A Rogue's Life
ON the next day, I was introduced to the Jew's workshop, and to the eminent
gentlemen occupying it. My model Rembrandt was put before me; the simple
elementary rules were explained; and my materials were all placed under my
Regard for the lovers of the Old Masters, and for the moral well-being of society,
forbids me to be particular about the nature of my labors, or to go into dangerous
detail on the subject of my first failures and my subsequent success. I may,
however, harmlessly admit that my Rembrandt was to be of the small or cabinet
size, and that, as there was a run on Burgomasters just then, my subject was
naturally to be of the Burgomaster sort. Three parts of my picture consisted
entirely of different shades of dirty brown and black; the fourth being composed
of a ray of yellow light falling upon the wrinkled face of a treacle-colored old man.
A dim glimpse of a hand, and a faint suggestion of something like a brass
washhand basin, completed the job, which gave great satisfaction to Mr. Pickup,
and which was described in the catalogue as--
"A Burgomaster at Breakfast. Originally in the collection of Mynheer Van Grubb.
Amsterdam. A rare example of the master. Not engraved. The chiar'oscuro in this
extraordinary work is of a truly sublime character. Price, Two Hundred Guineas."
I got five pounds for it. I suppose Mr. Pickup got one-ninety-five.
This was perhaps not very encouraging as a beginning, in a pecuniary point of
view. But I was to get five pounds more, if my Rembrandt sold within a given
time. It sold a week after it was in a fit state to be trusted in the showroom. I got
my money, and began enthusiastically on another Rembrandt--"A Burgomaster's
Wife Poking the Fire." Last time, the chiar'oscuro of the master had been yellow
and black, this time it was to be red and black. I was just on the point of forcing
my way into Mr. Pickup's confidence, as I had resolved, when a catastrophe
happened, which shut up the shop and abruptly terminated my experience as a
maker of Old Masters.
"The Burgomaster's Breakfast" had been sold to a new customer, a venerable
connoisseur, blessed with a great fortune and a large picture-gallery. The old
gentleman was in raptures with the picture--with its tone, with its breadth, with its
grand feeling for effect, with its simple treatment of detail. It wanted nothing, in
his opinion, but a little cleaning. Mr. Pickup knew the raw and ticklish state of the
surface, however, far too well, to allow of even an attempt at performing this
process, and solemnly asserted, that he was acquainted with no cleansing
preparation which could be used on the Rembrandt without danger of "flaying off