Our selection of Old Masters focuses on the North European schools, favoring high age Flemish and German Renaissance painting.
We focus particular attention on Brueghel, a circle representing, in reputation, value and importance, the absolute excellence of Flemish art. We can supply various types of paintings of the Brueghel Dynasty and their circle, studied for any type of purchase.
Finally, we also offer a selection of works from the Dutch Golden Age.
Cornelis de BailleurMadonna with Child and Angels
oil on copper
1640 ca.Bailleur was a Flemish painter of sacred scenes, ornaments and “interieur du cabinet”. He was influenced by Frans Francken the Younger and by the Brueghel’s school, with his own chromatic figures and a personal and refined style. The subject was replicated several times by the author, even within wreaths or larger compositions (the comparison is obviously with the garland present in this same exhibition). The color ranges and the style bring the work closer to the results of Frans Francken the Younger. The details are also of fine workmanship: e.g. the needle held by the Madonna, the kitchen tools and the rich cradle adorned as a gothic scaffolding. Lastly, the expedient of the golden highlights that emerge from the clouds and have been placed by Bailleur as a primary pictorial layer, where the author then went on to lay out the various colored backgrounds.
Jan Brueghel II and Frans WoutersThe Three Graces with a Basket of Flowers
oil on copper, cm 47x34,7
exhibition "Brueghel. Capolavori dell'Arte Fiamminga", Turin, 21/02/2016-19/01/2017.
expertise K. ErtzJan Brueghel II (Antwerp, 13 september 1601 – 1 September 1678). Son of Jan Brueghel I, is also known by the name of Jan Brueghel the Younger. As Jan I made, he a trip to Italy where he worked for Cardinal Borromeo, before visiting the entire Peninsula and to return to Antwerp after the death of his father, who left him a legacy a flourishing workshop and a large series of paintings not completed and, as a result, completed by him also in collaboration with other authors. It was a talented speaker and continuer of the "Brueghel Style", famous for the dazzling colors, imaginative vein and the fine surface quality that distinguishes -alone- the Flemish school from all others. Assimilating fully the lesson of his father, he was able to create masterpieces of grace, composition and chromatic harmonies, giving the best collaborations with authors such as Van Balen, the Kessels and Momper, to create a division of labor that can concentrate each artist in parts of the painting more suitable for specific talents.
Jan Brueghel II and Cornelis de BailleurGarland of Flowers with Madonna, Child and Angels Oil on panel 71,4 x 65,7 cm 1630 ca.
expertise K. ErtzJan Brueghel the Younger realized many paintings dedicated to this subject: a wreath of flowers, outlined as a sort of frame, containing sacred subjects of various kinds and entrusted from time to time to specific collaborators. In this case, the jovial and anecdotal central scene is a famous composition by Cornelis de Bailleur, the talented pupil of Frans Francken who, right thanks to this subject, is famous among the lovers of Flemish painting of the seventeenth Century. The subject became very popular during the Counter-Reformation based on the baroque taste for the refined Catholic symbologies: in the work there are over thirty different floral species that, in the context of the central subject, take on a symbolic value with specific references to different Christian virtues, in particular related to the Madonna. Thus, roses symbolize purity, iris the Immaculate Conception, cyclamen the Passion of Christ, carnations the Resurrection and so on. In fact, the work is a sort of symbolic icon where space is annulled in order to leave room for intellectual and religious meditation: the dark background where images float is to be interpreted in this sense, in the light of a strongly spirituality devoted to ecstasy and meditation, without renouncing to the lyrical beauty of the object depicted as a true link between human being and the Divine. The proof is the great technical skill used on the flowers depiction, in full "Brueghel style", i.e. with vibrant colors and delicious technical skill.
