while others adorn the collections of fortunate possessors. All of them illustrate admirably the artist's firm conviction that "no ragamuffin is ever common or vulgar."

The sympathetic interest and enthusiasm which Mrs. Stanley has shown for the London street Arab finds an interesting parallel in the work of Marie Bashkirtseff. Though Russian by birth, Mademoiselle Bashkirtseff passed the greater part of her short life in France, and, belonging to a wealthy and distinguished family, was educated amidst all the luxuries and gayeties of fashionable Parisian life. But the girl's indomitable spirit was not to be hindered by the bonds of social restraint, and she devoted herself to art with an almost passionate intensity. Struggling constantly against the inroads of a fatal disease, and cut down on the very threshold of life, she produced but few works to show to the world what heights she was capable of attaining. Of these, the two which rank first, and which are best known to her admirers, are studies of the Paris gamin.

Jean and Jacques was exhibited at the Salon of 1883, and not only won the high praise of many eminent artists, but also received "honorable mention" from the committee. The picture is described in the artist's journal as "two little boys, who are walking along the pavement, holding each other by the hand; the elder, a boy of seven, holds a leaf between his teeth, and looks straight before him into space; the other, a couple of years younger, has one hand thrust into the pocket of his little trousers, and is regarding the passers-by."

Scarcely had this picture been completed, when another street scene suddenly flashed upon the imagination of the ambitious young painter, and she straightway set to work upon it. The result was The Meeting, exhibited at the Salon of 1884. It represents a group of six boys, standing at a street corner, engaged in plotting some mischief. From the oldest, a school-boy of twelve, to the little fellow in a pinafore, they are intent, eager, alert; absorbed in the scheme which they are discussing. They have sometimes been criticised for being ugly; but as the artist wittily says, "One does not see such miracles of beauty among the little boys who run about the streets," and the models were chosen for the expressiveness of their faces.

The painting met with instantaneous approval, not only from eminent artists, but from the public, whose judgment on such subjects is even more conclusive. All the leading periodicals obtained permission to engrave it, and it became the talk of the hour. The signature, "M. Bashkirtseff," left the sex of the artist an open question, and there were those who could not believe that it was the work of a woman, and a young one at that.

Mademoiselle Bashkirtseff found great amusement in visiting the exhibition, watching the people look at her picture, and laughing in her sleeve to imagine their amazement should they know that the elegantly dressed young lady sitting near it was the artist.

The sequel is full of pathos. In spite of all the praises heaped upon it, The Meeting did not receive a medal. To the ambitious young girl the disappointment was most humiliating, and with characteristic sincerity she did not try to conceal her indignation and chagrin. Justice came at last, but all too late. When the bright young hopes were stilled in the quiet of death, the picture was honored with a place in the Luxembourg, where it hangs to-day, an admirable representation of that most interesting genus, the Paris gamin.

The American street boy is a distinct type: his ambition is to rise in the world. Wealth, fame, and power may be his, if he will but labor to attain them, and to this end he throws himself ardently into the building of a career. For a certain portion of the day he is a man of affairs. Dashing through the net-work of wheels, in the thickest traffic of crowded thoroughfares, jumping on and off moving cars and carriages, pushing his way with untiring zeal, he shows a reckless daring and a dauntless energy which are unmatched among any other people. His duties done, he is a gentleman of leisure. He may amuse himself now as he pleases, and his recreations show the same versatility displayed in his business enterprises. Possessed of a lively imagination and a keen sense of humor, he is never at a loss for a source of fun. He is as generous as he is mischievous, always willing to share his good things with his companions. Altogether, he is an interesting and attractive figure, and it is no wonder that he has long since made his appearance on the canvas.

Probably the most conspicuous painter of American street subjects is John George Brown, of New York. A resident of this city for more than forty years, Mr. Brown has made it his life-work to study the character and customs of the poorer classes of children. Newsboys and boot-blacks are his special friends, and among them he finds many fine examples of the best characteristics of human nature.

