Crayer, Gaspar De

, an eminent artist, was born at Antwerp in 1585, and was a disciple of Raphael Coxis, the son of that Coxis who had studied under Raphael; but Crayer soon shewed such proofs of genius, that he far surpassed his master, and therefore quitted him. Afterwards he made judicious observations on the particular excellencies of the most renowned masters, and taking nature for his constant guide, formed for himself a manner that was extremely pleasing. The first work which established him in the favour of the court of Brussels, was a portrait of cardinal Ferdinand, brother to the king of Spain, a full length, as large as life, in which he succeeded so happily, that when it was viewed by the court at Madrid it laid the foundation of his fame and fortune. The king sent him a gold chain with a medal; and added, as a farther instance of his favour, a considerable pension. The testimony of Rubens was also highly in his favour, who went to Antwerp to visit Crayer, and after examining attentively a picture of his painting in the refectory of the abbey of Affleghem, he publicly declared that no painter could surpass Crayer. Nor was he less distinguished by Vandyck, who always expressed a friendship for him, and painted his portrait. It has been said that he had somewhat less fire in his compositions than Rubens; but that his design was frequently more correct. Yet, says Mr. Fuseli, let not this high strain of commendation seduce the reader to imagine that Crayer was a painter of the same rank with Rubens. If he was more equal, the reason lay in his inferiority. Rubens had the flights, the falls, and | the neglects of genius. Crayer steered a middle course, and preserved dignity by caution. His composition generally consisted of a small number of figures; and he very judiciously avoi ded the encumbering his design with superfluous particulars, or loading his subject with any thing that seemed not to contribute to its elegance. He grouped his figures with skill, and his expressions have all the truth of nature. There is a remarkable variety in his draperies, and an equal degree of simplicity in their folds; and his colouring is admirable. Of all his contemporaries he was reckoned to approach nearest to Vandyck, not only in history, but in portrait. He principally painted religious subjects, and was continually at work; and although he lived to a great age, yet his temperance and regular habits preserved the full use of his faculties; and to the last month of his long life his pencil retained the same force and freedom which it possessed in his most vigorous days. He died in 1669, aged eighty-four. The subject of the picture which was so highly honoured by the approbation of Rubens, is the centurion alighting from his horse to prostrate himself at the feet of Christ. Yet sir Joshua Reynolds says of it, that though it cannot be said to be defective in drawing or colouring, it is far from being a striking picture. There is no union between his figures and the ground; the outline is every where seen, which takes away the softness and richness of effect; the men are insipid characters, and the women want beauty. The composition is something on the plan of the great picture of Rubens in the St. Augustins at Antwerp: that is, the subject is of the same kind, but there is a great difference indeed in their degree of merit. 1


Arprenville. —Descamps. Pilkington. Sir Joshua Reynolds’s Works, vol. II. p. 378, 8vo edit.