These were very different subjects indeed from the dignified kings and queens painted by Delaroche, or the fiery battle-pieces of Delacroix; but they touch a chord in our souls which those great painters fail to strike, and his treatment of them is always truthful, tender, melancholy, and exquisite.
The old Venetians were good fighters, to be sure, not to say quarrelsome. War was never long absent, as may easily be realized from the great battle-pieces in the Ducal Palace. But war then was more the rough play of boisterous children than the slaughterous, purely destructive thing that modern men have made it.
Numerous visits and tours during the following three years, though bringing him into contact with new and interesting personalities, were mainly determined by the resolve to make himself acquainted with the localities of the war; and his knowledge of them has contributed to give colour and reality to the finest battle-pieces in modern English prose. In 1842 with Dr.
The favor of the public, however, still turned to the usual subject of Horace Vernet the French soldier's life; finding which, on his return from Rome, he recurred to his original study. In 1836 he exhibited four new battle-pieces, "Friedland," "Wagram," "Jena," and "Fontenoy," in which were apparent all his usual excellencies.
These acres of meaningless battle-pieces, Algerian warfare and what not are characteristic of the "Citizen-King" whose fondness for red plush, green repp and horsehair sofas was notable. What he did at Versailles was almost as great a vandalism against art as that wrought by the Revolution.
As to ornament, there wasn't any, strictly speaking; though on the walls hung some huge tapestries which were probably taxed as works of art; battle-pieces, they were, with horses shaped like those which children cut out of paper or create in gingerbread; with men on them in scale armor whose scales are represented by round holes so that the man's coat looks as if it had been done with a biscuit-punch.
Not wholly unworthy of a place in that gallery, are these sea battle-pieces of Garnery. The natural aptitude of the French for seizing the picturesqueness of things seems to be peculiarly evinced in what paintings and engravings they have of their whaling scenes.
In fact, historical battle-pieces were not rare among the Greeks at any period. As regards the style of Polygnotus we can glean a few interesting facts from our ancient authorities. His figures were not ranged on a single line, as in contemporary bas-reliefs, but were placed at varying heights, so as to produce a somewhat complex composition.
Salvator Rosa painted history, landscape, battle-pieces, and sea-ports; and of these he was most eminent in landscape. The scholar of Spagnoletto, he attached himself to the strong natural style and dark coloring of that master, which well accords with his subjects.
The funeral games at the tomb of Anchises, no longer described, as they had been in early Greek poetry, from a real pleasure in dwelling upon their details, begin to become tedious before they are over. In the battle-pieces of the last three books we sometimes cannot help being reminded that Virgil is rather wearily following an obsolescent literary tradition.