As a general thing it is well to distrust a Spaniard's superlatives. He will tell you that his people are the most amiable in the world, but you will do well to carry your revolver into the interior. He will say there are no wines worth drinking but the Spanish, but you will scarcely forswear Clicquot and Yquem on the mere faith of his assertion. A distinguished general once gravely assured me that there was no literature in the world at all to be compared with the productions of the Castilian mind. All others, he said, were but pale imitations of Spanish master-work.

Now, though you may be shocked at learning such unfavorable facts of 'Shakespeare and Goethe and Hugo, you will hardly condemn them to an Auto da fe, on the testimony even of a grandee of Spain.

But when a Spaniard assures you that the picture-gallery of Madrid is the finest in the world, you may believe him without reserve. He probably does not know what he is talking about. He may never have crossed the Pyrenees. He has no dream of the glories of Dresden, or Florence, or the Louvre. It is even possible that he has not seen the matchless collection he is boasting of. He crowns it with a sweeping superlative simply because it is Spanish. But the statement is nevertheless true.

The reason of this is found in that gigantic and overshadowing fact which seems to be an explanation of everything in Spain, - the power and the tyranny of the House of Austria. The period of the vast increase of Spanish dominion coincided with that of the meridian glory of Italian art. The conquest of Granada was finished as the divine child Raphael began to meddle with his father's brushes and pallets, and before his short life ended Charles, Burgess of Ghent, was emperor and king.

The dominions he governed and transmitted to his son embraced Spain, the Netherlands, Franche-Comte, the Milanese, Naples, and Sicily; that is to say, those regions where art in that age and the next attained its supreme development. He was also lord of the New World, whose inexhaustible mines poured into the lap of Europe a constant stream of gold. Hence came the riches and the leisure necessary to art.

Charles V., as well as his great contemporary and rival, Francis I., was a munificent protector of art. He brought from Italy and Antwerp some of the most perfect products of their immortal masters. He was the friend and patron of Titian, and when, weary of the world and its vanities, he retired to the lonely monastery of Yuste to spend in devout contemplation the evening of his days, the most precious solace of his solitude was that noble canvas of the great Venetian, where Charles and Philip are borne, in penitential guise and garb, on luminous clouds into the visible glory of the Most High.

These two great kings made a good use of their unbounded opportunities. Spain became illuminated with the glowing canvases of the incomparable Italians. The opening up of the New World beyond seas, the meteoric career of European and African conquest in which the emperor had won so much land and glory, had given an awakening shock to the intelligent youth of Spain, and sent them forth in every avenue of enterprise. This jealously patriotic race, which had remained locked up by the mountains and the seas for centuries, started suddenly out, seeking adventures over the earth. The mind of Spain seemed suddenly to have brightened and developed like that of her great king, who, in his first tourney at Valladolid, wrote with proud sluggishness Nondum - not yet - on his maiden shield, and a few years later in his young maturity adopted the legend of arrogant hope and promise, - Plus Ultra. There were seen two emigrations of the young men of Spain, eastward and westward. The latter went for gold and material conquest into the American wilds; and the former, led by the sacred love of art, to that land of beauty and wonder, then, now, and always the spiritual shrine of all peoples, - Italy.

A brilliant young army went out from Spain on this new crusade of the beautiful. From the plains of Castile and the hills of Navarre went, among others, Berruguete, Becerra, and the marvellous deaf-mute Navarrete. The luxurious city of Valentia sent Juan de Juanes and Ribalta. Luis de Vargas went out from Seville, and from Cordova the scholar, artist, and thinker, Paul of Cespedes. The schools of Rome and Venice and Florence were thronged with eager pilgrims, speaking an alien Latin and filled with a childlike wonder and appreciation.

In that stirring age the emigration was not all in one direction. Many distinguished foreigners came down to Spain, to profit by the new love of art in the Peninsula. It was Philip of Burgundy who carved, with Berruguete, those miracles of skill and patience we admire to-day in the choir of Toledo. Peter of Champagne painted at Seville the grand altar-piece that so comforted the eyes and the soul of Murillo. The wild Greek bedouin, George Theotocopouli, built the Mozarabic chapel and filled the walls of convents with his weird ghost-faces. Moor, or Moro, came from the Low Countries, and the Carducci brothers from Italy, to seek their fortunes in Madrid. Torrigiani, after breaking Michael Angelo's nose in Florence, fled to Granada, and died in a prison of the Inquisition for smashing the face of a Virgin which a grandee of Spain wanted to steal from him.

These immigrations, and the refluent tide of Spanish students from Italy, founded the various schools of Valentia, Toledo, Seville, and Madrid. Madrid soon absorbed the school of Toledo, and the attraction of Seville was too powerful for Valentia. The Andalusian school counts among its early illustrations Vargas, Roelas, the Castillos, Herrera, Pacheco, and Moya, and among its later glories Velazquez, Alonzo Cano, Zurbaran, and Murillo, last and greatest of the mighty line. The school of Madrid begins with Berruguete and Na-varrete, the Italians Caxes, Rizi, and others, who are followed by Sanchez Coello, Pantoja, Collantes. Then comes the great invader Velazquez, followed by his retainers Pareja and Carreno, and absorbs the whole life of the school. Claudio Coello makes a good fight against the rapid decadence. Luca Giordano comes rattling in from Naples with his whitewash-brush, painting a mile a minute, and classic art is ended in Spain with the brief and conscientious work of Raphael Mengs.

