Studio: international art — 6.1896

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Edinburgh as a Sketching Ground

dressing their long black hair. In the market-
places you will constantly find them combing and
brushing it."

'• Then if you roughed it in other respects, you
escaped the plague of vermin ?" I said, incau-

"No ; there were the pigs," replied Mr. Menpes,
as his face fell, "and horrible insects of all sorts,

not upon the people, it is true, but-" and he

shuddered and changed the subject.

"This is a pulque shop," he said, as he set
another picture on the easel; "painted as I saw it
at night. Those red lanterns outside are paper
things, somewhat like the Japanese; but, as you
see, they look dull beside the glitter of the interior.
Pulque, I should tell you, is a sort of beer made
from aloes. When I had finished this picture, and

f ' \



was in another part of the country, a Mexican who
saw it said it was impossible, as all drinking-shops
closed at dusk ; but I inquired into the matter and
found that certain towns were allowed later hours.
The insides of these places, which are like our bars
—no dancing girls or music—are most gaudily
decorated with vividly coloured striped fabrics,
wreaths of brilliant seaweed, and most elaborate
and picturesque the effect is. The barrels in which
the pulque is stored are all painted in garish hues,
each has its own dipper attached, which is never
employed except for the cask to which it belongs.
They are very particular about this, as they fancy
the flavour of the drink would be spoilt were the
brew of one cask tainted by even a trace of another
brand. They have a still stronger liquor—Mezcal
—less deadly perhaps than absinthe, but more

potent than Scotch whisky, which fascinates its
victims, so that many Europeans and Americans,
once they fall under its sway, will not quit the
country, but prefer to drink themselves to death
there. It is a milky-looking fluid of detestable
flavour. The colour in one of these saloons, the
red cloaks, gorgeous hats, laced with silver—some
of them cost twenty to thirty pounds—and the gor-
geous mise en scene, make it impossible to exagge-
rate their gaiety."

Then Mr. Menpes drew out a picture of a crowd
on a staircase in the market-place, a night piece,
with pillars looming behind,, and beyond all a win-
dow whence one saw the deep transparent blue of
the distant sky. This, like several others of these
Mexican pictures, had a curiously Biblical flavour;
it was only by looking into it, and seeing the
marked Indian type of features, that you could
really believe it was not a scene from Holy Writ,
depicted with the naive literalness of a Dutch
master. Indeed, the conical hat, which probably
the Spaniards left in Holland and Mexico alike,
constantly recurring (especially in one group that
irresistibly recalled Mr. Menpes' gigantic dry-point
of the arquebusiers), gives a curiously European
flavour to those otherwise distinctly Occidental
works ; and the stiff-starched caps of the women,
which they fold into half a dozen different shapes,
according to the weather, or if church-going or
marketing, help to the same end. These are always
blue-white—pure white would be very bad form ;
although, as you see them in most of these pictures,
they look yellow because they are all night pieces.
But Mr. Menpes' pleasant running commentary can-
not be set down at length to lighten an inadequate
note upon his forty new pictures. Nor can space
be found to discuss his water-colours, looking
peculiarly tempting in frames of his own design—
ivory with inlaid chequer work—which suit the
clear, bright aquarelles so excellently well. But
enough has been said, one hopes, to send many to
Messrs. Dowdeswells for a study of the latest and
by no means the least of Mr. Menpes' exhibitions.

E. B. S.


Dear H,—This letter is really from W., in ful-
filment of his promise to let you know something
of Edinburgh as a sketching ground. He apologises
for the news filtering through me instead of issuing
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