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art?” “Yes," he replied ; “ but I have, in fact, as yet no great experience, and less capital.” “Never mind," I replied, “persevere. Your shop is well placed, and you will get on; but remember that the surest means of gaining that experience is not to suppose you know better than your neighbours, but to gather honey from every 'ceramic bee' that enters your shop. The most humble collector or, purchaser may suggest something new; the wisest become wiser."
Mr. Acton, as I felt he would, has risen in the world of ceramic art. The father of this highly respectable dealer, now commencing his career in the bric-à-brac line, was a well-known clever surgeon,-a man of the highest attainments, an antiquary and collector of no common order ; and his son, who is also a man of good education and attainments, will, I trust, succeed in a pursuit which is one of refinement and interest.
When the late King of Bavaria converted Munich into an art museum, he may be said to have created a group of imitating artists, who reproduced the fresco drawings of Pompeii with marvellous grace and accuracy—so much so, that some years since an English nobleman of refined taste, when visiting Naples, on entering the shop of a classical antiquary, was struck with the beauty of a number of fragments of fresco paintings on that peculiar hard cement which the Romans used for lining their public baths and ceilings, and which did not escape the appreciation of Raphael, as we know from the mural decorations of the Vatican. Charmed by the beauty of these pleasing fragments, he became the possessor of a number of them as genuine works of past centuries, and took them to England.
The drawing of the figures was characterized by the graceful outline of the antique, the colouring was harmonious and effective, and all who saw them pronounced them to be valuable art-treasures. Nevertheless, they were imitations. The fraud was practised by artists of no ordinary merits. A German painter, thoroughly versed in working fresco, who had purloined fragments of the cement from old buildings, taking for his text the paintings discovered at Pompeii, was thus enabled to produce his works as original designs.
It was only by chemical application that the owner of those works of imitative art discovered they were modern. There is, in fact, a class of artists, principally Germans, who have arrived at such a state of perfection in imitating the paintings of Roman antiquity, that it becomes extremely difficult even for the most practical eye to recognize the fraud; but the instances of rare and beautiful imitation, as many of them undoubtedly are, are legion. I am well acquainted with a female artist in Paris, who is, I believe, the owner of a small fabric, from which every species, cup or vase, is produced in soft paste; and, taking advantage of some of the cleverest painters and decorators from Sèvres and elsewhere, she can secure imitations which the keenest eye and taste can with difficulty detect. In fact, having one morning paid her a visit, she showed me a lovely real Worcester vase, richly painted with birds and flowers, cracked through the centre; and then, to my astonishment, handed me a pair which bore the exact copy of the Worcester mark—so beautifully painted, and so exact in form and character, that none but firstrate dealers and collectors could have possibly told the difference, adding that she could imitate everything.
Well, I admit these modern productions were beautifully painted, beautifully gilded, beautifully glazed; but, on a closer inspection of the old and the new, there was a wide difference; not that they were not valuable, not that they were not works of art, but that hundreds of these imitations are sent to England and elsewhere, and are sold to the · unwary for true specimens of the art of other days, which is simply a delusion and a fraud.
With reference to Venetian glass, I may here say a word. Venetian glass of the early period—thin, light, and diamond-cut of the sixteenth century
-is rare, beautiful, and valuable; and who dares say that that of Salviati in Morana, in the days we live in, has not beauty and rare artistic taste ? But then it is not Venetian glass of ages past, and the colouring and artistic taste of that period has not as yet been quite approached. It is not, in fact, what the collector of pure art calls Venetian glass; it is simply a beautiful and admirable pro
duction from the Venetian fabric of Salviati, who has done much for the world at large, and merits his reward. It is the same with modern Wedgwood. Many of the specimens are lovely, and doubtless of value; but I deny their being equal, or ever will be, to the old in outline or refinement..
Nevertheless, it finds its way to foreign capitals, though Frenchmen scarcely appreciate its beauty and much of it is so fine, so clear in outline, as: even to come near the old. Meanwhile I repeat that humbug is the oil that works the machinery of life, and thus we live in the era of the “New Curiosity Shop."
I have now to apologize to the author of a quaint and well-written article which I read, I know not where, whether in book or journal, as I do all connected with the art which comes under my notice, headed “Bric-à-brac," that I extract some of his information.
“I visited a shop,” says the author, “which was at first little better than a 'dolly-shop,' where cooks disgorge the kitchen-stuff. There were Indian shells, cracked plates, old ironwork. Then