The Wounded Playfellow shows how easily the street boy's sympathies are touched by the suffering of an animal. A little urchin carefully holds a dog in his arms, while another deftly binds a bandage about the poor creature's broken leg. A third boy and a small girl are the interested spectators. The intense and eager interest with which the entire group regard the operation is admirably portrayed.

The natural bent of Young America towards politics and oratory is seen in the Stump Speech, an oil painting which was exhibited at the Columbian Exposition.

Mr. Brown uses water colors, as well as oils, for a medium of expression, being the president of the Water Color Society, which he helped to found. An example of this kind of work is his picture called "Free from Care." A bright-faced boot-black stands leaning against a wall, with one thumb thrust in his trousers pocket, and a general air of having thrown aside business responsibility for a good time.

Equally "free from care," and happy in this privilege, is the boy, seated on a box, blowing soap-bubbles. His simple delight in this innocent pastime, and the almost dreamy look with which he watches the fairy bubble, show a hitherto unsuspected vein of poetry in the street-boy nature.

The boot-black appears ordinarily in the most prosaic light, as a practical individual, whose chief concern is the struggle for daily bread. But this is only half the truth. Under his rough exterior he hides a heart keenly responsive to beauty. His youthful imagination is, in Lowell's happy phrase, a veritable Aladdin's lamp, with which he transforms the meagreness of his surroundings into the splendid luxuries of a castle in Spain.



He shall give his angels charge over thee, To keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, Lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. PSALM XCI.



To represent the perfect innocence and purity of an angel, a being whose native atmosphere is the very presence of God, a creature not subject to the limitations of physical laws, ever speeding on divine errands from heaven to earth and back again to heaven, nothing could be more natural than that art should use the face and form of innocent human childhood.

Child-angels were first seen in art during the Italian Renaissance, and formed a conspicuous feature in the religious paintings of the period. One of the most interesting and beautiful forms in which they appear is as a great host, or "glory," filling the background of a composition.

From the announcement of the Saviour's birth to the Galilean shepherds, to the vision of Saint John on the Isle of Patmos, we find various allusions in the New Testament to the presence of angel companies in the affairs of human life. It was therefore entirely legitimate and appropriate to introduce a visible embodiment of the heavenly hosts into the many sacred scenes portrayed in art, whether these were representations of the actual incidents of Bible history, or the imaginative embodiments of religious ideals.

The Sistine Madonna suggests itself at once as a most beautiful illustration. The entire canvas is studded with tiny child faces, delicately outlined,—a veritable cloud of witnesses, dissolving into the golden glory with which they are surrounded. What a contrast is the exquisite spirituality of this conception to Perugino's angel glories, where baby faces, each with six many-hued wings are ranged at regular intervals throughout the composition!

A less notable example of Raphael's unique treatment of the angel host is in his Vision of Ezekiel, a small painting of earlier date than the Sistine Madonna. Here the idea is manifestly drawn from the prophet's description of his vision of the four living creatures in a great amber wheel, which was "full of eyes."

Turning from Raphael's clouds of dimly suggested cherub faces to those representations of the angel throngs in which the child forms are more distinctly delineated, we find that the great masters have made use of the myriad figures to express a corresponding variety in mood and character. Thus, when the emotions of the principal personage in a composition are too complex to be adequately expressed on a single countenance, the angel faces surrounding may each, in turn, convey some one of the many aspects of thought or feeling which go to make up the entire conception.

The Crucifixion[16] is a striking instance of the mingling, of contrasted emotions,—bodily suffering and spiritual victory, worldly defeat and heavenly triumph,—all of which cannot be depicted on the face of the Christ, but which a throng of attendant cherubs may fully interpret. The same principle is illustrated in the many scenes of which the Madonna is the central figure, as the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption, and the Coronation.

Of such paintings, Titian's Assumption is the most splendid example. The ascending, Virgin is surrounded by a wreath of child-angels, of surpassing grace and beauty. It is of these that Mrs. Jameson has written, in her incomparable way, that they are "mind and music and love, kneaded, as it were, into form and color." From a compositional point of view they serve an important purpose in directing the attention of the spectator to the principal figure of the picture. All the gracefully intertwined limbs of the angelic host—outstretched arms and floating figures,—form the radii of a great semicircle centering in the beautiful Madonna.

