Het altaar van het Antwerpse kuipersgilde en Quinten Massys'Bewening te Ottawa

in Oud Holland – Journal for Art of the Low Countries
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The Altar of the Antwerp Coopers' Guild and Quinten Massy In 1938 two distinguished scholars, Max J. Friedländer and Floris Prims, one a reknowned connoisseur of Early Netherlandish painting and the other an indefatigable digger in the Antwerp archives, published articles that might well have bearing on the same picture, yet have never been connected either then or later. From the evidence collected by Prims (notes 2 to 7) it appears that the Antwerp coopers, after having separated from the joiners with whom they had shared a guild until 1497, obtained an altar of their own in Our Lady's church. A picture standing on this altar is mentioned first in 1655. It is described as representing The 'Afdoening' of Our Lord from the Cross with two doors (the term 'afdoening' being used to describe a Deposition as well as a Lamentation). An inventory of 1660 gives the same description with the addition 'made by Quinten Massys'. The altar survived until about 1680, when a new marble altar with sculpture and paintings was ordered; this was completed by 1684 and the old altar-piece was hung above the entrance door of the guild room without the doors being mentioned. It was sold in 1697 when the guild had run into financial trouble. Half a century later the painter Jacob de Wit still knew of it and described it as showing 'figures smaller than life, Christ taken from the Cross with Our Lady, St Mary Magdalen and others, (....) by Quinten Massys, the second painting he did, not quite as good as the one in the Cirumcision chapel [originally on the altar of the joiners; fig. 2]; it was sold but is still in the town' (note 3,). Friedländer, for his part, concluded that the Lamentation which was to be purchased by the National Gallery of Canada in 1949 'cannot be regarded as anything but an early work by Quentin' (note I). This attribution, which had earlier been refuted by Baldass, was then disputed by Silver (note II). This author considered the Ottawa picture a somewhat later pastiche after a lost Lamentation in Massys' mature style of which a fragment in Berlin, showing s'Lamentation in Ottawa a weeping woman (wrongly called Mary Magdalen), resembles one of the mourning women in the Ottawa Lamention (fig. 7). This theory is however contradicted by the picture's quality and seems to be prompted by a mistaken reconstruction of Massys' early development (see below). Similarities between the Lamentation and other early works that can be ascribed tot Massys (figs 3 and 17) are obvious though the course of his development prior to the great altar-pieces of 1507-1511remains in many respects unclear. When attempting to bring some light to the chronology of Massys' works from about 1491 (when he left Louvain for Antwerp at the age of 25) to 1507, one may take into account three medallions that have been attributed to him, two of them being dated 1491 and one 1495 (notes 18-24). They may be loosely associated with features that recurr in the Lamentation. An Italian-style medal of William Schevez, archbishop of St. Andrews, who stayed for a few months at Louvain in 1491, raises the question of whether the same sitter may be recognised in a painted portrait, which would then be Quinten's earliest datable picture (figs 8 and 9). The portrait of the artist himself, dated 1495 (fig 10), was in great esteem and provided the prototype for a print by Jheronimus Wierix (published by Lampsonius in 1572), where the bust was extended to a half-figure; it was also copied in an oval painting that was reproduced in a work by Frans Francken II (figs. I and IIa) and it was probably that very painting which was owned by the Antwerp guild of St. Luke and was considerd an original self-portrait when it was confiscated by the French in 1794 (and subsequently disappeared). It seems likely that the medallion's date of 1495 provides a terminus post quem for the Ottawa Lamentation. A more precise date may be inferred from the obvious borrowings from the Lamentation found in a large triptych in Lisbon (figs 13 and 14). This work may be attributed to one 'Eduwart Portuga



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