Mengs, Antony Raphael

, a celebrated modern painter, was born at Aussig in Bohemia, in 1726. His lather was painter to Augustus 111. king of Poland, and he, observing the talents of his son for the same art, took him to Rome in 1741. After studying about four years, the young painter returned to Dresden, where | he executed several works for Augustus with uncommon success. But his greatest patron was Charles III. king of Spain, who having, while only king of Naples, become acquainted with Mengs and his merits, in 1761, within two years after his accession to the throne of Spain, settled upon him a pension of 2000 doubloons, and gave him an house and an. equipage. Mengs, nevertheless, did not go to Spain, but resided chiefly at Rome, where he died in 1779. The labours of his art, grief for the loss of a most beautiful and amiable wife, and the injudicious medicines of an empiric, his countryman, who pretended to restore his health, are said to have occasioned his death. His character was very amiable, with no great fault but that which too commonly attends genius, a total want of reconomy; so that, though his profitsin various ways,forthe last eighteen years of his life, were very considerable, he hardly left enough to pay for his funeral. In his address, he was timid and aukward, with an entire ignorance of the world, and an enthusiasm for the arts, which absorbed almost all his passions. He left five daughters, and two sons, all of whom were provided for by his patron the king of Spain. He was an author as well as a painter, and his works were published at Parma in 1780, by the chevalier d’Azara, with notes, and a life of Mengs, in 2 vols. 4to, which were translated into English, and published in 2 vols. 1796, 8vo. They consist chiefly of treatises and letters on taste, on several painters, and various subjects connected with the philosophy and progress of the arts. They were partly translated into French, in 1782, and more completely in 1787. All that is technical on the subject of painting, in the work of his friend Winckelman, on the history of art, was supplied by Mengs. He admired the ancients, but without bigotry, and could discern their faults as well as their beauties. As an artist, Mengs seems to have been mostly admired in Spain. In this country, recent connoisseurs seem disposed to under-rate his merit, merely, as it would appear, because it had been over-rated by Azara and Winckelman. The finest specimen of his art in this country is the altar- piece of All Souls Chapel, Oxford. The subject of this picture is our Saviour in the garden it consists of two figures in the foreground, highly finished, and beautifully painted. It was ordered by a gentleman of that college whilst on his travels through Spain; but being limited to the price, he was obliged to choose a | subject of few figures. This gentleman relates a singular anecdote of Mengs, which will further show the profundity of his knowledge and discernment in things of antiquity. While Dr. Burney was abroad collecting materials for his History of Music, he found at Florence an ancient statue of Apollo, with a bow and riddle in his hand: this, he considered, would be sufficient to decide the long-contested point, whether or not the ancients had known the use of the bow. He consulted many people to ascertain the certainty if this statue were really of antiquity; and at last Mengs was desired to give his opinion, who, directly as he had examined it, without knowing the cause of the inquiry, said, “there was no doubt but that the statue was of antiquity, but that the arms and fiddle had been recently added.” This had been done with such ingenuity that no one had discovered it before Mengs; but the truth of the same was not to be doubted. 1

1 Life of Mengs. Pilkington. Cumberland speak? of Mengs in his account of Spanish painters, but evidently with much prejudice.