Frans Pourbus the Elder and Workshop
- Frans Pourbus the Elder and Workshop
- Christ among the Doctors
- oil on panel
- 44 3/8 by 54 in.; 112 by 137.2 cm.
Anonymous sale, Munich,Weinmüller Münchener Kunstversteigerungshaus, 26 June 1963, lot 1149 (as Willem Key);
Private collection, Germany;
With Galerie Bodan, Konstanz, 1968;
Private collection, Germany;
Anonymous sale, London, Christie's, 14 December 2001, lot 8 (as Circle of Frans Pourbus the Elder);
Private collection, New York.
Charleroi, Exposition de Charleroi, 1911, no. 71 (as Lambert Lombard).
S. Bergmans, "Le triptyque de Viglius d'Aytta de François Pourbus 'van die beroerlycke tyden,'" in Revue Belge D’Archéologie et D’Histoire de L’Art, IX, 1939, p. 211;
S. Bergmans, La Peinture Ancienne, Ses Mystères-Ses Secrets, Brussels 1952, pp. 47-48;
S. Bergmans, "Deux oeuvres retrouvés de François Pourbus l'Ancien: a) Volet de triptyque, en revers: Saint Légier; b) La premère version du triptyque de Viglius s'Aytta," in Revue Belge d'Archéologie et d'Histoire de l'Art, XXXVI, 1967, 1-4, pp. 3-16, reproduced fig. 6;
G. Brackez, Fran Pourbus de Oudere (1545-1581) Een Blik op Zijn Leven en Oeuvre, 2011-2012, masters dissertation, University of Ghent, Belgium, pp. 81-82, cat. no. A66.
The primary difference among these two paintings lies in the number and identity of the figures that surround the high-priest at center. Bergmans, who dates the present painting to circa 1566-1567, suggests that the revisions were a response to Viglius' demands to change the figures included in the composition in order to align himself with the fluctuating politics of the late 1560s and early 1570s. Because Pourbus was already far along in the present design, to meet the demands of his patron, he and his workshop likely abandoned the composition of the present work to start afresh with that of the altarpiece now in Ghent. For example, Charles de Lorraine (Cardinal of Guise) appears to the right of the priest in the present work. He was active at the 1561 Colloquy of Poissy, but towards the end of the 1560s he had fallen out of favor with many of the courts of Northern Europe, most notably being expelled from Catherine de Medici's in 1570. In the final Viglius Triptych, he seems to be replaced with Jacques Hessels, a member of the Council of Troubles, a powerful group assembled in 1567 to denounce religious and political incendiaries of the era.1
The argument for this work as a collaboration between Pourbus himself and his workshop is further supported by the visible pentimenti throughout the panel, such as the position of the figure standing in the left foreground. Inspection under IRR reveals the outlines of two additional figures, one kneeling in the lower right and one standing at center, changes that reveal how Pourbus was actively working through the composition (fig. 1). At the time of its 2001 sale, the present work was sold with a certificate from Jan de Maere dated 10 December 1999, which stated his belief that this is an autograph work by Pourbus, left incomplete at the time of his death and later finished by his studio.
1. See Bergmans, 1967, in Literature.