If Titian's child-angels stand for the highest attainment in the idealization of child beauty, those of Rubens, on the other hand, are the most human and lovable ever conceived in art. Their lovely baby forms cluster in countless numbers about the glorified Virgin, joyously bearing palm and wreath in token of her triumph.

The name of Murillo also occupies the first rank in the delineation of companies of child-angels. Called in turn the Titian and the Rubens of Spain, he is like his Venetian and Flemish prototypes in his intense sympathy for childhood. His angels have not that transcendent superiority to mortals which distinguishes Titian's, nor are they the dimpled bits of pink-and-white babyhood characteristic of Rubens. They belong somewhere between the two extremes, and are remarkable for their innocence and purity of expression. As the Immaculate Conception was Murillo's favorite subject, it is here that we see his child-angels at their best. He has also introduced them into the Holy Family of Seville, as well as into that most wonderful painting of the Christ-child Appearing to Saint Anthony of Padua.

A beautiful method of introducing child-angels into religious pictures, differing widely from the treatment of angel hosts, is to represent one[17] or two, sometimes three, in attendance upon the Madonna and Babe, or the Christ. This is especially appropriate where the subject is treated devotionally, and the central figure is elevated on a throne or pedestal, with the angels at the foot.

Among the Florentine artists, the two friends Raphael and Bartolommeo, as well as their contemporary, Andrea del Sarto, furnish many examples of these angel attendants. With Andrea del Sarto, as was characteristic, they are bewitching winged boys; while with Bartolommeo and Raphael they partake of a more delicate spirituality, which marks them as truly celestial.

The Madonna of the Harpies, which is considered the masterpiece of Andrea del Sarto, contains two charming cherubs, which may be taken as excellent types of the artist's rendering of these subjects. The Two Angels, from his great painting of the Four Saints, are somewhat above his average plane. These lovely and graceful figures originally stood in the centre of a large composition, but were at a later date removed from the canvas to make a separate picture. Their real significance is to show forth the beauty of a saintly life. Each carries a scroll, and one points upward.

In the work of Bartolommeo the finest cherubs are those of his Throne Madonna, the Madonna Enthroned, and the Risen Christ. All three show the same masterly hand, and express a similar conception of the office filled by the angels. In every case one is looking up with a rapt expression of joy, while the other is more contemplative, drooping the head as if in reflection. The contrast suggests the distinction of early theology between the seraphim and cherubim, the former being, according to etymological significance, the spirits who love and adore, and the latter, those who know and worship. This distinction was scrupulously adhered to in early art by representing the seraphim as red, and the cherubim as blue. Although later artists no longer observed any discrimination between two classes of celestial beings, it may be that the difference between Bartolommeo's two angels is due to the influence of this idea. Be this as it may, the fact remains that the opposition between them in face and attitude is exactly appropriate to symbolize one as love and the other as reflection.

This is very marked in Raphael's work, as may be seen in his Madonna del Baldacchino, a painting whose style of composition is strikingly like that of Bartolommeo. Of the two singing angels at the foot of the Madonna's throne, one studies eagerly the meaning of his music, while the other sings with the happy unconsciousness of a bird. Comparing with this Raphael's grandest achievement, the Sistine Madonna, we find the same motif carried to its highest realization. The two beautiful cherubs who lean upon the parapet at the bottom of the picture are perfect impersonations of the serene content and the thoughtful deliberation with which varying types of Christian believers have received the great fact of the Incarnation.

The Venetian painters delighted to put musical instruments into the hands of their child-angels, representing them as choristers, hymning the praises of the infant Saviour. Of these, many notable examples were produced in the botteghe of the two rival artist families, the Bellini and the Vivarini. Jacopo Bellini and his two sons, Gentile and Giovanni, were the real founders of the Venetian school, and the work of Giovanni became an ideal standard, which his contemporaries essayed to follow. Luigi Vivarini was so successful as his imitator that his paintings are often incorrectly assigned to the greater artist.