Louis de CaulleryInterior scene with elegant company
oil on panel
1615 ca.According to RKD, Caullery probably came from the village of Caulery near Cambrai, but moved to Antwerp in 1594 where he trained with Joos de Momper. The date he went to Italy cannot be determined; his works prove that he did however reside in Venice, Florence and Rome. Caullery was inclined toward genre painting and dealt with a highly variety of scenes: carnivals on ice, fireworks, bull-fights, open-air collections, allegories of the five senses and meetings painted in the spirit of the Fontainebleau School. The tallness of his characters, their exquisite postures, smooth faces and bare foreheads characterize his style. His colors are highly sophisticated. Under the influence of the Italian Masters, his palette proved to be an innovation in Flanders: halftones, ocher-yellow, Veronese green and Burgundy red. His depiction of buildings shows him to be concerned with fine precision, while being very skillful at presenting perspective. He died in Antwerp. The work depicts a typical interior populated by characters dressed in elegant costumes of mannerist taste. They are focused in pleasing activities, from music to banqueting, up to the erotic allusion represented by the crimson bed on the left. The work can also be read as an allegory of the five senses, of which Caullery performed many variations, all roughly similar in style and layout and useful for stylistic comparisons. In this case, the gestures made by the various characters are to be referred to specific senses: so the food becomes the Taste and Smell, the act of touching the fruit refers to the Touch, the music to the Hearing, while the Sight is symbolized by the exchange of looks by the two characters in the center.
Jan van Kessel the ElderStudy of Insects with a Flower of Borago Officinalis
oil on copper, cm 10,4x16,2
exhibition "Brueghel. Capolavori dell'Arte Fiamminga", Turin, 21/02/2016-19/01/2017.
expertise K. ErtzJan van Kessel the Elder (Antwerp, 1626 - 1679). The maternal grandson of Jan ‘Velvet’ Brueghel, and nephew of Jan Brueghel the Younger and David Teniers, Jan van Kessel was influenced both by his illustrious family and his apprenticeship with Simon de Vos (1603 – 1676). He became a master of the Guild of St. Luke at the age of 18. As demonstrated in his abundant and remarkably varied work, he excelled as much in his small panels depicting all sorts of animals, birds, batrachians and insects as in his larger compositions which included these motifs combined with mythological or Christian subjects. His renown can also be attributed to fables and singeries, of which he painted many versions. Finally, Jan van Kessel was also one of the most brilliant floral and still life painters of the Golden Age. His work is similar to that of Daniel Seghers (1590 – 1661) and naturally became part of the trend for paintings of flowers, so highly prized by art-lovers and European collectors. The charm of his paintings executed with great rigour, according to an acute sense of observation, as well as his lively and strong palette, make Jan van Kessel one of the most appealing Flemish painters and certainly one of the most appreciated.
kerstiaen de keuninckMountain Landscape with Tobias and the Angel
oil on panel
1610-15Archaic landscape-painter of Antwerp in the style of T. Verhaecht and R. Savery. He mainly painted woody mountain landscapes with large trees and valleys, sometimes animated by small Biblical figures in the foreground. His main characteristic is the use of the light: in this painting the light across the landscape has a series of shining oblique rays which intersect the sky and create an unreal and fantastic atmosphere. Unlike Jan Brueghel the Elder, who was a leading figure in the development of realistic landscape painting, Kerstiaen de Keuninck continued the Flemish tradition of imaginary mountain scenery that descended from Patinir. This large panoramic landscape view, dominated by fantastic mountains and rock formations, is an early work of the artist and was probably painted in Antwerp. It illustrates his concern with contrasting pictorial effects—such as heavy passages of opaque paint set off against areas sketched in a very thin medium—and with bold motifs like the water spray formed by flicking the brush.