There is therefore little distinction of schools in Spain. Murillo, the glory of Seville, studied in Madrid, and the mighty Andalusian, Velazquez, performed his enormous life's work in the capital of Castile.

It now needs but one word to show how the Museum of Madrid became so rich in masterpieces. During the long and brilliant reigns of Charles V. and Philip II., when art had arrived at its apogee in Italy, and was just beginning its splendid career in Spain, these powerful monarchs had the lion's share of all the best work that was done in the world. There was no artist so great but he was honored by the commands of these lords of the two worlds. They thus formed in their various palaces, pleasure-houses, and cloisters a priceless collection of pictures produced in the dawn of the Spanish and the triumphant hey-day of Italian genius. Their frivolous successors lost provinces and kingdoms, honor and prestige, but they never lost their royal prerogative nor their taste for the arts. They consoled themselves for the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune by the delights of sensual life, and imagined they preserved some distant likeness to their great forerunners by encouraging and protecting Velazquez and Lope de Vega and other intellectual giants of that decaying age. So while, as the result of a vicious system of kingly and spiritual thraldom, the intellect of Spain was forced away from its legitimate channels of thought and action, under the shadow of the royal prerogative, which survived the genuine power of the older kings, art flourished and bloomed, unsuspected and unpersecuted by the coward jealousy of courtier and monk.

The palace and the convent divided the product of those marvellous days. Amid all the poverty of the failing state, it was still the king and clergy who were best able to appropriate the works of genius. This may have contributed to the decay of art. The immortal canvases passed into oblivion in the salons of palaces and the cells of monasteries. Had they been scattered over the land and seen by the people, they might have kept alive the spark that kindled their creators. But exclu-siveness is inevitably followed by barrenness. When the great race of Spanish artists ended, these matchless works were kept in the safe obscurity of palaces and religious establishments. History was working in the interests of this Museum. The pictures were held by the clenched dead hand of the Church and the throne. They could not be sold or distributed. They made the dark places luminous, patiently biding their time.

It was long enough coming, and it was a despicable hand that brought them into the light. Ferdinand VII. thought his palace would look fresher if the walls were covered with French paper, and so packed all the pictures off to the empty building on the Prado, which his grandfather had built for a museum. As soon as the glorious collection was exposed to the gaze of the world, its incontestable merit was at once recognized. Especially were the works of Velazquez, hitherto almost an unknown name in Europe, admired and appreciated. Ferdinand, finding he had done a clever thing unawares, began to put on airs and poser for a patron of art. The gallery was still further immensely enriched on the exclaustra-tion of the monasteries, by the hidden treasures of the Escorial, and other spoils of mortmain. And now, as a collection of masterpieces, it has no equal in the world.

A few figures will prove this. It contains more than two thousand pictures already catalogued, - all of them worth a place on the walls. Among these there are ten by Raphael, forty-three by Titian, thirty-four by Tintoret, twenty-five by Paul Veronese. Rubens has the enormous contingent of sixty-four. Of Teniers, whose works are sold for fabulous sums for the square inch, this extraordinary museum possesses no less than sixty finished pictures, - the Louvre considers itself rich with fourteen. So much for a few of the foreigners. Among the Spaniards the three greatest names could alone fill a gallery. There are sixty-five Velazquez, forty-six Murillos, and fifty-eight Riberas. Compare these figures with those of any other gallery in existence, and you will at once recognize the hopeless superiority of this collection. It is not only the greatest collection in the world, but the greatest that can ever be made until this is broken up.

But with all this mass of wealth it is not a complete, nor, properly speaking, a representative museum. You cannot trace upon its walls the slow, groping progress of art towards perfection. It contains few of what the book-lovers call incunabula. Spanish art sprang out full-armed from the mature brain of Rome. Juan de Juanes carne back from Italy a great artist. The schools of Spain were budded on a full-bearing tree. Charles and Philip bought masterpieces, and cared Jittle for the crude efforts of the awkward pencils of the necessary men who came before Raphael. There is not a Perugino in Madrid. There is nothing Byzantine, no trace of Renaissance; nothing of the patient work of the early Flemings, - the art of Flanders comes blazing in with the full splendor of Rubens and Van Dyck. And even among the masters, the representation is most unequal. Among the wilderness of Titians and Tintorets you find but two Domenichinos and two Correg-gios. Even in Spanish art the gallery is far from complete. There is almost nothing of such genuine painters as Zurbaran and Herrera.

But recognizing all this, there is, in this glorious temple, enough to fill the least enthusiastic lover of art with delight and adoration for weeks and months together. If one knew he was to be blind in a year, like the young musician in Auerbach's exquisite romance, I know of no place in the world where he could garner up so precious a store of memories for the days of darkness, memories that would haunt the soul with so divine a light of consolation, as in that graceful Palace of the Prado.

It would be a hopeless task to attempt to review with any detail the gems of this collection. My memory is filled with the countless canvases that adorn the ten great halls. If I refer to my notebook I am equally discouraged by the number I have marked for special notice. The masterpieces are simply innumerable. I will say a word of each room, and so give up the unequal contest.

