ANTWERP MASTER, CIRCA 1515-20ANDJOACHIM PATINIRDINANT (?) OR BOUVIGNES CIRCA 1480 - BEFORE 5 OCTOBER 1524 ANTWERPA triptych: The Crucifixion (central panel); Saint Leonard (left wing); Augustus and the Tiburtine Sibyl (right wing)
- A triptych: The Crucifixion (central panel); Saint Leonard (left wing); Augustus and the Tiburtine Sibyl (right wing)
- bearing the coats of arms of the Imhoff and Welser families on the reverse of the wings
- oil on panel
- central panel: 78 x 56 cm.; 30 3/4 x 22 in.
wings (each): 80 x 24 cm.; 31 1/2 x 9 1/2 in.
His sale, Berlin, Cassirer, 4 December 1917, lot 93 (as South Netherlandish circa 1520), for 46000 Marks to J&S. Goldschmidt;
Henry Bromberg, at least until 1935/36;
Kunsthandel Hans Wendland together with Kunsthandel F. Kleinberger (Allen Loebl), Paris, before 20 December 1938;
With Kunsthandel Theo Hermsen, Paris;
By whom consigned, Vienna, Dorotheum, 6 June 1944, no. 217518-5, for 230,000 RM;
Adolf Hitler, for the Linz Museum;
Catalogued at Central Collecting Point, Munich, no. 4914, 4997-8, 19 July 1945 – 3 June 1949;
Allocated to the Musée du Louvre, Paris, by the Office des Biens et Intérêts Privés, 1950;
On deposit in Algiers, 1952–1961;
On deposit at Musée Crozatier, Puy-en-Velay, France, since 10 January 1966 (no. D 69-6);
Restituted in 2018 to the heirs of Henry and Hertha Bromberg.
A. Brejon de Lavergnée, J. Foucart, Catalogue sommaire illustré des peintures du musée du Louvre, Ecoles flamande et hollandaise, Paris 1979, vol. I, p. 183, reproduced;
M. Severi, ‘An Allegorical composition by Joachim Patinier,’ in Hoogsteder-Naumann Mercury, n° 10, 1989, pp. 4–10, reproduced (as originating in Patinir's studio);
C. Lesne, A Roquebert, Catalogue des peintures MNR, Paris 2004, p. 250, reproduced;
P. Fontaine, Quentin, Joachim, Joos et les autres. Un triptyque méconnu attribué à l'atelier de Joachim Patinir, Château-Chervix 2016, pp. 6–7 (as workshop of Patinir).
This triptych, like most produced in Antwerp in the early sixteenth century, is dominated by its figures which, however, are more difficult to assess than the landscape, largely due to the plethora of figure painters active in Antwerp at the time and the scant biographical information we have on them. The figures have in the past been associated with both Quinten Massys and Adriaen Isenbrandt but are here attributed to an anonymous Antwerp master. There is however a close correlation between the four protagonists of the central panel with those of Massys’ own Crucifixion in the Museum Mayer van den Bergh, Antwerp (fig. 2), as well as with the background cityscape, of which more below.1 The same is true of the figure of Christ in another panel thought to be by Massys in the National Gallery, Ottawa.2 In all three works the figure of Christ is borrowed from a Van Eyckian composition known today only through copies such as the one in Ca d’Oro, Venice.3 The drawing-in of the principal figures in each of the three separate panels of the present work is wonderfully complex, creative, and rapidly done; there is a close correlation to be made in the underdrawing of the figures (see particularly the drawing of the faces and hands of Leonard and the Virgin in figs 3 and 4) with those of the Virgin, Child, Saint Anne and Saint Sebald on the exterior of Patinir’s triptych of Saint Jerome in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.4
Patinir was not registered as a master in the Antwerp Guild of Saint Luke until 1515 and his date of birth is not known, though it is thought to have been circa 1480. Prior to becoming a master painter and starting his own workshop with several apprentices (visited by Dürer in 1520–21) scholars think it most likely that Patinir provided the backgrounds for works such as this that were being made in the city´s leading studios. Though we know of only a handful signed works by him from after 1515, and even considering that his minutely-detailed style was not conducive to rapid work, Patinir must have produced very many more works than this before his untimely death in 1524. Several leading scholars including Alejandro Vergara, curator of the only monographic exhibition on the artist in the modern era, believe that, besides his own independent works, Patinir was responsible for some of the backgrounds in works by Antwerp’s leading painters like Quinten Massys and Joos van Cleve and continued to contribute these landscapes even after becoming a master painter. This painting would appear be one such work though whether it dates prior to or post 1515 is open to debate. Dendrochronological analysis of the three sections of the triptych allows for both possibilities and indicates a date of execution any time from 1509 onwards, the last ring of the two boards making up the central panel dating to 1501 (a minimum eight years is allowed for sapwood growth, and seasoning of the boards prior to usage).5
Stylistically the landscape backgrounds of all three panels here fit well with those of signed examples by Patinir, to whom the triptych was fully attributed by Max Friedlander earlier in the twentieth century. Starting with the underdrawing we see the recognisable and extraordinarily rapid, cursory, perhaps even brash, plotting of the landscape details: trees with just a singular circular motion and mountaintops and the horizon with the most perfunctory of horizontal dashes (fig. 3). Even the city of Jerusalem, so detailed in paint, is mapped-in with extraordinary speed, Patinir giving himself only the slightest indication of where to put certain buildings and details. It is the sketching of an artist so supremely confident of his ability with brush and paint as to need only minimal help in the landscape’s preparation. And when it comes to comparing the drawing with the painting we see that Patinir has indeed only used his sketches as the merest indication of where things should be. We see precisely the same treatment in Patinir’s signed landscapes, the same circular motion for clumps of trees, cursory lines for buildings and fluidly applied marks for the horizon followed only vaguely in paint; see for example the infra-red images of the Prado’s Landscape with Saint Jerome from 1516–17 (figs 6 and 7).6 The dichotomy between the free-handling of the initial drawing and the painstaking detail of the painting must be more apparent in these works than in any of the period.