Frans Francken the YoungerThe family of Darius before Alexander
Oil on copper
1630 ca.The baroque magniloquence of the Flemish area in its full splendor: Frans Francken the Younger. The Antwerp painter was a key figure in the artistic dynamics of the great city, where artists such as Brueghel, Rubens and Van Balen worked. They were all linked by profitable collaborations with Francken, who specialized himself in the rendering of typical figures with nuanced, vibrant and swirling brushstroke and the alternation of a strong chromatic contrast between the colors chosen for the clothes and the incarnates of the characters. The scene is taken from the classical historiography and it is set as an ancient bas-relief with the presence of two action plans. Immediately on the foreground the Persian queen is depicted with dramatic emphasis while she begs mercy for herself and her children before the Macedonian leader dressed like a Turkish knight. Between them, a series of characters are depicted with dialogues and poses that are typical of the Francken II, once he reached his full stylistic autonomy. In the background, a tumultuous stream of fighters clashes against a grey cloud, which turns the knights into self-propelled statues. The burning city in the scenery is illuminated by flashes of yellow and pink light, released by the author on the copper with a quick and nervous brushstroke. It is precisely the exaltation of the pictorial material as a technical virtuosity and the ability to decline the drawing in an extreme way with the juxtaposition of saturated and gaudy colors that made Frans Francken the Younger one of the most appreciated Flemish painters of the 17th century.
Monogrammist HSThe Ill Matched Lovers with a Monk
oil on panel, cm 28x42,5.
We are grateful to Cranach Research Insitute and Dr. Peter Schmelzle to have confirmed the attribution of this work.Monogrammist HS (Active during the first part of XVII Century). Rare and enigmatic painter from Basel, a pupil of Lucas Cranach, specialized in the representation of allegorical subjects often soaked in a taste for the grotesque, erotic and enigmatic. Compared to his master, Krodel presents harsher tones, with female bodies represented in ivory color and smooth as porcelain, with the characters depicted close to their caricature, deliberately in an anti-classical and anti-Italian key.
Jasper van der LanenRiver Landscape with figures
oil on panel
1625 ca.According to the RKD he was a pupil of Nicolaas Geerts in 1607 and became master of the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke in 1615. In 1624 he married Elisabeth Rombouts and the painter Abraham Govaerts was his "witness" (best man). Both Govaerts and Van der Lanen were known for their landscapes, and the painter Frans Francken II often added staffage for them.
Jan MassysPraying Virgin
oil on panel
We would like to thank the following experts for independently confirming the paternity and the high quality of the work: Maximiliaan Martens; Peter Van Den Brink; Till-Holger Borchert; Maria Clelia Galassi. Prof. M. C. Galassi will also include the work in her forthcoming author’s monograph.Universally recognized as one of the most eminent figures of the 16th century Flemish painting, Jan was native of Antwerp and son of the famous Quantyn Massys. He spent several years away from his homeland, where he came back only from 1555 with alternating constant journeys, until his death in 1575. The pictorial style of Jan Massys is among the most singular and characteristic of the whole period, it was able to absorb the most eclectic figurative experiences and to influence some of the most widespread international pre-Mannerist languages. The "strangeness" of his style was accompanied by the eccentricity of his life, still not very documented and rich in shaded areas that make difficult to highlight a clear chronological order of his works. A stylistic basis analysis, supported by the rare signed works, establish a terminus post quem to give a direction to the author’s style: from the more traditional, of paternal inspiration, gradually towards an increasing exacerbation of styles, themes and expressive forms. Thanks to the predilection of female subjects and the way they are treated, Jan Massys can rightly be defined as the "Flemish Cranach", a perfect example of the obsession with the female world and the erotic themes which were typical of the highest international culture of late Renaissance. Furthermore it is worth to mention his supposed relations with a Flemish heretical sect, which costed him the banishment from the city of Antwerp in the 30s of the 16th Century and most probably led him travel, especially to Genoa, city where he produced some of his finest masterpieces. Our prayerful Virgin is closely connected to the pre-Anversian period, when Jan's style evolved from the paternal one, although it reveals very soon some typical features that will never abandon the author. Our painting was