- Pieter Claeissens the Elder
- Recto:The Visitation; Verso: A Bishop Saint
- oil on panel
The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, firstname.lastname@example.org, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's.
This double sided work on panel has recently been stabilized on both sides. Both sides have shown instability to the paint layer in the past, and the surfaces are a little uneven as a result. The panel is flat. There are no visible unrestored losses.
The composition with the figure in white shows no restorations at all in his face. There are some slightly broad retouches in his robes and in the fabric he is holding. There are also spots of retouching in the dark background. On the other side, a few retouches have been added in the darker colors of the clothing of the two figures, in the cheek of the older woman on the right, and in the younger woman on the left.
If the work is cleaned, it is possible that older restorations may become apparent. The work would improve if it were cleaned and the unevenness to the surfaces resolved, but it can also be hung as is.
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Pieter Claeissens the Elder presided over a family of successful painters that would be active into the seventeenth century, all of whom enjoyed continual commissions in their native Bruges beginning in 1530, the year in which Pieter became a registered master in the Bruges gild. Claeissens’ style finds parallel in the work Pieter Pourbus, with whom he shared renown during the final flourishing of the golden age of Bruges painting in the sixteenth century.
One side of the present panel depicts the Visitation, a specific composition which Claeissens returned to in a signed version that has yet to be located but is known from photographs. The incredibly free and spirited underdrawing beneath the present version, with its multitude of pentimenti in the face, hands, and drapery of both Anne and the Virgin, suggest that it may be the prime version of the composition.
The technique of the underdrawing (fig. 1) can similarly be compared with other preparatory marks from known Claeissens’ works, for example a signed Saint John at Patmos (private collection) and a Saint Ursula in the Museo de Belles Artes in Oviedo. In each case Claeissens employs a completely distinctive frenzied underdrawing approach, while also utilizing a characteristic pattern of short and long parallel lines to denote shaded areas.
We are grateful to Anne van Oosterwijk for endorsing the attribution to Claeissens, based on examination of the IRR images and color digital photographs.