Jan van Scorel
- Jan van Scorel
- Portrait of a gentleman, wearing a fur-lined cloak and a black hat
- oil on panel
- 84.2 x 67 cm.; 33 1/4 x 26 3/8 in.
From whose estate acquired in 1905 with the help of Max J. Friedländer by Consul Eduard F. Weber, Hamburg;
His sale, Berlin, Lepke, 20–23 February 1912, lot 99 (as Joos van Cleve), for 67,000 Reichsmarks to Kommerzienrat Bromberg;
Martin Bromberg, Hamburg;
By descent to Henry and Hertha Bromberg, Hamburg;
With F. Kleinberger (Allen Loebl), Paris, before 20 December 1938 (sold under duress by the above);
With Victor Mandl, Wiesbaden, 1939;
With Georges Wildenstein, Paris, 1939;
With Yves Perdoux, Paris, 22 February 1941;
With Galerie Maria Almas Dietrich, Munich, 22 February 1941 – March 1941, bought for 18.750 RM (Provision Paul A. Jurschewitz, inv. no. 59);
Sold by the above to the Reichskanzlei, Berlin for 35.000 RM, intended for the proposed Führermuseum in Linz ('Sonderauftrag Linz'), March 1941 (inv. no. 1557);
Discovered by the Allied 'Monuments Men' in the salt mines at Alt-Aussee, Austria in 1945 (inv. no. 3065);
Transferred to the Munich Central Collecting Point, 15 July 1945 (inv. no. 4416);
Restituted to the French state, Musées Nationaux Récupération, 3 June 1949 (inv. no. 387);
Dépot de l’État of the Musée du Louvre, Paris, 1950–1960;
From where deposited at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Chambéry, 1960;
Restituted in 2016 to the heirs of Henry and Hertha Bromberg.
F. Winkler, Die Altniederländische Malerei, Berlin 1924, p. 330, reproduced fig. 196 (as C. van Cleve);
Schedule ‘A’ – List of French Property from Central Collecting Point Munich, 3 June 1949, p. 15;
O. Benesch, ‘Jan Vermeyen als Bildnismaler’, in Münchner Jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst, VI, 1929, p. 215 (as Vermeyen);
G. Glück, ‘Bildnisse aus dem Hause Habsburg: I. Kaiserin Isabella,’ in Jahrbuch der Kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien, VII, 1933, p. 197 (as Vermeyen);
M.J. Friedländer, Die Altniederländische Malerei, vol. XII, Berlin and Leiden 1935, p. 207, no. 387B (as possibly by Jan van Scorel);
R. Bacou et al., Le XVIe siècle européen: Peintures et dessins dans les collections publiques françaises, exhibition catalogue, Paris Petit Palais, 1965–66, p. 324 (as Vermeyen);
E. Brochhagen et al., Alte Pinakothek München Katalog I: Deutsche und niederländische Malerei zwischen Renaissance und Barock, Munich 1973, pp. 68–69, under no. 739;
Catalogue Sommaire (Musée d’art et d’histoire, Chambéry), vol. I, 1979, p. 180 (as Joos van Cleve);
J. Aubert and P. Dumas, Musée d’art et d’histoire, Chambéry. Peintures, Chambéry 1982, p. 30, reproduced in colour p. 31 (as Joos van Cleve, circa 1530);
J. Horn, Jan Cornelisz Vermeyen painter of Charles V and his conquest of Tunis, Doornspijk 1989, 2 vols, vol. I, pp. 65–66, n. 63;
Portrait, exhibition catalogue, Réunion des Musées Nationaux 2001, pp. 283–84, reproduced p. 134.
This imposing portrait of a gentleman looking resolutely out over our left shoulder has been recently attributed to Jan van Scorel, perhaps the most influential Netherlandish artist of the 1520s and 1530s. Infra-red imaging has revealed the key clues to Van Scorel’s authorship, and the painting comes to the market for the first time since the Second World War having been discovered by the Allied 'Monuments Men' in the salt mines at Alt-Aussee in 1945 and restituted in 2016 to the heirs of Henry and Hertha Bromberg.
Though his legs are out of view, this monumental figure stands astride, anchored firmly in place, one hand grasping a pair of leather gloves, the other the hilt of his sword. He is of commanding stature, heavy-set, strong and steadfast. His rich clothing, especially the thick, fur-lined, silken jacket that billows around him, identifies him as a gentleman of significant wealth. His clothing spills over the full width of the picture plane. His stern demeanour recalls those of the artist’s Jerusalem pilgrims.1 His hat, with flaps covering both ears, is of a type associated with both gentlemen and sometimes clergymen; nothing else in this portrait hints at his identity.2
Jan van Scorel was one of the first Netherlandish artists to visit Italy and his return north from there marked a major turning point in Netherlandish painting. After a three-year apprenticeship in Haarlem he became the assistant of Jacob Cornelisz.van Oostsanen in Amsterdam and, shortly after, studied with Jan Gossaert in Utrecht who had arrived there in 1517 with his patron Philip of Burgundy. In the same year Van Scorel left on his longest journey, not returning until 1524. He travelled widely through Germany and Corinthia, studying for a while with the aged Albrecht Dürer in Nuremberg, before crossing the Alps to Venice. From there he set off for the Holy Land via Malta and Cyprus and several of his sketches from this part of his trip have survived (e.g. British Museum). Returning to Italy he went to Rome where under the Dutch Pope Adrian VI he was appointed Curator of the Vatican collections in the Belvedere. Following the Pope’s death he returned home finally in 1524 having spent a few years in Rome absorbing the lessons of Raphael and Michelangelo.