As you enter the Museum from the north, you are in a wide sturdy-columned vestibule, hung with splashy pictures of Luca Giordano. To your right is the room devoted to the Spanish school; to the left, the Italian. In front is the grand gallery where the greatest works of both schools are collected. In the Spanish saloon there is an indefinable air of severity and gloom. It is less perfectly lighted than some others, and there is something forbidding in the general tone of the room. There are prim portraits of queens and princes, monks in contemplation, and holy people in antres vast and deserts idle. Most visitors come in from a sense of duty, look hurriedly about, and go out with a conscience at ease; in fact, there is a dim suggestion of the fagot and the rack about many of the Spanish masters. At one end of this gallery the Prometheus of Ribera agonizes chained to his rock. His gigantic limbs are flung about in the fury of immortal pain. A vulture, almost lost in the blackness of the shadows, is tugging at his vitals. His brow is convulsed with the pride and anguish of a demigod. It is a picture of horrible power. Opposite hangs one of the few Zurbarans of the gallery, - also a gloomy and terrible work. A monk kneels in shadows which, by the masterly chiaroscuro of this ascetic artist, are made to look darker than blackness. Before him in a luminous nimbus that burns its way through the dark, is the image of the crucified Saviour, head downwards. So remarkable is the vigor of the drawing and the power of light in this picture that you can imagine you see the resplendent crucifix suddenly thrust into the shadow by the strong hands of invisible spirits, and swayed for a moment only before the dazzled eyes of the ecstatic solitary.

But after you have made friends with this room it will put off its forbidding aspect, and you will find it hath a stern look but a gentle heart. It has two lovely little landscapes by Murillo, showing how universal was that wholesome genius. Also one of the largest landscapes of Velazquez, which, when you stand near it, seems a confused mass of brown daubs, but stepping back a few yards becomes a most perfect view of the entrance to a royal park. The wide gate swings on its pivot before your eyes. A court cortege moves in, - the long, dark alley stretches off for miles directly in front, without any trick of lines or curves; the artist has painted the shaded air. To the left a patch of still water reflects the dark wood, and above there is a distant and tranquil sky. Had Velazquez not done such vastly greater things, his few landscapes would alone have won him fame enough. He has in this room a large number of royal portraits, - one especially worth attention, of Philip III. The scene is by the shore, - a cool foreground of sandy beach, - a blue-gray stretch of rippled water, and beyond, a low promontory between the curling waves and the cirrus clouds. The king mounts a magnificent gray horse, with a mane and tail like the broken rush of a cascade. The keeping is wonderful; a fresh sea breeze blows out of the canvas. A brilliant bit of color is thrown into the red, gold-fringed scarf of the horseman, fluttering backward over his shoulder. Yet the face of the king is, as it should be, the principal point of the picture, - the small-eyed, heavy-mouthed, red-lipped, fair, self-satisfied face of these Austrian despots. It is a handsomer face than most of Velazquez, as it was probably painted from memory and lenient tradition. For Philip III. was gathered to his fathers in the Escorial before Velazquez came up from Andalusia to seek his fortune at the court. The first work he did in Madrid was to paint the portrait of the king, which so pleased his majesty that he had it repeated ad nauseam. You see him served up in every form in this gallery, - on foot, on horseback, in full armor, in a shooting-jacket, at picnics, and actually on his knees at his prayers! We wonder if Velazquez ever grew tired of that vacant face with its contented smirk, or if in that loyal age the smile of royalty was not always the sunshine of the court?

There is a most instructive study of faces in the portraits of the Austrian line. First comes Charles V., the First of Spain, painted by Titian at Augsburg, on horseback, in the armor he wore at Muhl-berg, his long lance in rest, his visor up over the eager, powerful face, - the eye and beak of an eagle, the jaw of a bull-dog, the face of a born ruler, a man of prey. And yet in the converging lines about the eyes, in the premature gray hair, in the nervous, irritable lips, you can see the promise of early decay, of an age that will be the spoil of superstition and bigotry. It is the face of a man who could make himself emperor and hermit. In his son, Philip II., the soldier dies out and the bigot is intensified. In the fine portrait by Pantoja, of Philip in his age, there is scarcely any trace of the fresh, fair youth that Titian painted as Adonis. It is the face of a living corpse; of a ghastly pallor, heightened by the dull black of his mourning suit, where all passion and feeling have died out of the livid lips and the icy eyes. Beside him hangs the portrait of his rickety, feebly passionate son, the unfortunate Don Carlos. The forehead of the young prince is narrow and ill-formed; the Austrian chin is exaggerated one degree more; he looks a picture of fitful impulse. His brother, Philip III., we have just seen, fair and inane, - a monster of cruelty, who burned Jews and banished Moors, not from malice, but purely from vacuity of spirit; his head broadens like a pine-apple from the blond crest to the plump jowls. Every one knows the head of Philip IV., - he was fortunate in being the friend of Velazquez, - the high, narrow brow, the long, weak face, the yellow, curled mustache, the thick, red lips, and the ever lengthening Hapsburg chin. But the line of Austria ends with the utmost limit of caricature in the face of Charles the Bewitched! Carreno has given us an admirable portrait of this unfortunate, - the forehead caved in like the hat of a drunkard, the red-lidded eyes staring vacantly, a long, thin nose absurd as a Carnival disguise, an enormous mouth which he could not shut, the under-jaw projected so prodigiously, - a face incapable of any emotion but fear. And yet in gazing at this idiotic mask you are reminded of another face you have somewhere seen, and are startled to remember it is the resolute face of the warrior and statesman, the king of men, the Kaiser Karl. Yes, this pitiable being was the descendant of the great emperor, and for that sufficient reason, although he was an impotent and shivering idiot, although he could not sleep without a friar in his bed to keep the devils away, for thirty-five years this scarecrow ruled over Spain, and dying made a will whose accomplishment bathed the Peninsula in blood. It must be confessed this institution of monarchy is a luxury that must be paid for.

