Lot 8
  • 8

Ambrosius Benson

100,000 - 150,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Ambrosius Benson
  • The Crucifixion, with scenes from the Passion beyond
  • oil on panel, arched top


With Kunsthandel St. Lucas, The Hague, 1932;
With Katz, The Hague and Dieren;
Dr. C. ten Horn, Nijmegen;
With J.H. Borghouts, Utrecht;
A. van Stolk-Carp, Wassenaar, by circa 1950, probably purchased from the above;
Thence by inheritance to the present owner.


Laren, Singer Museum, Niederlandse Primitieven, 1 July – 10 September 1961 (as Ambrosius Benson and where lent by J.S.H.M. van Stolk-Carp).
With an old, damaged, undecipherable Rijksmuseum exhibition label on the reverse.


P. Koomen, Maanblad voor Beeldende Kunsten, 1932, vol. IX, 6, pp. 187–88, reproduced p. 188;
G. Marlier, Ambrosius Benson et la Peinture à Bruges au Temps de Charles-Quint, Damme 1957, pp. 95–96, 291, cat. no. 33, reproduced plate X.


The following condition report is provided by Hamish Dewar who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: Structural Condition The panel has been cradled and this has successfully secured the vertical panel join which is approximately 16 cm in from the right edge. There is very slight blistering in some areas and localised structural consolidation would therefore be beneficial. These areas of slight blistering are very minor. Paint Surface The paint surface has very uneven and discoloured varnish layers and should be transformed by cleaning. Inspection under ultra-violet light confirms how discoloured the varnish layers have become and shows minimal spots of inpainting. There are two thin vertical lines running up from the lower horizontal edge, further small retouchings along the lower framing edge and in the lower left and lower right corners. There are only the most minimal spots of inpainting identifiable under ultra-violet light. These are on the main body of the composition and small scattered retouchings in the sky above the cross and on the upper arched edge of the panel. There is a suggestion of much earlier retouching along the vertical panel join and there may well be other retouchings beneath the old opaque varnish layers which are not identifiable under ultra-violet light. There are some tiny flecks of paint loss either side of Christ's left arm and a further small loss on the upper edge of the arched panel. Summary The painting would therefore appear to be in essentially very good condition, with the fine detail of the composition being well preserved and the painting has the potential to be transformed by cleaning.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

Marlier dates this Crucifixion to 1528–30, comparing it to the Deposition in Liège from the same period. It calls on a number of influences and beautifully illustrates the scope of the transmission and sharing of motifs and ideas between and amongst Flemish artists in Bruges, Antwerp and Brussels around the year 1530.  

The figure of Christ is ultimately borrowed from Rogier van der Weyden’s Crucifixion now in Vienna in which He appears with head slumped onto His right shoulder, knees bent, His right foot placed over His left.1 Benson used this figure type in another work of the same subject now in the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts in Brussels.2 There is a distinct David-ian influence in the protagonists at the foot of the cross, the Saint John supporting the fainting Mary recalling the same figures to the left of David’s own Crucifixion in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.3 The detailed background landscape is loosely based on Memling’s Passion in Turin. It is, however, painted in a distinct manner, quite different from the smoothly rendered principal figures that are so typical of Benson and the Bruges school, and recalls certain painters active in Antwerp during the same period. The group of figures to the right, fighting over Saint Joseph’s mantle, are also distinct from the protagonists and may be by the same hand as the landscape. Marlier noted in their execution a resemblance to the work of Bernard van Orley.

We are grateful to Peter van den Brink for endorsing the attribution of the principal figures to Benson. Till Holger Borchert, however, while noting the evident quality of the painting, sees influences from the styles of Benson, Adriaen Isenbrandt and Jan Provoost and so prefers not to commit to an attribution, considering it a production of the Bruges school, circa 1530–40.

1 M.J. Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting, vol. II, Leiden 1967, p. 62, cat. no. 11, reproduced plates 18 and 19.
2 M.J. Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting, vol. XI, Leiden 1974, p. 95, cat. no. 248, reproduced plate 167.
3 M.W. Ainsworth, Gerard David, New York 1998, reproduced p. 123, fig. 125.