109
109
Attributed to Willem Key
RECTO: THE ADORATION OF THE MAGI VERSO: THE VISITATION
JUMP TO LOT
109
Attributed to Willem Key
RECTO: THE ADORATION OF THE MAGI VERSO: THE VISITATION
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

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Attributed to Willem Key
BREDA CIRCA 1515/6 - 1568 ANTWERP
RECTO: THE ADORATION OF THE MAGI VERSO: THE VISITATION

Catalogue Note

We are grateful to Prof. Koenraad Jonckheere and Prof. Till-Holger Borchert for endorsing the close connection of this painting to the early work of Willem Key. Prof. Jonckheere identifies the Christ Child here as the type employed by Key in paintings dating particularly to the first part of his career, such as The Holy Kinship in the Museo di Castelvecchio, Verona, signed and dated 1548.1 Key is known to have included portraits of his patrons (and himself) in paintings such as The Last Supper in the Dordrechts Museum, Dordrecht,2 and the figure behind Balthazar here, wearing a cap and fur collar, would certainly appear to be such a portrait historié.

This painting also has much in common with two works associated with Frans Pourbus the Elder (1545–81), most notably the panel depicting the Adoration of the Magi from the large, polyptych Hemelsdale Altarpiece in the church of St. Gilles, Bruges, dated 1564, attributed to Frans and his father, Pieter Pourbus.3 The Virgin and Child, the figures behind them, and many of the details - such as the elephant peeking out of the background - are almost identical to those in the present panel, the painted reverse of which indicates that it was also once a wing from a larger scheme. Many of the same figures and details appear in another Adoration, signed by Frans Pourbus the Elder and also dated 1564, which was last sold at Koller, Zurich, 19 September 2014, lot 3032.

Prof. Jonckheere dates the present work to the 1540s, or possibly early 1550s, however, which excludes the possibility of Frans Pourbus' authorship, tentatively suggesting that this panel may have inspired the Hemelsdale composition. Pourbus, who spent time in Antwerp as a pupil, was certainly acquainted with Adriaen Thomas Key, Willem's distant relative and pupil, and the two are known to have exchanged works, which may account for Pourbus' knowledge of this design.

1 Inv. no. 5553-1B0248; see K. Jonckheere, Willem Key (1516–1568). Portrait of a Humanist painter, Turnhout 2011, pp. 152–54, cat. no. A77, reproduced in colour p. 153.
2 See Jonckheere 2011, pp. 142–45, cat. no. A72, reproduced in colour p. 143.
3 See P. Huvenne, Pierre Pourbus. Peintre brugeois 1524–1584, exh. cat., Bruges 1984, pp. 171–72, cat. no. 8, reproduced in colour pp. 170–71.

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