certainly conceived as a pendant with a Christ Blessing, probably similar to the one now kept at the Kunstmuseum in Winterthur, Switzerland. It is a useful comparison to understand the production of these devotional diptychs that always provided for the Christ / Mary couple and were intended for private clients. However, the most interesting figure is the iconographic autonomy of our Virgin who, unlike the other Jan’s paintings dating from the early period, does not appear to be a copy / derivation from a paternal prototype. It is in fact one of the first completely autonomous conceptions, linking the painting directly to the first major works, such as the Madonna and Child preserved at Palazzo Bianco in Genoa and dated 1552, the Adoration of the Child (of the same year) and the Caritas, also kept in Genoa. The female physiognomy of our Virgin is the same as the above mentioned paintings, as well as the appearance of the hair, the hairstyle and the embroidered veil. The stylistic comparison is so stringent that we can assume with a high level of certainty the date 1552 also for the execution of our painting. If this is the case, we would be facing with a fundamental document in the author's production, with an important addition to Jan Massys' catalogue of the "Genoese period". As mentioned, the question of his relations with Genoa is not entirely clear and, probably, linked to his banishment from Antwerp and his relations with those cultural circles of Gnostic inspiration that traveled underground throughout the Europe of the '500. The great masterpieces, such as the Flora currently preserved in Stockholm and bearing a detailed view of Genoa in the background, tell us about a complex universe of symbolic and intellectual relations that Jan insistently exhibits in his paintings, often through a subtly licentious and deliberately allusive style. Our Virgin, even in her most chaste attitude, denounces the Massyssian imprinting in the slight hint of the smile, in the lyrical vivacity of the eyes, animated by a changeable and enigmatic spirit, in the tapered architecture of the hands and, above all, in the porcelain complexion which characterizes the entire figure, as if we were in the presence of a statue infused with spirit and polished in the formal perfection that distinguishes a Master from a simple craftsman.
Pietro MeraThe Temptations of St. Anthony
Oil on copper
1590 - 1610 ca.He was a rare landscape painter active in Italy and documented in Venice and Florence. His style straddles the demands of international mannerism and full 17th century painting. Little information about his life is known, but from the Italian style and nickname, a strong influence of Venetian painting is deducted, also through the mediation of other Flemish painters active in Italy, such as Pozzoserrato and Paolo Fiammingo. The episode represented in this painting is the famous one narrating the Temptations of St. Anthony. The interpretation of Mera is reduced only to the presence of two characters, with the Demon represented with the features of a classical satyr. The scene is set at the entrance of a dense forest that opens onto a vividly colored celestial view, amplified by the choice of copper as a pictorial support.
The Master of the Holy BloodEcce Homo
Oil on panel
1530 ca.We thank Professor Pieter van den Brink for his valuable assistance in the attribution of the work. Superb sixteenth-century proof of Flemish art at its highest level. The Master of the Holy Blood was a close student of Quentin Massys despite the fact he was documented in Bruges and not in his native Antwerp, where it is highly likely he begun his pictorial training. The anonymous artist who takes his name from his own triptych preserved in the Basilica of the Holy Blood of Bruges was a skilled painter. He was able to synthesize elements of the tradition with the new language that brought the art of the Flemish Primitives to evolve into that of the Antwerp Mannerists. Despite his wise eclecticism, the Master shows a clear filiation from the Massys, above all for the archaic solemnity and great technical skill that he was able to crystallize in a well recognizable figurative grammar. The Master of the Holy Blood specialized himself on scenes depicting Christ and some comparisons can be made with various paintings preserved in Lisbon and Madrid, as well as with an Ecce Homo (surrounded by Mary and St. John), the latter of an inferior quality compared to our painting.
Gillis MostaertThe Entry into Jerusalem
oil on panel
Archived in RKD as Gillis Mostaert.Painter specialized in landscape technique and member of the Flemish school during the second half of the sixteenth Century. His style is always elegant, distinctive, rich in color and vibrant into the details of his various characters. He moves between influences tied to the first generation of Landscape painters (Patinir, Mandijn, etc ) and updates that the world of Brueghel was bringing in the coeval painting.