The execution in paint itself compares favourably with Patinir’s signed works too (fig. 8). We see the same treatment of the middle- and far-distant trees with their multitude of tiny pin-prick highlights to indicate the end of branches catching the light; pathways scattered with tiny pebbles and grooves; and dark clouds, painted with an idiosyncratic scumbling technique, that in almost all Patinir’s works lend a sense of impending doom to part of the scene. As for the cityscape, there are correlations with both of Massys’ aforementioned Crucifixions in Antwerp and Ottawa. No Patinir landscapes are the same, he was too inventive for that, but the same mind may be at work in these three paintings, particularly so in the Antwerp and the present panels where the essential structure of the city finds parallels: a highly detailed fortification on a steep rise to the left above a the city wall, punctuated by an array of different turrets and towers (no two in one or either painting are even remotely the same) and the city, dominated by the temple, rising towards the horizon behind. In the present example the inclusion of a windmill behind Jerusalem is an amusing reminder of the geographic contradiction between the location of the artist’s studio and the subject he is portraying.
With the Ottawa Crucifixion there is another connection worthy of mention: the background figures. In the present work these figures appear to be of a higher level of quality than the protagonists and almost certainly by a different hand. Their handling seems synonymous with that of the landscape and there is a similar correlation between their underdrawing and painted surface as that mentioned earlier for the landscape. The three figures directly between Christ and Mary appear in the same form and in the same position in the Ottawa panel, such that were it not for Patinir’s proven mastery as a painter it would seem a tracing of one would have had to have been used for the other. Looking at the underdrawing of the group in the present panel there is a very distinct creative process at play, particularly in the figure carrying the ladder who has been moved to the right and his ladder painted at a markedly flatter angle than initially intended, such that it seems highly unlikely the artist here had attempted such a figure group before (fig. 3). If infra-red imaging of the Ottawa panel were to be undertaken it may be possible to argue further the genesis of this particular figure group.
The landscapes of the two wings show two entirely different views: one being typically rural with dense vegetation, a riveted winding road such that we see in triptych of Saint Jerome in a private collection,7 a flock of sheep that is found in many Patinirs like the Louvre Saint Jerome,8 and a scattering of idiosyncratic rural buildings; the other much busier with a plethora of narrative detail: a pair of lovers wandering idly through a tunnel of vines; a fight breaking out in a town square; and ships slipping in and out of harbour beyond. The landscape of each wing connects only loosely to that of the central panel; the left inner wing only at the lower level and the right inner wing only at the upper level where the two horizon lines meet.
As for the principle subjects of the wings, though not unusual in sixteenth-century art in general, depictions of Augustus and the Tiburtine Sibyl were not so common in Antwerp painting of the period. The Tiburtine Sibyl revealed to the Emperor Augustus a vision of the Virgin and Child on the site of the future Santa Maria in Aracoeli, Rome. Saint Leonard, on the inner left wing, is much more unusual and his inclusion may in some way be connected to the specifications of the triptych’s initial patron. Leonard, a Benedictine monk, interceded on behalf of prisoners with the Frankish King of Clovis in the sixth century. He holds here in his right hand his attribute, the prisoners’ fetters.
On the front of each wing appear a coat-of-arms and a set of initials: one of the coats-of-arms is of the Imhoff family, one of the oldest patrician families of the imperial city of Nuremberg with branches in the imperial city of Augsburg and other cities; the other is that of the Welser family, another Augsburg and Nuremberg patrician family. Though the fact of the emblems’ far better state of preservation than the rest of the front of the panels would suggest they were added later, there is recorded a wedding between a Helene Welser and a Gabriel Imhoff on 4 August 1522. Commissions from southern Germany were not uncommon, indeed it is thought that Patinir’s Saint Jerome triptych in the Metropolitan Museum was one such commission given the presence of Sant Sebald, patron saint of Nuremberg, on the outer wing.
We are grateful to Alejandro Vergara for his help in the research and cataloguing of this lot.
1 See M.J. Friedlander, Early Netherlandish Painting, vol. VII, Leiden and Brussels 1971, p. 66, no. 56, reproduced plate 55.
2 Friedlander 1971, p. 61, no. 12, reproduced plate 18.
3 L. Silver, The Paintings of Quinten Massys, Oxford 1984, reproduced plate 92.
4 A. Vergara et al., Patinir, exhibition catalogue, Madrid 2007; painting reproduced p. 284, fig. 1; underdrawing reproduced p. 289, figs 9 and 10.
5 The boards from the two wings are from the same eastern Baltic oak tree and the latest growth ring present in either board along the top edge is 1484. This is heartwood, and thus an earliest plausible date of 1492 or later is indicated for the wings when allowing for removed sapwood. The two boards constituting the central panel are much thicker (which is normal), and much faster grown. They are arranged so that their latest rings are towards the centre of the panel. They are from a single tree, but different from the tree used for the wings, and are also eastern Baltic in origin. Their last ring is 1501 on the upper edge. The central panel is therefore providing an earliest plausible date of 1509 or later when allowing for removed sapwood.
6 Vergara, pp. 297 and 301, figs 3–11.
7 Vergara, p. 316 ff., cat no. 23.
8 Vergara, p. 326 ff., cat. no. 24.