from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English
- n. distinguished painters who preceded modern painters; especially, the celebrated painters of the 16th and 17th centuries.
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There are great exceptions, of John Hunter, a man of ideas; perhaps of Robert Brown, the botanist; and of Richard Owen, who has imported into Britain the German homologies, and enriched science with contributions of his own, adding sometimes the divination of the old masters to the unbroken power of labor in the English mind.
Haydon had been learning fresh secrets in his art, partly from an anatomical 'subject' that he had obtained from a surgeon, and partly from his introduction, through the good offices of Jackson, to the works of Titian at Stafford House, and in other private collections, there being as yet no National Gallery where the student could study the old masters at his pleasure.
It suggests at first a radiance of some kind, something dazzling or glittering, some halo such as the old masters loved to paint round the heads of their Ecce Homos.
I have seen him, careful, cautious, as wary about procedure as Saleri, Marcial Lalanda, or any of the old masters of chance controlling, light up like a schoolboy at the approach of vacation, when all the safe and sane methods were finally exhausted or rendered impractical and there was no choice but to go in after him as he went in after them in the old days before it was a matter of the safety of the client.
In their paintings and frescoes, the old masters often depicted the heads and bodies of spiritual seekers surrounded by auras, or circular halos of light.