Nicolas Neufchatel (also known as Nicolas Lucidel)Portrait of Man holding a Letter Oil on panel 30,2x23,8 cm 1550 ca.
Expertise Jan de Maere.The earliest likely reference to Neufchatel occurs in the archives of the Antwerp's Guild of St. Luke, which list a 'Colyn van Nieucasteel' as a student of Pieter Coecke van Aelst in the year 1539. As a student in Antwerp, Neufchatel would have been introduced to the works of Frans Floris, Willem Key, and other masters of the 1540s. From 1561 to 1567 he lived in Nuremberg. It appears that he relocated to Germany for religious reasons, for on 23 July 1567, the city council ordered him not engage in any more Calvinist agitation. It is believed that he stayed in Nuremberg until at least 1573, the year he painted a portrait of Johan Gregor van der Schardt. After that year nothing is known of his life. Our portrait shows an evolved style and multiple stylistic influences, including a certain attention to the Italian portraiture of the 1500s. In any case, the strong naturalism of the many details that dot the character's face follows the typical Flemish attention to the naturalistic rendering of reality.
Adam van NoortMadonna and Child with Saint Joseph
>Oil on panel79,4 x 56,8 cm 1580 ca.
Archived in RKD as Adam van Noort.Defined by Van Mander in 1604 as a "very skillful painter," van Noort is part of the Flemish painting already influenced by Italian art. He was stranger to the prevailing fashion, Van Noort managed one of the most popular ateliers in Antwerp and he was able to cope with a large number of students, including those who later became great masters such as Rubens (from 1592) and Van Dyck, who also made a famous portrait of his teacher. Known for his alternating moods, his life as a libertine and, often, his violence, Van Noort was always conscious of the limitations and skills of his students, directing their careers also through the collaboration with the atelier of Otto Van Veen. His works were mainly biblical and of allegorical disobedience and portraits made for the Sint-Lucas gilde (the author was a member) have not been preserved. The work, part of the prestigious Goudstikker collection, is considered as of today one of the most significant - and certain of attribution - still in private hands. Despite the religious subject, the scene is treated with an extreme naturalism, aiming to portray a simple mother with a child in a moment of lyrical intimacy rather than something grand and academic. The sculpted cradle, together with details such as the cushion and the string of pearls on the Madonna's forehead, are remarkable for their realistic rendering. The paneggi, the incarnate and the architectures on the background, however, are clearly of Italian influence.
Isaac van OostenLandscape with hikers and knight
Oil on panel
1640 ca.Van Oosten was a famous Antwerp painter specialized in the landscape genre and considered one of the best followers of his master Jan Brueghel the Elder. Later he collaborated with Jan Brueghel the Younger (some of their works are often confused thanks to Van Osten’s high quality skills) and with other painters of the next generation, such as Jan Wildens and Willem Van Herp. His pictorial ductus, as in the case of our landscape, unfolds in an anthological way all the characteristics of the "Brueghel’s style": minuteness of the details, chromatic gradations for the division of space into zones (from warm and brown tones of the foreground up to green and the blue of the background), compositional elegance and idealization of the natural space (observable in the sinuous tree in the foreground, which divides the scene into two separate areas) and the general tone of laughing serenity that gives Nature a distinctly Arcadian meaning . We can note the exquisite workmanship in the house that can be seen on the left, depicted in every detail and finished by a series of delicate veils and, above all, on the valley of aquamarine tones that occupies the entirety of the background, populated by cows, shepherds and structures of architectural fantasy. Confused with the atmosphere of the horizon, we are able to see a dense forest.