We did not intend to talk of politics in this room, but that line of royal effigies was too tempting. Before we go, let us look at a beautiful Magdalen in penitence, by an unknown artist of the school of Murillo. She stands near the entrance of her cave, in a listening attitude. The bright out-of-door light falls on her bare shoulder and gives the faintest touch of gold to her dishevelled brown hair. She casts her eyes upward, the large melting eyes of Andalusia; a chastened sorrow, through which a trembling hope is shining, softens the somewhat worldly beauty of her exquisite and sensitive face. Through the mouth of the cave we catch a glimpse of sunny mountain solitude, and in the rosy air that always travels with Spanish angels a band of celestial serenaders is playing. It is a charming composition, without any depth of sentiment or especial mastery of treatment, but evidently painted by a clever artist in his youth, and this Magdalen is the portrait of the lady of his dreams. None of Murillo's pupils but Tobar could have painted it, and the manner is precisely the same as that of his Divina Pastora.

Across the hall is the gallery consecrated to Italian artists. There are not many pictures of the first rank here. They have been reserved for the great central gallery, where we are going. But while here, we must notice especially two glorious works of Tintoret, - the same subject differently treated, - the Death of Holofernes. Both are placed higher than they should be, considering their incontestable merit. A full light is needed to do justice to that magnificence of color which is the pride of Venice. There are two remarkable pictures of Giordano, - one in the Roman style, which would not be unworthy of the great Sanzio himself, a Holy Family, drawn and colored with that scrupulous correctness which seems so impossible in the ordinary products of this Protean genius; and just opposite, an apotheosis of Rubens, surrounded by his usual "properties" of fat angels and genii, which could be readily sold anywhere as a specimen of the estimate which the unabashed Fleming placed upon himself. It is marvellous that any man should so master the habit and the thought of two artists so widely apart as Raphael and Rubens, as to produce just such pictures as they would have painted upon the same themes. The halls and dark corridors of the Museum are filled with Giordano's canvases. In less than ten years' residence in Spain he covered the walls of dozens of churches and palaces with his fatally facile work. There are more than three hundred pictures recorded as executed by him in that time. They are far from being without merit. There is a singular slap-dash vigor about his drawing. His coloring, except when he is imitating some earlier master, is usually thin and poor. It is difficult to repress an emotion of regret in looking at his laborious yet useless life. With great talents, with indefatigable industry, he deluged Europe with paintings that no one cares for, and passed into history simply as Luca Fa Presto, - Luke Work-Fast.

It is not by mere activity that great things are done in art. In the great gallery we now enter we see the deathless work of the men who wrought in faith. This is the grandest room in Christendom. It is about three hundred and fifty feet long and thirty-five broad and high. It is beautifully lighted from above. Its great length is broken here and there by vases and statues, so placed between doors as nowhere to embarrass the view. The northern half of the gallery is Spanish, and the southern half Italian. Halfway down, a door to the left opens into an oval chamber, devoted to an eclectic set of masterpieces of every school and age. The gallery ends in a circular room of French and German pictures, on either side of which there are two great halls of Dutch and Flemish. On the ground floor there are some hundreds more Flemish and a hall of sculpture.

The first pictures you see to your left are by the early masters of Spain, - Morales, called in Spain the Divine, whose works are now extremely rare, the Museum possessing only three or four, long, fleshless faces and stiff figures of Christs and Marys, - and Juan de Juanes, the founder of the Valentian school, who brought back from Italy the lessons of Raphael's studio, that firmness of design and brilliancy of color, and whose genuine merit has survived all vicissitudes of changing taste. He has here a superb Last Supper and a spirited series of pictures illustrating the martyrdom of Stephen. There is perhaps a little too much elaboration of detail, even for the Romans. Stephen's robes are unnecessarily new, and the ground where he is stoned is profusely covered with convenient round missiles the size of Vienna rolls, so exactly suited to the purpose that it looks as if Providence sided with the persecutors. But what a wonderful variety and truth in the faces and the attitudes of the groups! What mastery of drawing, and what honest integrity of color after all these ages! It is reported of Juanes that he always confessed and prayed before venturing to take up his pencils to touch the features of the saints and Saviours that shine on his canvas. His conscientious fervor has its reward.

