placed on different planes, the example of contrasts is very striking. Even in the portrayal of the dog's paws there is a noteworthy variation. A study of this painting, or even a portion of it, from the point of view of which we have been speaking will :explain much to the artist.

    The technique of Rubens which was simple enough when he executed an important composition, became almost elementary when he painted a fragment. In the "Head of an Old Man," in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (page 110), he made his first indications with shadows composed of a transparent brown which goes from bistre to burnt Sienna. These shadows contain no details which would have cost them their essential quality. Rubens sought only a warm and supple transparence. The lights were laid on in impasto, the heaviness of which increased in direct proportion to their intensity . The binding note between the light and shadow, that is, the half tone, exceptionally enough is made of white and bistre. The reason for this would seem to be that in representing the color of youthful flesh, he was accustomed to use a gray in his half tones (made of black and white) to make the color sing, but in the case of an old man, this would have provoked too violent a contrast. The complexion of the model would have appeared too fresh. A brown broken with white, being closer chromatically to the rosy tones of the flesh would yield a more appropriate effect. By such nuances, Rubens underscored the drawing without heightening the brilliance of the colors. And, furthermore, alI the slightly warm passages he was using for the flesh tones would be in better contrast with the grays he was to use for depicting the hair and beard. There is no detail in the shadows; the eyes are barely indicated. Several accents of pure white bring out the highest points and ridges in the reliefs. And by the use of just these few contrasts, the head gives the impression of the third dimension. From a distance, the effect of this head is startling, but if examined near to, as we have been doing, the simplicity of the technique is extraordinary-it is only a sketch. Nothing is realistically executed in the shadows but we can find all that is necessary in the accents, visualizing the parts intentionally left out.

* 120 *

Previous
Next