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This Calvert lived at Bologna, and was competitor and rival to Ludovico Caracci. Guido made the same use of Albert Durer, as Virgil did of old Ennius, borrowed what pleased him, and made it afterwards his own; that is, he accommodated what was good in Albert to his own manner, which he executed with so much gracefulness and beauty, that he got more money and reputation in his time than any of his masters, and than all the scholars of the Caracci, though they were of greater capacity than himself. His heads yield no manner of precedence to those of Raphael.”
A circumstance, mentioned in the life of Guido, is well worth the attention of artists: He was asked from whence he borrowed his idea of beauty, which is acknowledged superior to that of any other painter; he said he would show all the models he used, and ordered a common porter to sit before him, from whom he drew a beautiful countenance. This, adds Sir Joshua Reynolds, was undoubtedly an exaggeration of his conduct: but his intention was to shew, that he thought it necessary for painters to have some model of nature before them, however they might deviate from it, and correct it from the idea of present beauty which they have formed in their minds.
In painting, it is far better to have a model, even to depart from, than to have nothing fixed and certain to determine the idea. When there is a model, there is something to proceed on, something to be corrected; to that, even supposing no part is adopted, the model has still been not without use.
Such habits of intercourse with nature will, at least, create that variety which will prevent any one from
prognosticating, on being informed of the subject, what manner of work the painter is likely to produce; which is the most disagreeable character an artist can have. -Hence Du Fresnoy.
Non ita naturæ astanti sis cuique revinctus
Nor yet to nature such strict homage pay
Guido was accustomed to paint upon silk, which arose from the following occurrence: The dominicans of Bologna, removing an old coffin in order to deposit it in another place, opened it, and found the body entire; but on offering to touch it, the corse crumbled into dust, as well as the linen that covered it-a silken garment solely was preserved. Guido, who witnessed this event, inferred from thence that silk was less subject to corruption than linen, and resolved in future to paint his pictures on a species of taffety, which he prepared for that purpose. He is, perhaps, the only painter who would have thought of such an expedient.
Guido was so little addicted to gallantry, that he would never remain alone with the women who served him as models. He delighted in occupying spacious apartments, but would only furnish them with things that were absolutely necessary. "People," he said,
"come to my house to see pictures, not tapestry and splendid mirrors."
It was a matter of much difficulty to get a picture from his hand; this was only accomplished by indulging him in his favourite pursuit; or in other words, by gambling with him, by which he unfortunately fell into circumstances of great distress.