[Adapted from the facts given in the German of H. A. Guerber's
Marchen und Erzahlungen (D. C. Heath & Co.)]
I wonder if you have ever heard the
anecdote about the artist of Dusseldorf and
the jealous courtiers. This is it. It seems
there was once a very famous artist who
lived in the little town of Dusseldorf. He
did such fine work that the Elector, Prince
Johann Wilhelm, ordered a portrait statue
of himself, on horseback, to be done in
bronze. The artist was overjoyed at the
commission, and worked early and late
at the statue.
At last the work was done, and the artist
had the great statue set up in the public
square of Dusseldorf, ready for the
opening view. The Elector came on the
appointed day, and with him came his favorite
courtiers from the castle. Then the statue
was unveiled. It was very beautiful,--
so beautiful that the prince exclaimed in
surprise. He could not look enough, and
presently he turned to the artist and shook
hands with him, like an old friend. "Herr
Grupello," he said, "you are a great artist,
and this statue will make your fame even
greater than it is; the portrait of me is perfect!"
When the courtiers heard this, and saw
the friendly hand-grasp, their jealousy of
the artist was beyond bounds. Their one
thought was, how could they safely do
something to humiliate him. They dared
not pick flaws in the portrait statue, for
the prince had declared it perfect. But at
last one of them said, with an air of great
frankness, "Indeed, Herr Grupello, the
portrait of his Royal Highness is perfect;
but permit me to say that the statue of the
horse is not quite so successful: the head
is too large; it is out of proportion."
"No," said another, "the horse is really
not so successful; the turn of the neck,
there, is awkward."
"If you would change the right hind-
foot, Herr Grupello," said a third, "it
would be an improvement."
Still another found fault with the horse's
The artist listened, quietly. When they
had all finished, he turned to the prince and
said, "Your courtiers, Prince, find a good
many flaws in the statue of the horse;
will you permit me to keep it a few days
more, to do what I can with it?"
The Elector assented, and the artist
ordered a temporary screen built around
the statue, so that his assistants could
work undisturbed. For several days the
sound of hammering came steadily from
behind the enclosure. The courtiers, who
took care to pass that way, often, were
delighted. Each one said to himself, "I
must have been right, really; the artist
himself sees that something was wrong;
now I shall have credit for saving the
prince's portrait by my artistic taste!"
Once more the artist summoned the
prince and his courtiers, and once more the
statue was unveiled. Again the Elector
exclaimed at its beauty, and then he turned
to his courtiers, one after another, to see
what they had to say.
"Perfect!" said the first. "Now that
the horse's head is in proportion, there
is not a flaw."
"The change in the neck was just what
was needed," said the second; "it is very
"The rear right foot is as it should be,
now," said a third, "and it adds so much
to the beauty of the whole!"
The fourth said that he considered the
tail greatly improved.
"My courtiers are much pleased now,"
said the prince to Herr Grupello; "they
think the statue much improved by the
changes you have made."
Herr Grupello smiled a little. "I am
glad they are pleased," he said, "but the
fact is, I have changed nothing!"
"What do you mean?" said the prince
in surprise. "Have we not heard the sound
of hammering every day? What were you
hammering at then?"
"I was hammering at the reputation of
your courtiers, who found fault simply
because they were jealous," said the artist.
"And I rather think that their reputation
is pretty well hammered to pieces!"
It was, indeed. The Elector laughed
heartily, but the courtiers slunk away,
one after another, without a word.