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A Rogue's Life

genuine specimens of Claude, or of any other Old Master you like to mention,
only dribble in by ones and twos. Under these circumstances, what is to be
done? Are unoffending owners of galleries to be subjected to disappointment? Or
are the works of Claude, and the other fellows, to be benevolently increased in
number, to supply the wants of persons of taste and quality? No man of humanity
but must lean to the latter alternative. The collectors, observe, don't know
anything about it--they buy Claude (to take an instance from my own practice) as
they buy all the other Old Masters, because of his reputation, not because of the
pleasure they get from his works. Give them a picture with a good large ruin,
fancy trees, prancing nymphs, and a watery sky; dirty it down dexterously to the
right pitch; put it in an old frame; call it a Claude; and the sphere of the Old
Master is enlarged, the collector is delighted, the picture-dealer is enriched, and
the neglected modern artist claps a joyful hand on a well-filled pocket. Some men
have a knack at making Rembrandts, others have a turn for Raphaels, Titians,
Cuyps, Watteaus, and the rest of them. Anyhow, we are all made happy--all
pleased with each other--all benefited alike. Kindness is propagated and money
is dispersed. Come along, my boy, and make an Old Master!"
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