Adriaen van OverbekeThe Ascension
Oil on panel
1516 ca.We thank Professor Pieter van den Brink for his valuable assistance in the attribution of the work. Adrian van Overbeke (formerly known as “Master of the Antwerp Crucifixion”) was the perfect embodiment of the so-called Antwerp Mannerism. He was the head of a prolific workshop which specialised in big polyptychs (altarpieces). The polyptychs were characterised by painted panels and niches filled with multi-coloured sculptures. These giant religious pieces were commonly used in northern Europe during the first half of the seventeenth century. There is proof of commissions as far as Poland and Scandinavia. Today, most of the polyptychs which have not been lost are scattered across various museums and private collections. They represent rare and valuable documentation of the most typical Flemish production of the early 1500s. Our panel, which comes from an important Roman aristocratic collection representing the Ascension of Jesus, is no exception. This work, as highlighted by Professor van den Brink, is closely related to the panels currently kept at the Bonennfanten Museum in Maastricht. Since it is larger in size than the panels of Dutch origin, this polyptych is likely linked to another example, now lost, which was intended for the Kempen Cathedral in Rhineland. Due to the recurrence of the design in the two works, it is possible to draw compelling stylistic comparisons. For instance, it is easy to draw parallels between our panel and those sold by Christie's Amsterdam in 2014 (initially attributed to the Antwerp School, but later to Van Overbeke, FIG.1) by looking at such aspects as spatial layout, facial features, colour use, the use of extravagant and elongated shapes and the details of the hands and feet. This anti-classical and exaggerated style was one of the reasons that made the Antwerp paintings popular in the early 1500s, because it balanced revivalism with a figurative language that could be easily understood by the viewer, who, as a result, was able to promptly recognise a Flemish work by its flamboyant colours, extreme poses and expressions, unrealistic and bizarre architectural and geographical settings, in the spirit of an "hyper-gothic" style which drew on technical expertise and pictorial tool typical of the Renaissance. Apart from the considerable evidence offered by the quality level (uneven in other works, due to the high number of van Overbeke's collaborators), we would like to highlight the importance of the historical and artistic rediscovery, further enhanced through the thorough process of restoration. As we can see from the pre-cleaning photo, the upper part of the painting was covered and edited, pleasing a Mediterranean taste, with the aim of diluting the overly extravagant iconographic invention. Christ's figure so curiously levitates in the air and passes from the physical universe to the timeless and metaphysical one, which emerges amidst the clouds and reveals the gold of Paradise. The figure of Christ underwent a colour change; it was covered and embedded into the opening as if it was looking out from a balcony, despite the total inconsistency with the spatial setting of the scene. Moreover, the footprints (etched in the earth, according to Christian tradition) now visible on the top of the mountain were covered as well. The thorough cleaning, which brought to light the original quality of the work - as well as the bright chromatic range that distinguishes it - helped each of the details, previously hidden and perfectly preserved under the recent layer of paint, to re-emerge. The panel, which is still the largest among the ones still in existence made by van Overbeke, is therefore unique among the works of the author and an addition to his small catalogue, thus most likely representing the only part (at least known as of today) of one of the polyptychs destined for the aforementioned European cathedrals.
Frans Pourbus IPortrait of Young Man
Oil on panel
Inscribed on the top left “1563”.We thank Professor Koenraad Jonckheere for his valuable assistance in the attribution of the work. Frans Pourbus the Elder’s portraits demonstrate remarkable powers of observation. The features of the man in our portrait, with his subtly modelled flesh, angular face, high cheekbones, long nose and heavy lidded eyes have been notably individualized. He gazes directly and somewhat seriously at the viewer, his brow furrowed and contemplative. The portrait as a whole is an astute psychological study of a man in his prime, presumably in his late twenties. This little portrait comes from a prestigious provenance, the collection of the Duke of Hamilton during XIX century and, subsequently, through somes noble properties, a patrician roman collection. All the passages of property, since 1882, are documented through the labels affixed on the back of the painting.