Back in Utrecht Scorel built an industrious workshop that would dominate the pictorial tradition of that city, and in fact much of the northern Netherlands, for several decades. His workshop practice has been studied at length, particularly by Molly Ann Faries, and our understanding of his design process, both in drawing out compositions and transferring them to (idiosyncratically) prepared panels, is now much improved. The freehand underdrawing we see in this portrait (fig. 1) is typical and is synonymous with several other portraits by Scorel that have undergone similar technical examination. Comparison, for example, with another recently discovered portrait by the artist of Jodocus Aemsz. van der Burch is particularly pertinent, the two portraits sharing rapidly applied series of lines in black chalk denoting just the key features, contours and ridges of the sitters’ face and hands with many changes to these contours made in the final paint layers.3 Some of the drawing is in fact so rapid as to seemingly have been almost completely ignored by the brush (see for example the sitter’s proper right hand). Another similarity to be found in the underdrawing of both portraits is the long curves on one side of the fur collar and zigzag hatching along the edge of the other side. Scorel’s drawing technique is defined by its exclusively linear quality, there being few if any instances of the standard Flemish technique of cross-hatching to denote shade. The portrait of Van der Burch is dated 1541 and a similar date of execution may be argued for the present portrait.
In the painting of the face we see here the typical planarity of Scorel, as opposed to the more sculptural modelling of some of his contemporaries such as Gossaert, even if the usually sharper contour edges have softened somewhat through the aging translucency of the paint layers and the series of old retouchings that render the lines and contours of (especially) the proper left-hand side of the face less angular and less crease-like than they must once have been. The white, slightly flesh-coloured, ground layer is consistent with the technique used in other autograph works. The use of a pink-coloured ground is a technique Scorel may have adopted from his stay in Italy, like his approach to underdrawing in using freely applied black chalk; he was probably the first artist to use both techniques in the Netherlands and these began to be used more widely there from about 1525.
The use of Infra-red imaging, by which we can study the underdrawing of such a portrait, has helped enormously in the re-attribution of numerous works over the past few decades. The greater translucency of certain areas of paint in this portrait in fact reveals areas of the underdrawing to the naked eye and these may have been visible even a hundred years ago when this portrait first entered the literature. However, without the benefit of infra-red imaging, underdrawing was given scant regard by early and mid-twentieth century scholars who, unlike today’s specialists, weighted attributions to a far greater degree on the painted surface. Infra-red imaging of this portrait was only carried out for the first time in early 2017 (see fig. 1) but as early as 1935 Max J. Friedländer had recognised the style of Jan van Scorel in the painted portrait. Previously, by Otto Benesch and Gustav Glück, and indeed subsequently, the painting was attributed to Jan Cornelisz. Vermeyen as well as to Joos van Cleve and his son Cornelis van Cleve (the latter two attributions a fate that temporarily befell many a Van Scorel and Vermeyen).4
For a long time in the early twentieth century the portrait had been considered associated to a group of similar portraits by Jan Cornelisz. Vermeyen, including the impressive Portrait of a man in the Akademie der bildenden Kunste, Vienna and the Portrait of Chancellor Jean de Carondelet in the Brooklyn Museum, New York.5 In 1935 Friedländer catalogued it in his chapter on Van Scorel, associating it with a portrait in the Alte Pinakothek previously thought to be by Joos van Cleve and more latterly (from 1958 onwards) by Vermeyen (indeed it is listed under Vermeyen in the museum) but not considered to be by Vermeyen by Horn.6 For that portrait, which has only been seen in Friedländer’s small black and white illustration by the present author, several other scholars had also thought of Van Scorel, including Ludwig von Baldass and Gustav Glück. It may be that a closer association between the two works can be made in the future.
We are very grateful to Dr Molly Ann Faries for her assistance in the research of this portrait. Dr Faries, who has only studied photographs and the infra-red imaging of this work, proposed and supports the attribution to Van Scorel with certain reservations. We are also grateful to Prof. Till Holger Borchert for supporting the attribution following first hand inspection.
1. Friedländer 1935, nos 344–47, plates 184–85.
2. See for example Jan Cornelisz. Vermeyen’s Portrait of a Clergyman; Horn 1989, vol. II, no. A113.
3. Sold New York, Christie’s, 14 April 2016, lot 113 (as Vermeyen but subsequently reattributed to Scorel).
4. See for example Horn 1989, vol. II, no. A113; vol. I, p. 97, n. 379.
5. Horn 1989, vol. II, nos A20 and A19 respectively.
6. Friedländer 1935, no. 387a, reproduced plate 201.