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GAIUS MEMMIUS (incorrectly called Gem...

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Originally appearing in Volume V18, Page 105 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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GAIUS MEMMIUS (incorrectly called Gemellus, " The Twin "), Roman orator and poet, tribune of the people (66 B.C.), friend of Lucretius and Catullus. At first a strong supporter of Pompey, he quarrelled with him, and went over to Caesar, whom he had previously attacked. In S4, as candidate for the consulship, he lost Caesar's support by revealing a scandalous transaction in which he and his fellow candidate had been implicated (Cic. Ad AU. iv. 15—18). Being subsequently condemned for illegal practices at the election, he withdrew to Athens, and afterwards to Mytilene. He died about the year 49. He is remembered chiefly because it was to him that Lucretius addressed the De rerum natura, perhaps with the idea of making him a convert tee the doctrines of Epicurus. It appears from Cicero (Ad Fam. xiii. 1) that he possessed an estate on which' were the ruins of Epicurus' house, and that he had determined to build on the site a house for himself. According to Ovid (Trist. ii. 433) he was the author of erotic poems. He possessed considerable oratorical abilities, but his contempt for Latin letters and preference for Greek models impaired his efficiency as an advocate (Cic. But the latter is more interesting than the former, because it tells how Memlinc, long after Rogier's death and his own settlement at Bruges, preserved the traditions of sacred art which had been applied in the first part of the century by Rogier van der Weyden to the " Last Judgment " of Beaune. All that Memlinc did was to purge his master's manner of excessive stringency, and add to his other qualities a velvet softness of pigment, a delicate transparence of colours, and yielding grace of slender forms. That such a beautiful work as the " Last judgment " of Danzig should have been bought for the Italian market is not surprising when we recollect that picture-fanciers in that country were familiar with the beauties of Memlinc's compositions, as shown in the preference given to them by such purchasers as Cardinal Grimari and Cardinal Bembo at Venice, and the heads of the house of Medici at Florence. But Memlinc's reputation was not confined to Italy or Flanders.. The " Madonna and Saints " which passed oat of the Duchatel collection into the gallery of the Louvre, the " Virgin and Child " painted for Sir John Donne and now at Chatsworth, and other noble specimens in English and Continental private houses, show that his work was as widely known and appreciated as it could be in the state of civilization of the 16th century. It was perhaps not their sole attraction that they gave the most tender and delicate possible impersonations of the " Mother of Christ " that could suit the taste of that age in any European country. But the portraits of the donors, with which they were mostly combined, were more characteristic, and probably more remarkable as likenesses, than any that Memlinc's contemporaries could produce. Nor is it unreason-able to think that his success as a portrait painter, which is manifested in isolated busts as well as in altarpieces, was of a kind to react with effect on the Venetian school, which undoubtedly was affected by the partiality of Antonello da Messina for trans-Alpine t pes studied in Flanders in Memlinc's time. The portraits of Sir John Donne and his wife and children in the Chatsworth altarpiece are not less remarkable as models of drawing and finish than as refined presentations of persons of distinction; nor is any difference in this respect to be found in the splendid groups of father, mother, and children which fill the noble altarpiece of the Louvre. As single portraits, the busts of Burgomaster Moreel and his wife in the museum of Brussels, and their daughter the " Sibyl Zambetha " (according to the added description) in the hospital at Bruges, are the finest and most interesting of specimens. The " Seven Griefs of Mary " in the gallery of Turin, to which we may add the " Seven Joys of Mary " In the Pinakothek of Munich, are illustrations of the habit which clung to the art of Flanders of representing a cycle of subjects on the different planes of a single picture, 'where a wide expanse of ground is 'covered with incidents from the Passion in the form common to the action of sacred plays. The masterpiece of Memlinc's later years, a shrine containing relics of St Ursula in the museum of the hospital of Bruges, is fairly supposed to have been ordered and finished in 1480. The delicacy of finish nish in its miniature figures, the variety of Its landscapes and costume, the marvellous patience with which its details are given, are all matters of enjoyment to the spectator. There is later work of the master in the " St Christopher and Saints " of I484 in the academy, or the Newenhoven " Madonna " in the hospital of Bruges, or a large " Crucifixion," with scenes from the Passion, of 1491 in the cathedral of Lubeck. But as we near the close of Memlinc's career we observe that his practice has become larger than he can compass alone; and, as usual in such cases, the labour of disciples is substituted for his own. The registers of the painters' corporation at Bruges give the names of two apprentices who served their time with Memlinc and paid dues on admission to the gild in 148o and 1486. These subordinates remained obscure. The trustees of his will appeared before the court of wards at Bruges on the loth of December 1495, and we gather from records of that date and place that Memlinc left behind several children and a considerable property. (J. A. C.; P. G. K.)
End of Article: GAIUS MEMMIUS (incorrectly called Gemellus, " The Twin ")

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