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THIS subject is too generally known to require an explanation. Vander-werf has, however, not given to his figures all the action which they should possess. The countenance of the wife of Potiphar is deficient in energy; and by concealing the head of Joseph, the painter has avoided the difficulty that existed in delineating the expression of modesty and indignation, by which this personage should be characterised.
Although the subject be not completed, this picture is admirable with respect to execution. The figures are drawn with a degree of correctness, and all the parts studied with that care, in which, in the eyes of amateurs, the chief merit of the works of Vander-werf consists.
"The pictures of Vander-werf," says Sir Joshua Reynolds, "whether great or small, certainly afford but little pleasure. Of their want of effect it is worth a painter's while to enquire into the cause. One of the principal causes appears to me, his having entertained an opinion, that the light of a picture ought to be thrown solely on the figures, and little or none on the ground or sky. This gives great coldness to the effect, and is so contrary to nature, and the practice of those painters with whose works he was surrounded, that we cannot help wondering how he fell into this mistake.
"His naked figures appear to be of a much harder substance than flesh, though his outline is far from cutting
on the light, not united with the shade, which are the most common causes of hardness; but it appears to me, that in the present instance the hardness of manner proceeds from the softness hereon being too general; the light being every where equally lost in the ground or its shadow, for this is not expressing the true effect of flesh, the light of which is sometimes losing itself in the ground, and sometimes distinctly seen, according to the rising and sinking of the muscles; an attention to these variations is what gives the effect of suppleness, which is one of the characteristics of a good manner of colouring."