TO JOSEPH SEVERN1
Florence. 17 March 1827.
My dear Severn,
Mr Floyer2 is here, and will possibly soon set off for Rome. He inquired if the picture for Mr Wilmot was finished; and will, I suppose, take it from you, and pay you for it, on Mr W’s account.
Let me know how you get paid by others. Both Kirkup and I are anxious to hear you are no longer so badly treated. What silence you keep!
Then again, I am impatient to learn when you intend to set off for Florence. You promised to be with us on 14th April. Time drives on.
Know I have copied one of Kirkup’s miniatures in colours, on ivory; it is from a sketch he made of young Dilke. For a first attempt it is not despicable. Know further I intend to do a great deal on ivory, — and more, I intend to succeed to admiration! My next shall be a Madonna, which K copied at Parma from Correggio, — a divine creature. I’ll do the best I can, and if I fail, I fail nobly; — it is almost too difficult for a second attempt. This is a preface to a request, which if you won’t grant, I’ll pay the devil with you some way or another. I want some of your beauties to copy on ivory, — some as half lengths perhaps, and some only heads and shoulders. Will you lend them? If you really come to Florence in three weeks, bring them all, and you shall have them all back again when you return. If not, send some to me; and choose such as, in your opinion, will make the best miniatures. I am absolutely fixed on work.
Kirkup has received a letter from you,3 where you promise to write to Brown by the next post. This is too old a trick of your’s. I am a man of little faith. Yet if, contrary to all expectations, our letters should cross on the road, still have the charity to despatch two or three lines, in order to let me know if you will lend your beauties, and when and how they are to be sent. Oh! I’ll make such a collection of miniatures!
In K’s Studio there4 are certain hopes and signs of work, — nay, there is work absolutely going on, — and, besides that, there is a piano. We are living here very comfortably, except that now and then one of our China plates is broken. Five to dinner and two in the kitchen, — a heavy charge for me as housekeeper; tho’, by the by, it is easier than to cater for one or two, as now I am never puzzled about cold meat in the house. How do you and Teresa go on? Give my love to her.
Master Carlino is well and saucy. How is it I never hear of Master Enrico?5
The Artists (English ones) in Florence are old W. and "my son Trajan",6 Morgan, Hayter, and Kirkup. I am far from being intimate with Hayter. I could pardon his vanity, though it is greater than any man’s I ever knew; but he is, in other respects, unpleasant, requiring one’s services on every petty or useful occasion, and paying for them with manners just within the boundary of rudeness, — it is astonishing how much he can do in that way, without overstepping the actual boundary. As for his talents, my opinion is the same as when I wrote to you last about his pictures.7 I like old Wallace; he has been vilified with us, — we know by whom. I see little of Morgan, and wish that little less. Hayter, though I could not, or rather would not, accept his offer, proposed to instruct me in painting on ivory. Tell me, — is it <better> requisite to grind one’s colours finer than Newman’s?8 By using the juice of garlic on the ivory, can it be washed with better effect? Did you ever mix a little sugar with your gum water to prevent the colours from cracking?9 Is there any other wrinkle you can give me? Kirkup talks of painting some miniatures, — if he does, I am sure he will beat all others hollow. He sends his remembrances, so does young Dilke; give mine to all friends in Rome.
Your’s most sincerely,
8 James Newman (d. 1835), founder of Newman Ltd, 24 Soho Square, London, was a leading colorman of the day, who prepared and supplied artist’s pigments. The drawing master and landscape painter, John Cart Burgess, singled out Newman’s as one of the businesses that had brought watercolors to the greatest perfection. He wrote that certain of his colors excelled those of other manufacturers: Red Lake, Indian Red, finest Ultramarine, English smalt, Antwerp Blue, Gamboge, Indian Yellow, Constant White, Sepia and Vandyke Brown (National Portrait Gallery website [http://www.npg.org.uk/live/artistsupp_n.asp]). [Return to the letter]
9 The use of garlic would have increased the "tooth" of the ivory’s surface for the washes of paint to adhere to. Adding sugar to watercolor paint mixtures was common practice and a way of making cakes of pigments that were especially hard and liable to dry out and crack, more hygroscopic. Honey was also commonly used as a moisturizing agent. Starting in the 1830s in response to the replacement of dry cakes by paint tubes, the colormen began substituting glycerin, creating "moist" colors (Sarah Houlbrooke; National Portrait Gallery website [http://www.npg.org.uk/live/artistsupp_n.asp]). [Return to the letter]