Across the room are the Murillos. Hung together are two pictures, not of large dimensions, but of exquisite perfection, which will serve as fair illustrations of the work of his youth and his age; the frio and the vaporoso manner. In the former manner is this charming picture of Rebecca at the Well; a graceful composition, correct and somewhat severe drawing, the greatest sharpness and clearness of outline. In the Martyrdom of St. Andrew the drawing and the composition are no less absolutely perfect, but there hangs over the whole picture a luminous haze of strangeness and mystery. A light that never was on sea or land bathes the distant hills and battlements, touches the spears of the legionaries, and shines in full glory on the ecstatic face of the aged saint. It does not seem a part of the scene. You see the picture through it. A step further on there is a Holy Family, which seems to me the ultimate effort of the early manner. A Jewish carpenter holds his fair-haired child between his knees. The urchin holds up a bird to attract the attention of a little white dog on the floor. The mother, a dark-haired peasant woman, looks on the scene with quiet amusement. The picture is absolutely perfect in detail. It seems to be the consigne among critics to say it lacks "style." They say it is a family scene in Judaea, voila tout. Of course, and it is that very truth and nature that makes this picture so fascinating. The Word was made flesh, and not a phosphorescent apparition; and Murillo knew what he was about when he painted this view of the interior of St. Joseph's shop. What absurd presumption to accuse this great thinker of a deficiency of ideality, in face of these two glorious Marys of the Conception that fill the room with light and majesty! They hang side by side, so alike and yet so distinct in character. One is a woman in knowledge and a goddess of purity; the other, absolute innocence, startled by the stupendous revelation and exalted by the vaguely comprehended glory of the future. It is before this picture that the visitor always lingers longest. The face is the purest expression of girlish loveliness possible to art. The Virgin floats upborne by rosy clouds, flocks of pink cherubs flutter at her feet waving palm-branches. The golden air is thick with suggestions of dim celestial faces, but nothing mars the imposing solitude of the Queen of Heaven, shrined alone, throned in the luminous azure. Surely no man ever understood or interpreted like this grand Andalusian the power that the worship of woman exerts on the religions of the world. All the passionate love that has been poured out in all the ages at the feet of Ashtaroth and Artemis and Aphrodite and Freya found visible form and color at last on that immortal canvas where, with his fervor of religion and the full strength of his virile devotion to beauty, he created, for the adoration of those who should follow him, this type of the perfect Feminine, -

"Thee! standing loveliest in the open heaven! Ave Maria! only Heaven and Thee!"

There are some dozens more of Murillo here almost equally remarkable, but I cannot stop to make an unmeaning catalogue of them. There is a charming Gypsy Fortune-teller, whose wheedling voice and smile were caught and fixed in some happy moment in Seville; an Adoration of the Shepherds, wonderful in its happy combination of rigid truth with the warmest glow of poetry; two Annunciations, rich with the radiance that streams through the rent veil of the innermost heaven, - lights painted boldly upon lights, the White Dove sailing out of the dazzling background of celestial effulgence, - a miracle and mystery of theology repeated by a miracle and mystery of art.

Even when you have exhausted the Murillos of the Museum you have not reached his highest achievements in color and design. You will find these in the Academy of San Fernando, - the Dream of the Roman Gentleman, and the Founding of the Church of St. Mary the Greater; and the powerful composition of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, in her hospital work. In the first, a noble Roman and his wife have suddenly fallen asleep in their chairs in an elegant apartment. Their slumber is painted with curious felicity, - you lower your voice for fear of waking them. On the left of the picture is their dream: the Virgin comes in a halo of golden clouds and designates the spot where her church is to be built. In the next picture the happy couple kneel before the pope and expose their high commission, and outside a brilliant procession moves to the ceremony of the laying of the corner-stone. The St. Elizabeth is a triumph of genius over a most terribly repulsive subject. The wounds and sores of the beggars are painted with unshrinking fidelity, but every vulgar detail is redeemed by the beauty and majesty of the whole. I think in these pictures of Murillo the last word of Spanish art was reached. There was no further progress possible in life, even for him. "Other heights in other lives, God willing."

Returning to the Museum and to Velazquez, we find ourselves in front of his greatest historical work, the Surrender of Breda. This is probably the most utterly unaffected historical painting in existence. There is positively no stage business about it. On the right is the Spanish staff, on the left the deputation of the vanquished Flemings. In the centre the great Spinola accepts the keys of the city from the governor; his attitude and face are full of dignity softened by generous and affable grace. He lays his hand upon the shoulder of the Flemish general, and you can see he is paying him some chivalrous compliment on the gallant fight he has lost. If your eyes wander through the open space between the two escorts, you see a wonderful widespread landscape in the Netherlands, which would form a fine picture if the figures all were gone. Opposite this great work is another which artists consider greater, - Las Meninas. When Luca Giordano came from Italy he inquired for this picture, and said on seeing it, "This is the theology of painting." If our theology were what it should be, and cannot be, absolute and unquestionable truth, Luca the Quick-worker would have been right. Velazquez was painting the portrait of a stupid little infanta when the idea came to him of perpetuating the scene just as it was. We know how we have wished to be sure of the exact accessories of past events. The modern rage for theatrical local color is an illustration of this desire. The great artist, who must have honored his art, determined to give to future ages an exact picture of one instant of his glorious life. It is not too much to say he has done this. He stands before his easel, his pencils in his hand. The little princess is stiffly posing in the centre. Her little maids are grouped about her. Two hideous dwarfs on the right are teasing a noble dog who is too drowsy and magnanimous to growl. In the background at the end of a long gallery a gentleman is opening a door to the garden. The presence of royalty is indicated by the reflection of the faces of the king and queen in a small mirror, where you would expect to see your own. The longer you look upon this marvellous painting, the less possible does it seem that it is merely the placing of color on canvas which causes this perfect illusion. It does not seem possible that you are looking at a plane surface. There is a stratum of air before, behind, and beside these figures. You could walk on that floor and see how the artist is getting on with the portrait. There is space and light in this picture, as in any room. Every object is detached, as in the common miracle of the stereoscope. If art consist in making a fleeting moment immortal, if the True is a higher ideal than the Beautiful, then it will be hard to find a greater painting than this. It is utterly without beauty; its tone is a cold olive green-gray; there is not one redeeming grace or charm about it except the noble figure of Velazquez himself, - yet in its austere fidelity to truth it stands incomparable in the world. It gained Velazquez his greatest triumph. You see on his breast a sprawling red cross, painted evidently by an unskilful hand. This was the gracious answer made by Philip IV. when the artist asked him if anything was wanting to the picture. This decoration, daubed by the royal hand, was the accolade of the knighthood of Santiago, - an honor beyond the dreams of an artist of that day. It may be considered the highest compliment ever paid to a painter, except the one paid by Courbet to himself, when he refused to be decorated by the Man of December.