The Frari Madonna, however, is an undoubted Bellini, and here the Venetian conception of the child-angel is seen in its loveliest aspects. Two eager little choristers stand on the lower steps of the Madonna's throne, "exquisite courtiers of the Infant King," as Mrs. Oliphant gracefully calls them. One, myrtle-crowned, is blowing on a pipe, while the other bends gravely over a large lute.

The Madonna of the Church of the Redentore[18] shows another pair of angel musicians, sitting on a low wall in the foreground, one at the head and the other at the feet of the sleeping Babe. Both are playing on lutes, and the serious, absorbed air with which they fulfil their task is delightful to see. With lifted face and faraway eyes, they seem to be listening to a heavenly chorus, of which their own melody is an echo.

Any mention of the Venetian type of angels would be incomplete without adding the names of Palma Vecchio and Carpaccio to the list of those who most delicately interpreted the subject. Examples of their work are scattered over Northern Italy, but none perhaps are more representative than Carpaccio's Presentation, in the Academy at Venice, and Palma's altar-piece at Zerman.

The child-angel as a playmate and companion of the Christ-child is a conception which has not infrequently been represented in art with great appropriateness. Both Van Dyck and Lucas Cranach have given us the Repose in Egypt, enlivened by the presence of a company of frolicsome cherubs sporting about the Divine Babe. Rubens painted a lovely group of the Infant Jesus and Saint John, seated on the ground, playing with their celestial little visitors. A Holy Family, by Ippolito Andreasi, represents angel children gathering and bringing grapes to the Saviour.

With a small circle of Florentine artists, led by Botticelli, and including Filippo Lippi and Filippino Lippi, a unique class of child-angels is in great favor. These are children of a larger growth and maturer appearance than the infantine cherubs of contemporary artists, and might properly be called angel-youths. In the best examples their expression is an admirable mingling of strength and purity. As attendants to the Christ-child, they serve in various capacities with loving and reverent grace.

In Botticelli's famous "round Madonna" of the Uffizi, one holds the ink vessel into which the Virgin dips her pen as she writes the Magnificat, two others hold a starry crown over her head, and two more complete the group, as companions of the Saviour. In the Holy Family, by the same artist, only two angels are introduced, one of whom leans over a balustrade, with a beautiful lily-stalk in his hand, in token of the Virgin's purity.

Filippo Lippi's charming rendering of angel-youths is best seen in the picture which represents the Christ-child borne by two attendant cherubs in exemplification of the psalmist's words, "They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone." The Madonna stands before the Divine Babe, with hands clasped in adoration, a lovely impersonation of the Madre Pia.

The Madre Pia is also the subject of one of Filippino Lippi's most exquisite angel pictures. The Infant Saviour lies on the ground, in a garden, while his mother kneels to adore him. Angel-youths surround him, kneeling, and one stands showering rose-petals down upon him.

The masterpiece of Filippino Lippi is the Vision of Saint Bernard, in the Badia at Florence, and here again angel-youths are introduced with charming effect. Two are in the rear, with hands clasped in adoration; two are beside the Virgin, bearing the weight of her mantle, and raising their earnest young faces with sweet reverence. One of these faces is presented in profile, and has a delicately cut, pure outline, of rare gentleness and beauty.

The artist's ideal is wonderfully helpful to the imagination, and the thought is full of comfort, that it is loving and tender presences like these which are "in charge over us, to keep us in all our ways."



And the Child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.

LUKE ii. 40.



Among the innumerable pictures in which the world's great religious painters have represented the scenes of the earthly life of our Lord, it is amazing to note the large proportion of subjects relating to his infancy and childhood. What else can this mean than that the hearts of worshippers ever yearn towards that which they can understand and love, and that thus, of all the varied aspects of Christ's character, it appeals to us most forcibly that He was once a babe in the Bethlehem manger.

