Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Beggars as Sistine Chapel models

KeelyNetSo famous painters often used beggars and indigents as models for their most famous paintings. Perhaps because poor people have a harder life and so might have more interesting features reflecting their tribulations.

Fuseli, in his life of Michael Angelo, says that 'a beggar rose from his hand the patriarch of poverty.' The same artist, in one of his lectures, delivered at the Royal Academy, also observes, that 'Michael Angelo ennobled his beggars into Patriarchs and Prophets, in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.'

Annibal Caracci frequently drew subjects in low life. His 'Cries of Bologna', etched by Giuseppe Maria Mitelli; published in 1660, in folio, are evidently from real characters. It will also be recollected, that some of the finest productions of Murillo, Jan Miel, and Drogsloot, are beggars. Callot's twenty-four beggars are evidently from nature; and among Rembrandt's etchings are to be found twenty-three plates of this description.

Sir Joshua Reynolds frequently painted from beggars, and from these people have originated some of his finest pictures, particularly his 'Mercury as a Pickpocket,' and 'Cupid as a Link-boy.' His Count Ugolino was painted from a pavior (street paver), soon after he had left St. George's Hospital, from a severe fever. Mr. West painted the portrait of a beggar, on the day when he became a hundred years old; and considered him as a pensioner for several years afterwards.

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