Among Velazquez's most admirable studies of life is his picture of the Borrachos. A group of rustic roysterers are admitting a neophyte into the drunken confrerie. He kneels to receive a crown of ivy from the hands of the king of the revel. A group of older tipplers are filling their cups, or eyeing their brimming glasses, with tipsy, mock-serious glances. There has never been a chapter written which so clearly shows the drunkard's nature as this vulgar anacreontic. A thousand men have painted drunken frolics, but never one with such distinct spiritual insight as this. To me the finest product of Jordaens' genius is his Bohnen Koenig in the Belvedere, but there you see only the incidents of the mad revel; every one is shouting or singing or weeping with maudlin glee or tears. But in this scene of the Borrachos there is nothing scenic or forced. These topers have come together to drink, for the love of the wine, - the fun is secondary. This wonderful reserve of Velazquez is clearly seen in his conception of the king of the rouse. He is a young man, with a heavy, dull, somewhat serious face, fat rather than bloated, rather pale than flushed. He is naked to the waist to show the plump white arms and shoulders and the satiny skin of the voluptuary; one of those men whose heads and whose stomachs are too loyal ever to give them Katzenjammer or remorse. The others are of the commoner type of haunters of wine-shops, - with red eyes and coarse hides and grizzled matted hair, - but every man of them inexorably true, and a predestined sot.

We must break away from Velazquez, passing by his marvellous portraits of kings and dwarfs, saints and poodles, - among whom there is a dwarf of two centuries ago, who is too like Tom Thumb to serve for his twin brother, - and a portrait of Aesop, which is a flash of intuition, an epitome of all the fables. Before leaving the Spaniards we must look at the most pleasing of all Ribera's works, - the Ladder-Dream of Jacob. The patriarch lies stretched on the open plain in the deep sleep of the weary. To the right in a broad shaft of cloudy gold the angels are ascending and descending. The picture is remarkable for its mingling the merits of Ribera's first and second manner. It is a Caravaggio in its strength and breadth of light and shade, and a Correggio in its delicacy of sentiment and refined beauty of coloring. He was not often so fortunate in his Parmese efforts. They are usually marked by a timidity and an attempt at prettiness inconceivable in the haughty and impulsive master of the Neapolitan school.

Of the three great Spaniards, Ribera is the least sympathetic. He often displays a tumultuous power and energy to which his calmer rivals are strangers. But you miss in him that steady devotion to truth which distinguishes Velazquez, and that spiritual lift which ennobles Murillo. The difference, I conceive, lies in the moral character of the three. Ribera was a great artist, and the others were noble men. Ribera passed a youth of struggle and hunger and toil among the artists of Rome, - a stranger and penniless in the magnificent city, - picking up crusts in the street and sketching on quiet curbstones, with no friend, and no name but that of Spagnoletto, - the little Spaniard. Suddenly rising to fame, he broke loose from his Roman associations and fled to Naples, where he soon became the wealthiest and the most arrogant artist of his time. He held continually at his orders a faction of bravi who drove from Naples, with threats and insults and violence, every artist of eminence who dared visit the city. Car-racci and Guido only saved their lives by flight, and the blameless and gifted Domenichino, it is said, was foully murdered by his order. It is not to such a heart as this that is given the ineffable raptures of Murillo or the positive revelations of Velazquez. These great souls were above cruelty or jealousy. Velazquez never knew the storms of adversity. Safely anchored in the royal favor, he passed his uneventful life in the calm of his beloved work. But his hand and home were always open to the struggling artists of Spain. He was the benefactor of Alonzo Cano; and when Murillo came up to Madrid, weary and footsore with his long tramp from Andalusia, sustained by an innate consciousness of power, all on fire with a picture of Van Dyck he had seen in Seville, the rich and honored painter of the court received with generous kindness the shabby young wanderer, clothed him, and taught him, and watched with noble delight the first flights of the young eagle whose strong wing was so soon to cleave the empyrean. And when Murillo went back to Seville he paid his debt by doing as much for others. These magnanimous hearts were fit company for the saints they drew.