To find the earliest delineations of the Christ-child we must go to the Catacombs of Rome, and on the walls of their strange subterranean chapels retrace the fading features of the Divine Babe as painted there centuries ago to cheer the hearts of Christians. Two of these primitive frescos are in the Greek chapel of the Catacomb of S. Praxedes,[19] where they are a constant object of interest to the art pilgrim. Considered aesthetically, they have of course no intrinsic beauty; but to the thoughtful mind they stand for the beginnings of a great art movement which culminated in the canvases of Raphael and Titian.

From the frescos of the Catacombs the next step in the progress of Christian art was to the mosaics ornamenting the basilicas; and here the Christ-child again appears as a conspicuous figure. Some of the most interesting of these mosaics[20] represent the Babe receiving the gifts of the Magi,—as at Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome and at Saint Apollinare in Ravenna. In others, as at Capua, the Child shares with the enthroned Virgin the adoration of a surrounding group of saints. Still another of peculiar interest is at Santa Maria in Trastevere (Rome), where the Infant is suckled at his mother's breast.

When we enter that strange period of history known as the Dark Ages, we find the art products few and uninteresting; but even then the Christ-child is not forgotten, and again and again he appears sculptured in marble over the portals of cathedrals, or painted in stiff Byzantine style over their altars.

Thus it was that in the new birth of art in Italy, when Niccolo Pisano in sculpture, and Cimabue in painting, awakened the sleeping world to a love of beauty, the Madonna, with her heaven-born Babe, was the first subject to arouse enthusiasm; and it was for a picture of this sort that all Florence went mad with joy, as it was borne along The Street of Rejoicing.

In early representations, both in mosaics and paintings, the Child is dressed in a tunic, white, red, or blue, often very richly ornamented with gold embroidery. This method obtained as late as the fourteenth century, when Fra Angelico still painted the Babe in the elaborate royal garments of a king. But art at last returned to nature, and from the fifteenth century the Holy Child was painted partially and sometimes wholly undraped, with beautiful rounded limbs and soft pink baby flesh.

It was then that Italy was transformed into a paradise of art, and all the important cities were full of great painters whose hearts were aglow with the sacred fire of genius. In the host of beautiful works which were produced in the next three centuries, every type of treatment was exemplified, varying from the most simple naturalism to the loftiest idealism. The naive realism of Filippino Lippi's chubby baby, placidly sucking his thumb as he looks out of the picture, is matched in the frolicsome boys of Andrea del Sarto's many paintings, smiling mischievously from the Madonna's arms. At the other extreme is the strangely precocious looking child of Botticelli, raising his eyes heavenward, with a mystic smile on his serious face.

And when it would seem that every conceivable type of infancy, and every imaginable situation had already been realized on the canvas, Raphael[21] arose to create an entirely new ideal. His life was so short, his work so surpassingly brilliant, that it was as if a splendid meteor suddenly flashed across the starry firmament of the Cinque-Cento. Perugino, his master; Pinturicchio, his employer; Fra Bartolommeo, his friend; Andrea del Sarto, "the faultless painter," all paled before his rapidly increasing glory. When he laid down his brush at the age of thirty-seven, he had finished a career which is one of the miracles of history. His work is a complete epitome of religious art, including all the great themes, and enveloping each with an atmosphere of pure spirituality, indescribably elevating to mind and soul.

His conception of the Christ-child ranges from the sleeping Babe from whose innocent face the Madonna of the Diadem softly lifts a veil, to the grave boy whom the Chair Madonna clasps in her arms. Every shade of playfulness, of affection, of dignity, and of contemplation, is mirrored in the long series of pictures in which he embodied his ever-changing ideal of the Divine Infant.

The magnificent versatility of his genius is admirably illustrated by the contrast between two of his finest works,—the Madonna of the Casa Tempi and the Madonna di San Sisto, standing the one for the human aspect and the other for the divine, in the incarnation of the Son of God. The first shows an ideal mother fondly pressing her darling's cheek against her own; the second is a vision of ideal womanhood hastening down the centuries to present the Word to the waiting world.