Erasmus Quellinus IIHoly Family
oil on canvas, cm 173x121.
published - Jean-Pierre de Bruyn, "Erasmus Quellinus", 1988. Cat. Nr. 13.Erasmus Quellinus II (1607–1678) was a Flemish painter, engraver, draughtsman and tapestry designer who worked in various genres including history, portrait, battle and animal paintings. He was a pupil of Peter Paul Rubens and was one of the closest collaborators of Rubens in the 1630s. Following Rubens’ death in 1640 he became one of the most prolific and successful painters in Flanders
Martin RyckaertRiver landscape with fishermen and farmers
oil on copper
1620 ca.Martin Ryckaert was born in Antwerp in 1587, with one arm only. His condition did not prevent him from becoming one of the most famous and skilled landscape painters of the 1600s, sometimes able to match the Brueghel’s pictorial ability and use of color. He was a friendly man, refined, sophisticated and member of the Chamber of rhetoric: his human and social characteristics are reflected in his paintings. His unmistakable style is particularly highlighted in small-format landscapes, preferably on copper, according to the most established dictates of Flemish painting. The scenes beloved by Ryckaert are all dedicated to the playful events of small villages, almost always imaginary, where a series of exquisitely anecdotal characters bustle with cheerful industriousness. The same also happens in our work, which immortalizes the passage of some peasants from one side of the river to the other.
Jan Woutersz called StapPontius Pilate washes his hands
Oil on panel cm 106,6x75,1
1630 ca.Published in A. van Schendel Jr. ‘Johannes Woutersz. Stap’, Oud Holland 56 (1937), pp. 269-282, cat.nr.1, fig.1.
Expertise F.G. Meijer.The author has chosen an unusual composition to narrate the well-known Gospel episode where the Roman prefect "washed his hands" from the imminent killing of Jesus Christ. The latter, in fact, is excluded from the scene: all the attention is focused on the character with a turban and his assistant. The assistant, as written in Hebrew on the edge of the cap, is a member of the Sanhedrin who is inciting Pilate. The coat of arms with the eagle at the top of the throne is a reference to the Roman Empire. Stap is an anomalous figure in the panorama of Dutch painting of the early 1600s. Precisely because of his archaic choices, he was for a long time considered a painter of the prime 1500, until some archive researches clarified his biography. The crimson drapery and the markedly broken lines do not allow the Stap to be compared neither to the Caravaggio’s style nor to authors such as Jan Lievens, although some compositional comparison has been suggested with regard to the painting herein. It is also important to recall the late-mannerism cultural climate and Abraham Bloemaert's artistic lesson for the Holland of the early 17th century, although it is very difficult to put the Stap into a defined current (and perhaps we could easily consider him a "late spiritual student of the Massys" ). In any case, the work is considered among the most important made by the artist and boasts the publication on the only specialist study ever conducted on this eye-catching Dutch painter. Besides the already mentioned symbolic references, the work is at the same time a great essay of naturalism in the details rendering (such as the wrinkles of the hands, the hair, the beards, the metallic basin) and a fascinating chromatic spectacle: where the red of Pilate's mantle and the luminous white of the turban contrast with the central shadow point from which the hands and the water jug emerge. The swirl of symbolically characterized hands is made with a dazzling coloristic quality that further accentuates the great quality of a capital work in the author's catalog.
Jan VermeulenA Vanitas Still Life of a Mirror, Skull, Books, Recorder and a Violin
Oil on oak panel 42.5 x 55.5 cm
Signed with initials on the sheet music: “VMj”The enigmatic Haarlem painter Jan Vermeulen specialized in this particular type of vanitas still life, featuring a skull, books, hourglass and music instruments placed on a wooden or stone ledge as customary ingredients. A wooden table, partly bedecked with a blue cloth and placed in an ill-defined space, carries a limited assortment of vanitas items. At extreme left is an octagonal mirror in an ebony frame in which we see the reflection of the human skull and violin with its bow, balancing on it. Three books are standing against the back wall, an hourglass beside it. The skull sits on a crumpled booklet of sheet music and catches strong light issuing from the left. Beneath it are some letters or documents. An enormous wax seal that is suspended from one of these documents provides a red accent. A soprano recorder with a brass sheath reinforcing the mouthpiece is depicted in foreshortened perspective and protrudes in the beholder’s direction.