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by [?]

Nominally he was secretary to the General. Who it was secured his appointment he never knew; but we have reason to suppose it was Federico Madrazo.

Fortuny’s two years in Rome had just expired; his Barcelona friends knew that the time had been well spent, and the opportunities improved, and a further transplantation they believed would result in an increased blossoming.

“Enter into life! Enter into life!” was the call of a prophet long ago. In barbaric Africa, Fortuny entered into life with the same fine, free, eager, receptive spirit that he had elsewhere shown. General Prim, soldier and scholar, saw that his secretary was capable of doing something more than keeping accounts, and so a substitute was hired and Fortuny was sent here and there as messenger, but in reality, so that he could see as many sides of old Moorish life as possible.

Staid old General Prim loved the young man just as Madrazo had. Fortuny was not much of a soldier, for war did not interest him, save from its picturesque side. “War is transient, but Beauty is eternal,” he once said.

Even the fact that the Spanish Army was now on the soil of her ancient enemy, the Moor, did not stir his patriotism.

He sketched with feverish industry, fearing the war would end too soon, and he would have to go back with empty sketchbooks. The long stretches of white sands, the glaring sunshine, the paradox of riotous riches and ragged poverty, the veiled women, blinking camels, long rifles with butts inlaid with silver, swords whose hilts are set with precious stones, gray Arab horses with tails sweeping the ground, and everywhere the flutter of rags–these things bore in on his artist-nature and filled his heart.

He hastily painted in a few of his sketches and sent them as presents to his friends in Barcelona.

The very haste of the work, the meager outline and simple colors–glaring whites and limpid blues, with here and there a dash of red to indicate a scarf or sash–astonished his old teachers. Here were pictures painted in an hour that outmatched any of the carefully worked out, methodical attempts of the Academy! It was all life, life, life–palpitating life.

The sketches were shown, the men in power interviewed, and the city of Barcelona ordered Fortuny to paint one large picture to be eventually placed in the Parliament House to commemorate the victory of General Prim.

As an earnest of good faith a remittance of five hundred dollars accompanied the order.

The war was short. At the battle of Wad Ras the enemy was routed after a pitched fight where marked dash and spirit were shown on both sides.

And so this was to be the scene of Fortuny’s great painting. Hundreds of sketches were made, including portraits of General Prim and various officers. Fortuny set about the work as a duty to his patrons who had so generously paved the way for all the good fortune that was his. The painting was to be a world-beater; and Fortuny, young, strong, ambitious–knowing no such word as fail–went at the task.

Fortuny had associated with many artists at Rome and he had heard of that wonderful performance of Horace Vernet’s, the “Taking of the Smalah of Abd-el-Kader.” This picture of Vernet’s, up to that time, was the largest picture ever held in a single frame. It is seventy-one feet long and sixteen feet high. To describe that picture of Vernet’s with its thousand figures, charging cavalry, flashing sabers, dust-clouds, fleeing cattle, stampeding buffalos, riderless horses, overturned tents, and fear-stricken, beautiful women would require a book.

In passing, it is well to say that this picture of Vernet’s is the parent of all the panorama pictures that have added to the ready cash of certain enterprising citizens of Chicago, and that Vernet is the father of the modern “military school.”

If you have seen Vernet’s painting you can never forget it, and if there were nothing else to see at Versailles but this one picture you would be repaid, and amply repaid, for going out from Paris to view it.