Lot 152
  • 152

Jan van Dornicke, formerly known as "The Master of 1518"

450,000 - 550,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Jan van Dornicke, formerly known as "The Master of 1518"
  • Triptych with the Adoration of the Magi, Nativity and Flight into Egypt

  • oil on panel


Probably Robert Finck, Brussels;
H. Barcilon, Paris;
From whom acquired by the present owner.


G. Marlier, La Renaissance flamande: Pierre Coeck D'Alost, Brussels 1966, pp. 136-138, reproduced fig. 62.

Catalogue Note

Jan van Dornicke, sometimes alternately refered to as Jan Mertens the Younger, is thought to be the given name of the artist first identified as the Master of 1518 by Friedlander in 1915.  One of the Antwerp Mannerists, a group of largely anonymous artists active in Antwerp at the beginning of the 16th century who freely blended both Italianate and more traditional Northern themes, Friedlander noted the Master using the date inscribed on the painted wings of a carved wooden altarpiece depicting the Life of the Virgin in the Marienkirche, Lübeck, and grouped a body of work around this altarpiece based on their stylistic similarities to it.  In addition to the crisp focus, lively narratives and animated figures characteristic of the Antwerp Mannerists as a group, the Master of 1518's work is characterized by its vivid coloration, sense of structure and delicate style. 

Jan van Dornicke was the father-in-law, and likely also the teacher of Pieter Coecke van Aelst (1502-1550), who married Dornicke's daughter Anna before 1526.  It is Coecke van Aelst's work that allows for the association of Dornicke with the Master of 1518, as he seems to have borrowed a number of compositions, including the present version of the Adoration, from his father-in-law.  Since Friedlander's first identification, the connection of Dornicke with the Master of 1518 has gained scholarly traction, and Marlier published the present work in 1966 as by "Jan van Dornicke (Maître de 1518)," (see lit.). 

The central panel of the present triptych depicts one of the favorite subjects of the Antwerp Mannerists.  The Adoration of the Magi allowed them to indulge in the depiction of rich costumes and elaborate architectural settings, and Dornicke has given himself over fully to the sumptuous vestments and grand gestures of his three kings.  Caspar, who kneels before the Virgin and Child, is represented bald and beardless, his red velvet cape and elaborately gilt sword hilt becoming a focal point of the composition.  Behind him, Melchior doffs his hat and proffers his gift of gold, while Balthasar stands in an exaggerated contraposto stance.  Dressed in white silk, gilt armor, jewels and a magnificent red hat, he resembles a fantastically draped statue.  The humble setting of the manger has been replaced by an architectural setting, complete with engaged columns, marble tile floor and a velvet and brocade covered throne.  These same themes are continued in the wings of the triptych, with the Nativity pictured on the left and Flight into Egypt on the right.  The carving on the column in the Nativity and the painted fresco occupying the area around the arches above it, are indicative of the Italian influences in Dornicke's work, while the depiction of the Holy Family actively fleeing, with Mary and the Child astride their donkey and Joseph leading them, adds to the narrative content of the scene.