The Christ-child of the Tempi painting is a dimpled baby shyly nestling against his mother's breast; the Sistine Child is a royal messenger lightly enthroned upon the Madonna's arm. In one conception, Mother and Son are absorbed entirely in each other; in the other, they think only of their mission to humanity, their wide eyes searching the future with far-seeing gaze, and their thoughts intent upon the coming of the heavenly kingdom.

We can appreciate the Tempi Madonna at the first glance; the meaning of the Sistine Madonna we can never fully reach, though to contemplate it day by day is to feel our thoughts become purer and our aspirations nobler.

A feature of the child-life of Jesus upon which Raphael loved to dwell is his companionship with his cousin John, a boy of nearly the same age, whose destiny was indissolubly linked with the Christ. Following the Gospel description of the Baptist when he came forth from the desert "clothed with camel's hair and with a girdle of skin about his loins," the artist has represented the child John as a dark, faun-like boy, with a little skin garment girt about him,—a picturesque figure to contrast with the fair beauty of the Christ-child.

The two boys are most charming, when, as in the Madonna of the Pearl, the little John seeks with childish eagerness to please his cousin. Here he is running gleefully to Jesus, with his skin garment full of newly gathered fruit. The Christ-child, seated on his grandmother's knee, beside his mother, stretches out his hands for the gift, his face shining with simple, child-like pleasure. At another time Saint John brings a goldfinch to the Virgin's knee, and the two children lean lovingly against her, Jesus turning his earnest eyes towards the bird, which he thoughtfully strokes. A very pretty incident is embodied in the Aldobrandini Madonna, where the Christ-child reaches from his mother's arms to smilingly bestow a flower upon Saint John.

Other pictures introduce, more or less definitely, an element of devotion on the part of the infant Baptist, as in the Madonna of the Meadow, where he kneels to receive the cross from the hands of the Christ-child. The devotional relation is still more marked in the Belle Jardiniere of the Louvre. In the Holy Family of Casa Canigiani, Jesus is giving Saint John a banner with the words Ecce Agnus Dei.

The two boys, as the central figures of the Holy Family, have engaged the brush of nearly every great religious painter, some producing familiar and domestic scenes, others emphasizing the symbolic and religious significance of the theme. Andrea del Sarto treated the subject many times, and usually portrayed the children in a natural and playful intimacy. Pinturicchio painted them running across a flowery meadow to get water from a fountain. Guilio Romano has given us the decidedly domestic scene of Jesus in the bath, with Saint John merrily pouring water upon him. Sometimes, as in a lovely work by Angiolo Bronzino, Saint John is affectionately kissing the sleeping Babe.

It was a beautiful thought on the part of some few artists,—notably Palma Vecchio, Luini, and Murillo,—to introduce a lamb as a playmate for the children, the suggestion having its origin in the Baptist's description of Jesus as the "Lamb of God."

In Botticelli's Holy Family, Saint John stands by with clasped hands, adoring the Infant. Perugino places him kneeling at a little distance in the rear,—a perfect embodiment of childish devotion. In a painting by Titian, also, he kneels apart, leaning on his cross, and in one by Guido, he humbly kisses the Christ-child's foot.

In a lovely picture by Murillo, called the "Children of the Shell," he kneels to drink from a cup which the little Jesus holds to his lips. Here the contrast between the two is exquisitely rendered, both from the artistic and the religious point of view, the Christ-child bearing the unmistakable stamp of superiority, in spite of his childish figure, while the infant John is a charming impersonation of reverent and loving humility.

The religious spirit of the old masters has not been successfully imitated by any modern artist who has attempted to delineate the Infant Jesus and Saint John, nor is this to be expected. There are many pleasing works of art, however, which, though differing widely from early Italian standards, have an attractiveness of their own.

Such, for instance, is Boucher's painting, thoroughly characteristic of the artist, and, when considered in itself, a very pretty thing. The two plump babies are bewitching little figures, irresistibly lovable in their dimpled beauty. Sweet cherub faces peep from the surrounding clouds, regarding the holy children with wondering awe.

