PROPERTY FROM A SPANISH PRIVATE COLLECTION
The beautiful open landscape which helps bind the scene is typical of Isenbrant's work, and may be paralleled, for example, in his Virgin and Child and saints in a landscape today in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich.2 The figures in the present triptych, however, lack both the distinctive sfumato modelling that is so characteristic of Isenbrant's work, and the monumentality and sympathy for individual character that is so in evidence in the Cluny altarpiece. Their style combines a number of different strands of influence within the Bruges school, from the work of Jan Provoost (1462–1525) and Gerard David to that of Isenbrant and to a lesser extent the Lombard Ambrosius Benson (c.1495–1550) who became a Master in Bruges in 1519. The design seems also to have influenced the Antwerp painter Marcellus Coffermans (1520–75), whose own signed Assumption of the Virgin of 1562 in the Art Institute of Chicago echoes many of its features.
The subject of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary is taken not from scripture, but from Jacobus da Voragine's Golden Legend, the most important of the texts that appeared with the cult of the Virgin in the thirteenth century. This recounts the apocryphal story of how Christ came to the Apostles as they sat beside the Virgin's tomb, together with St. Michael who brought and restored Mary's soul to her body: 'And anon the soul came again to the body of Mary, and issued gloriously out of the tomb, and thus was received in the heavenly chamber, and a great company of angels with her.'
Don Félix Fernandez Valdés was a passionate art collector, and assembled one of the finest collections of Old Master paintings in Spain during the mid-20th century, which was housed at his home in Gran Via in Bilbao in northern Spain. Among his acquisitions were Murillo's Saint Joseph and the Christ Child sold in these Rooms on 4 December 2013, and Francisco de Zurbaran's Saint Anthony Abbot, today in the Fondo Cultural Villar Mir Collection in Madrid.
1 P. Lorentz, 'Adrien Isenbrant (et Gérard?): le triptyque de l'Assomption de la Vierge', in Revue du Louvre, vol. 54, 2004, no. 5, pp. 16–18.
2 M.J. Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting, vol. XI, Leyden and Brussels 1974, p. 88, no. 184, reproduced pl. 137.
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