Online Encyclopedia

MIERIS

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V18, Page 425 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MIERIS, the name of a family of artists who practised painting at Leiden for three generations in the 17th and 18th centuries. 1. FRANS VAN MIERIS, the elder (? 1635–1681), son of Jan van Mieris, a goldsmith and diamond setter, was born, according to Houbraken, at Leiden on the 16th of April 1635, and died there on the 12th of March 1681. His father wished to train him to his own business, but Frans preferred drawing to chasing, and took service with Abraham Torenvliet, a glazier who kept a school of design. In his father's shop he became familiar with the ways and dress of people of distinction. His eye was fascinated in turn by the sheen of jewelry and stained glass; and, though he soon gave up the teaching of Torenvliet for that of Gerard Douw and Abraham van den Tempel, he acquired a manner which had more of the finish of the exquisites of the Dutch school than of the breadth of the disciples of Rembrandt. It should be borne in mind that he seldom chose panels of which the size exceeded 12 to 15 in., and whenever his name is attached to a picture above that size we may surely assign it to his son Willem or to some other imitator. Unlike Gerard Douw when he first left Rembrandt, or Jan Steen when he started on an independent career, Mieris never ventured to design figures as large as life. Characteristic of his art in its minute proportions is a shiny brightness and metallic polish. The subjects which he treated best are those in which he illustrated the habits or actions of the wealthier classes; but he sometimes succeeded in homely incidents and in portrait, and not unfrequently he ventured on allegory. He repeatedly painted the satin skirt which Ter Borch brought into fashion, and he often rivalled Ter Borch in the faithful rendering of rich and highly-coloured woven tissues. But he remained below Ter Borch and Metsu, because he had not their delicate perception of harmony or their charming mellowness of touch and tint, and he fell behind Gerard Douw, because he was hard and had not his feeling for effect by concentrated light and shade. In the form of his composition, which sometimes represents the framework of a window enlivened with greenery, and adorned with bas-reliefs within which figures are seen to the waist, his model is certainly Gerard Douw. It is a question whether Houbraken has truly recorded this master's birthday. One of his best-known pieces, a party of ladies and gentlemen at an oyster luncheon, in the Hermitage at St Petersburg, bears the date of 165o. Celebrated alikefor composition and finish, it would prove that Mieris had reached his prime at the age of fifteen. Another beautiful example, the " Doctor Feeling a Lady's Pulse " in the gallery of Vienna, is dated 1656; and Waagen, in one of his critical essays, justly observes that it is a remarkable production for a youth of twenty-one. In 1657 Mieris was married at Leiden in the presence of Jan Potheuck, a painter, and this is the earliest written record of his existence on which we can implicitly rely. Of the numerous panels by Mieris, twenty-nine at least are dated—the latest being an allegory, long in the Ruhl collection at Cologne, illustrating what he considered the kindred vices of drinking, smoking and dicing, in the year 1680. Mieris had numerous and distinguished patrons. He received valuable commissions from Archduke Leopold, the elector-palatine, and Cosimo III., grand-duke of Tuscany. His practice was large and lucrative, but never engendered in him either carelessness or neglect. If there be a difference between the painter's earlier and later work, it is that the former was clearer and more delicate in flesh, whilst the latter was often darker and more livid in the shadows. When he died his clients naturally went over to his son Willem, who in turn bequeathed his painting-room to his son Frans. But neither Willem nor Frans the younger equalled Frans the elder. 2. WILLEM VAN MIERIS (1662–1747), son of Frans. His works are extremely numerous, being partly imitations of the paternal subjects, or mythological episodes, which Frans habitually avoided. In no case did he come near the excellence of his sire. 3. FRANS VAN MIERIS, the younger (1689–1763), also lived on the traditions of his grandfather's studio. The pictures of all the generations of the Mieris family were successfully imitated by A. D. Snaphaan, who lived at Leipzig and was patronized by the court of Anhalt-Dessau. To those who would study his deceptive form of art a visit to the collection of Worlitz near Dessau may afford instruction.
End of Article: MIERIS
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