The figure of the Christ-child alone does not belong to the early Renaissance, but by the seventeenth century, the subject had found favor with Guido and Franceschini in Italy, and with Murillo and Zurbaran in Spain. With all these artists it was a favorite custom to depict the child Jesus asleep on the cross. Murillo's Infant Saviour, plaiting a crown of thorns, also belongs to this class. These forms of symbolic illustration have their modern counterpart in the work of several German artists. As the Gospel narrative furnishes no actual incidents of the early childhood of Jesus, he is shown in some attitude which will suggest his divine calling. Painted by Ittenbach, he raises his right hand to point the heavenward way, while with his left he indicates his name inscribed in the letters I. H. S. on the breast of his tunic. In Sinkel's picture he holds a tablet of the Commandments, with his finger on the fourth, a sweet expression of Sabbath peace on his face.

Professor Deger's picture expresses a unique and lovely conception of the Christ-child in the fields, communing with his Father, and preparing for his ministry. He is a dreamy-looking boy, of delicate features, and broad, high brow, with fair curls blowing away from his face. Though alone, he lifts his hand in blessing, as if, in his prophetic imagination, the meadows were already peopled with the throngs to whom he is to teach the sweet lessons of the lilies and the sparrow.

The childhood of Jesus came to an end at the age of twelve, when he awoke to the realization that he must be "about his Father's business." It was a great moment in the quiet life of the Nazarene lad. Mary and Joseph having to make their annual journey to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, had brought him with them, and allowed him to wander from them. Supposing him to be among the company with which they were travelling, they were well on their homeward way, when they discovered that he was missing. Returning to the city, and seeking him hither and thither, they at length found him in the temple, "sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers."

It was the latter part of this account which the early masters seized as the motif of the Dispute in the Temple, and interpreted as meaning that the boy Christ assumed the position of teacher and preacher to the doctors. In the paintings of Duccio and Giotto, he is sitting on a platform, with the mien and gesture of a learned doctor; while other artists place him on a sort of throne or pulpit. It was left to modern art to conceive the true significance of the event, and to put before us the eager boy, listening and asking questions.

Professor Heinrich Hofmann's beautiful picture shows a profound insight into the wonderful childhood of Jesus, as well as a fine sense of artistic composition. The boy stands in the midst of the group, lifting his eager, inquiring face to the learned doctors surrounding him. His expression conveys all the earnestness of his questionings, and at the same time shows the depth of that power of understanding which so amazed the listeners. Looking from his bright young face to the staid countenances of the professed expounders of the law, a new light flashes upon that mysterious utterance which fell in after times from the same inspired lips: "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes."

* * * * *




[1] Of this picture, Claude Phillips justly observes that it has been "not a little cheapened and obscured by frequent copies, in which the delicate essence of the original has been allowed to evaporate; but a glance at the picture itself renews the magic spell of the master."

The plate for our illustration, being made from a photograph taken directly from the original painting, reproduces the spirit of the picture with remarkable fidelity.


[2] The children of the English court were not alone in the good fortune of being immortalized by the brush of Van Dyck. The great artist also painted a little Prince of Savoy, with his sister,—a picture which is now in the Royal Gallery at Turin.

[3] A portrait of Prince Balthasar in court dress, by Velasquez, is in the Belvedere at Vienna.

[4] Dr. Carl Justi has various strong arguments to prove that the Prado portrait of Maria Theresa is incorrectly so called, and, in reality, represents the Infanta Marguerite. The picture is, however, widely accepted as a genuine Maria Theresa, and is catalogued as such by Curtis. I have, therefore, thought best to follow the opinion of the majority on this point.

[5] Titian painted a charming portrait of the Princess Strozzi, which is now in Berlin.

[6] Holbein painted the little Prince Edward, afterwards Edward VI., in two extant portraits,—one, a miniature, in the possession of the Duke of Devonshire, another at Windsor.


[7] The dates of Gainsborough's life are 1727-1788.

[8] The two pictures for which Jack Hill served as model are Jack Hill in a Cottage, and Jack Hill, with his Cat, in a Wood.


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