We have lingered so long with the native artists we shall have little to say of the rest. There are ten fine Raphaels, but it is needless to speak of them. They have been endlessly reproduced. Raphael is known and judged by the world. After some centuries of discussion the scorners and the critics are dumb. All men have learned the habit of Albani, who, in a frivolous and unappreciative age, always uncovered his head at the name of Raphael Sanzio. We look at his precious work with a mingled feeling of gratitude for what we have, and of rebellious wonder that lives like his and Shelley's should be extinguished in their glorious dawn, while kings and country gentlemen live a hundred years. What boundless possibilities of bright achievement these two divine youths owed us in the forty years more they should have lived! Raphael's greatest pictures in Madrid are the Spasimo di Sicilia, and the Holy Family, called La Perla. The former has a singular history. It was painted for a convent in Palermo, shipwrecked on the way, and thrown ashore on the gulf of Genoa. It was again sent to Sicily, brought to Spain by the Viceroy of Naples, stolen by Napoleon, and in Paris was subjected to a brilliantly successful operation for transferring the layer of paint from the worm-eaten wood to canvas. It came back to Spain with other stolen goods from the Louvre. La Perla was bought by Philip IV. at the sale of Charles I.'s effects after his decapitation. Philip was fond of Charles, but could not resist the temptation to profit by his death. This picture was the richest of the booty. It is, of all the faces of the Virgin extant, the most perfectly beautiful and one of the least spiritual.

There is another fine Madonna, commonly called La Virgen del Pez, from a fish which young Tobit holds in his hand. It is rather tawny in color, as if it had been painted on a pine board and the wood had asserted itself from below. It is a charming picture, with all the great Roman's inevitable perfection of design; but it is incomprehensible that critics, M. Viardot among them, should call it the first in rank of Raphael's Virgins in Glory. There are none which can dispute that title with Our Lady of San Sisto, unearthly and supernatural in beauty and majesty.

The school of Florence is represented by a charming Mona Lisa of Leonardo da Vinci, almost identical with that of the Louvre; and six admirable pictures of Andrea del Sarto. But the one which most attracts and holds all those who regard the Faultless Painter with sympathy, and who admiring his genius regret his errors, is a portrait of his wife Lucrezia Fede, whose name, a French writer has said, is a double epigram. It was this capricious and wilful beauty who made poor Andrea break his word and embezzle the money King Francis had given him to spend for works of art. Yet this dangerous face is his best excuse, - the face of a man-snarer, subtle and passionate and cruel in its blind selfishness, and yet so beautiful that any man might yield to it against the cry of his own warning conscience. Browning must have seen it before he wrote, in his pathetic poem, -

  "Let my hands frame your face in your hair's gold, 
  You beautiful Lucrezia, that are mine!"

Nowhere, away from the Adriatic, is the Venetian school so richly represented as in Madrid. Charles and Philip were the most munificent friends and patrons of Titian, and the Royal Museum counts among its treasures in consequence the enormous number of forty-three pictures by the wonderful centenarian. Among these are two upon which he set great value, - a Last Supper, which has unfortunately mouldered to ruin in the humid refectory of the Escorial, equal in merit and destiny with that of Leonardo; and the Gloria, or apotheosis of the imperial family, which, after the death of Charles, was brought from Yuste to the Escorial, and thence came to swell the treasures of the Museum. It is a grand and masterly work. The vigorous genius of Titian has grappled with the essential difficulties of a subject that trembles on the balance of ridiculous and sublime, and has come out triumphant. The Father and the Son sit on high. The Operating Spirit hovers above them. The Virgin in robes of azure stands in the blaze of the Presence. The celestial army is ranged around. Below, a little lower than the angels, are Charles and Philip with their wives, on their knees, with white cowls and clasped hands, - Charles in his premature age, with worn face and grizzled beard; and Philip in his youth of unwholesome fairness, with red lips and pink eyelids, such as Titian painted him in the Adonis. The foreground is filled with prophets and saints of the first dignity, and a kneeling woman, whose face is not visible, but whose attitude and drapery are drawn with the sinuous and undulating grace of that hand which could not fail. Every figure is turned to the enthroned Deity, touched with ineffable light. The artist has painted heaven, and is not absurd. In that age of substantial faith such achievements were possible.

There are two Venuses by Titian very like that of Dresden, but the heads have not the same dignity; and a Danae which is a replica of the Vienna one. His Salome bearing the Head of John the Baptist is one of the finest impersonations of the pride of life conceivable. So unapproachable are the soft lights and tones on the perfect arms and shoulders of the full-bodied maiden, that Tintoret one day exclaimed in despair before it, "That fellow paints with ground flesh."

This gallery possesses one of the last works of Titian, - the Battle of Lepanto, which was fought when the artist was ninety-four years of age. It is a courtly allegory, - King Philip holds his little son in his arms, a courier angel brings the news of victory, and to the infant a palm-branch and the scroll Majora tibi. Outside you see the smoke and flash of a naval battle, and a malignant and tur-baned Turk lies bound on the floor. It would seem incredible that this enormous canvas should have been executed at such an age, did we not know that when the pest cut the mighty master off in his hundredth year he was busily at work upon a Descent from the Cross, which Palma the Elder finished on his knees and dedicated to God: Quod Titianus inchoatum reliquit Palma reverenter absolvit Deoque dicavit opus.

