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The scene is laid at the grotto of the fountain Castalia. Minerva instructs the young princess in the elements of the sciences. Apollo, crowned with laurel, inspires her with a love of the fine arts; the attributes of which are visibly grouped with the ægis of the goddess. The Graces preside at the education of Mary: one of them presents her with a crown of flowers; and Mercury descends from heaven to endow her with the gift of eloquence.

If the figures of the men, and particularly that of Minerva, exhibit those heavy shapes for which Rubens has been frequently reproached, the females are depictured with greater delicacy. The attitude of the Graces is elegant; that of Mary is simple, and the expression is naïve and correct. The tints of the background, rich, soft, and harmonious, bring forward most advantageously the carnations of the Graces, Rubens had painted two of these figures without a veil : they have since been in part covered by a different hand.

In this outline we conceived it a duty to follow the original, as painted by Rubens.

The mantle of Minerva is yellow, and her helmet blue. The young princess has a purple robe, ornamented with diamonds. The vest of Apollo is of a brilliant red, which accords extremely well with the vigorous tones of the carnations. Rubens has employed an ingenious means of casting upon the Graces the principal light. The accessaries on the foreground are touched with vigour, and contribute to the general effect of the whole.

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