The artistic tastes of the Princess, the lofty range of her understanding, her liberality, and the sterling benevolence of her mind all combined to engender a coldness and lack of sympathy between herself and the persons composing the Court.
In the heart of the Princess dwelt a deep religious faith, such as becomes a noble, womanly heart. Nevertheless, her ardent mind sought to penetrate every mystery, so she was often accused of being a doubter–when the reverse was really true.
—Ary Scheffer to His Brother Arnola
The artistic evolution of Ary Scheffer was brought about mainly through the influence of three women. In the love of these women he was bathed, nourished and refreshed; their approbation gave direction to his efforts; for them he lived and worked; while a fourth woman, by her inability to comprehend the necessities of such a genius, clipped his wings, so that he fell to earth and his feet mired in the clay.
The first factor in the evolution of Scheffer, in point of both time and importance, was his mother. She was the flint upon which he tried his steel: his teacher, adviser, critic, friend. She was a singularly strong and capable woman, seemingly slight and fragile, but with a deal of whipcord, sinewy strength in both her physical and mental fiber.
No one can study the lives of eminent artists without being impressed with the fact that the artist is essentially the child of his mother. The sympathy demanded to hold a clear, mental conception–the imagination that sees the whole, even when the first straight line is made–is the gift of mother to son. She gives him of her spirit, and he is heir to her love of color, her desire for harmony and her hunger for sympathy. These, plus his masculine strength, may allow him to accomplish that which was to her only a dream.
If a mother is satisfied with her surroundings, happy in her environment, and therefore without “a noble discontent,” her children will probably be quite willing to have a good time on the “unearned increment” that is their material portion. Her virtue and passive excellence die with her, and she leaves a brood of mediocrities.
Were this miraculous scheme of adjustment lacking in the Eternal Plan, wealth, achievement and talent could be passed along in a direct line and the good things of earth be corraled by a single family.
But Nature knows no law of entail; she does, however, have her Law of Compensation, and this is the law which holds in order the balance of things. If a man accumulates a vast fortune, he probably also breeds spendthrifts who speedily distribute his riches; if he has great talent, the talent dies with him, for he only inspires those who are not of his blood; and if a woman is deprived of the environment for which her soul yearns, quite often her children adjust the average by working out an answer to her prayer.
When twenty-eight years of age we find Madame Scheffer a widow, with three sons: by name, Ariel, Henri and Arnold.
Madame Scheffer had a little money–not much, but enough to afford her a small, living income.
She might have married again, or she could have kept her little “dot” intact and added interest to principal by going and living with kinsmen who were quite willing to care for her and adopt her children.
But no; she decided to leave the sleepy little Dutch village where they lived in Holland, and go down to Paris.
And so she thrust her frail bark boldly out upon the tide, hoping and expecting that somewhere and sometime the Friendly Islands would be reached. She would spend her last sou in educating her boys, and she knew, she said, that when that was gone, God would give them the power and inclination to care for her and provide for themselves. In short, she tumbled her whole basket of bread upon the waters, fully confident that it would come back buttered. Her object in moving to Paris was that her boys could acquire French, the language of learning, and also that they might be taught art.