The vast representation of Titian rather injures Veronese and Tintoret. Opposite the Gloria of Yuste hangs the sketch of that stupendous Paradise of Tintoret, which we see in the Palace of the Doges, - the biggest picture ever painted by mortal, thirty feet high and seventy-four long.

The sketch was secured by Velazquez in his tour through Italy. The most charming picture of Veronese is a Venus and Adonis, which is finer than that of Titian, - a classic and most exquisite idyl of love and sleep, cool shadow and golden-sifted sunshine. His most considerable work in the gallery is a Christ teaching the Doctors, magnificent in arrangement, severely correct in drawing, and of a most vivid and dramatic interest.

We pass through a circular vaulted chamber to reach the Flemish rooms. There is a choice though scanty collection of the German and French schools. Albert Durer has an Adam and Eve, and a priceless portrait of himself as perfectly preserved as if it were painted yesterday. He wears a curious and picturesque costume, - striped black-and-white, - a graceful tasselled cap of the same. The picture is sufficiently like the statue at Nuremberg; a long South-German face, blue-eyed and thin, fair-whiskered, with that expression of quiet confidence you would expect in the man who said one day, with admirable candor, when people were praising a picture of his, "It could not be better done." In this circular room are four great Claudes, two of which, Sunrise and Sunset, otherwise called the Embarcation of Sta. Paula, and Tobit and the Angel, are in his best and richest manner. It is inconceivable to us, who graduate men by a high-school standard, that these refined and most elegant works could have been produced by a man so imperfectly educated as Claude Lorrain.

There remain the pictures of the Dutch and the Flemings. It is due to the causes we have mentioned in the beginning that neither in Antwerp nor Dresden nor Paris is there such wealth and profusion of the Netherlands art as in this mountain-guarded corner of Western Europe. I shall have but a word to say of these three vast rooms, for Rubens and Van Dyck and Teniers are known to every one. The first has here a representation so complete that if Europe were sunk by a cataclysm from the Baltic to the Pyrenees every essential characteristic of the great Fleming could still be studied in this gallery. With the exception of his Descent from the Cross in the Cathedral at Antwerp, painted in a moment of full inspiration that never comes twice in a life, everything he has done elsewhere may be matched in Madrid. His largest picture here is an Adoration of the Kings, an overpowering exhibition of wasteful luxuriance of color and fougue of composition. To the left the Virgin stands leaning with queenly majesty over the effulgent Child. From this point the light flashes out over the kneeling magi, the gorgeously robed attendants, the prodigality of velvet and jewels and gold, to fade into the lovely clear-obscure of a starry night peopled with dim camels and cattle. On the extreme right is a most graceful and gallant portrait of the artist on horseback. We have another fine self-portraiture in the Garden of Love, - a group of lords and ladies in a delicious pleasance where the greatest seigneur is Peter Paul Rubens and the finest lady is Helen Forman. These true artists had to paint for money so many ignoble faces that they could not be blamed for taking their revenge in painting sometimes their own noble heads. Van Dyck never drew a profile so faultless in manly beauty as his own which we see on the same canvas with that of his friend the Earl of Bristol. Look at the two faces side by side, and say whether God or the king can make the better nobleman.

Among those mythological subjects in which Rubens delighted, the best here are his Perseus and Andromeda, where the young hero comes gloriously in a brand-new suit of Milanese armor, while the lovely princess, in a costume that never grows old-fashioned, consisting of sunshine and golden hair, awaits him and deliverance in beautiful resignation; a Judgment of Paris, the Three Graces, - both prodigies of his strawberries-and-cream color; and a curious suckling of Hercules, which is the prototype or adumbration of the ecstatic vision of St. Bernard. He has also a copy of Titian's Adam and Eve, in an out-of-the-way place downstairs, which should be hung beside the original, to show the difference of handling of the two master colorists.

Especially happy is this Museum in its Van Dycks. Besides those incomparable portraits of Lady Oxford, of Liberti the Organist of Antwerp, and others better than the best of any other man, there are a few large and elaborate compositions such as I have never seen elsewhere. The principal one is the Capture of Christ by Night in the Garden of Gethsemane, which has all the strength of Rubens, with a more refined study of attitudes and a greater delicacy of tone and touch. Another is the Crowning with Thorns, - although of less dimensions, of profound significance in expression, and a flowing and marrowy softness of execution. You cannot survey the work of Van Dyck in this collection, so full of deep suggestion, showing an intellect so vivid and so refined, a mastery of processes so thorough and so intelligent, without the old wonder of what he would have done in that ripe age when Titian and Murillo and Shakespeare wrought their best and fullest, and the old regret for the dead, - as Edgar Poe sings, the doubly dead in that they died so young. We are tempted to lift the veil that hides the unknown, at least with the furtive hand of conjecture; to imagine a field of unquenched activity where the early dead, free from the clogs and trammels of the lower world, may follow out the impulses of their diviner nature, - where Andrea has no wife, and Raphael and Van Dyck no disease, - where Keats and Shelley have all eternity for their lofty rhyme, - where Ellsworth and Koerner and the Lowell boys can turn their alert and athletic intelligence to something better than war.