oil on panel
support: h 61 cm × w 42.5 cm
oil on panel
support: h 61 cm × w 42.5 cm
The panel consists of two vertically grained oak planks (12.5 and 29.5 cm), 0.4-1.0 cm thick, and is bevelled on all sides. The four blocks along the join on the back side of the support are later additions. Dendrochronology has shown that the youngest heartwood ring was formed in 1506. The panel could have been ready for use by 1517, but a date in or after 1531 is more likely. The white ground was applied up to the edges of the panel. A second ground layer or 'imprimatura' and the paint layers were, however, applied when the support was fixed into the frame as there are remains of a barbe and unpainted edges on all sides. The underdrawing consists of contour lines and hatchings for the figures and architectural setting in a dry medium, probably black chalk (fig. a, fig. b). The Virgin and Child were reserved. The paint layers were applied in the traditional precise painting technique of the Flemish Primitives, with thick glazes in the shadows. The underdrawing for the architectural ornaments were followed precisely in the paint layers. Some small alterations can be noted in the outline of the folds and body of the Christ Child, who was moved a little to right relative to the reserve during the painting process.
Good. There are some small losses along the join, and raised paint in the red dress. The varnish is slightly discoloured.
…; from the dealer John Smith (1771-1855), £ 250, to Thomas Baring (1799-1873) 2nd Baronet of Northbrook, London and Stratton Park, Hampshire, 1851;1 his nephew, Thomas George Baring (1826-1904), 1st Earl of Northbrook, Stratton Park, Hampshire;2 his son, Francis George Baring (1850-1929), 2nd Earl of Northbrook, 42 Portland Square, London, or Stratton Park, Hampshire; from whom to the dealers Knoedler and P. & D. Colnaghi, London, 1929;3 from P. & D. Colnaghi, London, 6,000 gns, Isaäc de Bruijn (1872-1953), Spiez and Muri, near Bern, 1929;4 donated to the museum by Isaäc de Bruijn and his wife, Johanna Geertruida de Bruijn-van der Leeuw (1877-1960), Spiez and Muri, near Bern, 1949, but kept in usufruct;5 transferred to the museum, 1961
Object number: SK-A-4045
Credit line: De Bruijn-van der Leeuw Bequest, Muri, Switzerland
Copyright: Public domain
Adriaen Isenbrant (? c. 1485/90 - Bruges 1551), attributed to
Nothing is known about Adriaen Isenbrant’s place of birth or the training he received, although in the 17th century both Buchelius and Sanderus said that he was taught by Gerard David. The city accounts show that he came to Bruges in 1510, acquired citizenship that year, and according to the membership roll registered as a master painter with the image-makers and saddlers’ guild on 29 November.
Isenbrant must have married Maria Grandeel shortly after becoming a burgess, for their only child died in 1512. After Maria died in 1537 Isenbrant married Clementine de Haerne. He served as an official of the guild, occupying the post of warden no fewer than nine times between 1516 and 1548, and was governor in 1527-28 and 1537-38.
Isenbrant is only known to have had one pupil, Cornelius van Callenberghe, who was apprenticed to him in 1520. That same year he was paid for his work on the temporary decorations for Emperor Charles V’s joyous entry into Bruges. In 1545 he was commissioned to make a copy of the banner of the goldsmiths’ guild. The original was damaged in the process, and Isenbrant was ordered to pay compensation. There are also several documents which indicate that he was mainly active as a supplier of small paintings for the open market. In or before 1549, for instance, he sent a large batch of small works to the Antwerp dealer Marc Bonnet, who sold them there. Isenbrant died in 1551 and was buried in St James’s churchyard. He had become a prosperous man, and left four houses in his will.
There are no documented paintings by Isenbrant. The Diptych with Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows formed the basis for Hulin de Loo’s first hypothetical reconstruction of the artist’s oeuvre in 1902. It is better known as the Van de Velde Diptych, having been commissioned by the Bruges burgomaster Joris van de Velde.6 Only a few of the paintings attributed to Isenbrant are dated, one of them being the Portrait of Paulus de Nigro of 1518.7 The lost Brömse Triptych, formerly in Lübeck, was executed in the same year.8 The triptych with The Assumption in a private collection,9 the triptych of 1518 and the above-mentioned diptych of 1521 are among the few monumental works attributed to the artist. Many of the smaller paintings attached to his name exist in several versions or variants, and in this respect his proposed oeuvre is related to that of Bruges contemporaries like Gerard David and Ambrosius Benson. He also used prints by Dürer and Schongauer, and deliberately harked back to illustrious predecessors in Bruges like Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling. He was also indebted to Jan Gossaert, whose ‘Malvagna triptych’ he copied.10 The paintings attributed to Isenbrant display elegant if rather thin figures with relatively small heads and very narrow mouths. Sfumato is one of his characteristics.
Wilson recently questioned the oeuvre attributed to Isenbrant, and expressed serious doubts about its unity. In her opinion it has fused different anonymous workshops within the school of Gerard David into a fictitious whole. She attributes the core of the works given to Isenbrant to the Master of the Van de Velde Portraits.
Buchelius 1583-1639 (1928), pp. 53-54; Sanderus 1641-44 (1735), I, p. 180; Friedländer in Thieme/Becker XIX, 1926, pp. 245-46; Friedländer XI, 1934, pp. 79-101; Parmentier 1939, pp. 229-65; ENP XI, 1974, pp. 44-58; Wilson 1983, pp. 1-18; Wilson 1995, pp. 1-17; Van Passel in Turner 1996, XVI, pp. 69-71; Borchert in Bruges 1998, I, pp. 120-22
(Lars Hendrikman/Jan Piet Filedt Kok)
The Virgin, seated in a niche that fills the picture surface and is lavishly decorated with Renaissance motifs, is supporting the almost nude Christ Child on her right arm. He has wrapped his left arm around her neck and is cupping her chin with his right hand as he presses his face up against hers. The poses and interaction of the Virgin and Child are a late reflection of the so-called Madonna of Cambrai, a Byzantine type known as the Elousa, or Virgin of Tenderness, which was regarded as a work by St Luke himself in the second half of the 15th century.11
Before acquiring its present attribution to Isenbrant the panel went under the name of Hans Memling when it was in the Baring collection.12 Waagen then gave it to Jan Jansz Mostaert,13 whom he also believed to have painted the Diptych with Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows of 1521,14 which was made the core work of Isenbrant’s oeuvre in 1902. Around 1900, when the panel belonged to the Earl of Northbrook, it was loaned out to several exhibitions of old masters and displayed under different names. Weale labelled it as anonymous in the important exhibition of Flemish Primitives in Bruges in 1902,15 which is when Hulin de Loo first attributed the diptych and the Rijksmuseum panel to Isenbrant.16
Friedländer considered that the painting belonged to the core of Isenbrant’s oeuvre,17 remarking that the artist was at his best with such a restricted formal idiom and general iconographic theme. Wilson alone questions the attribution to Isenbrant, along with that of the rest of the oeuvre given to him.18 The painting has the distinctive soft but rather expressionless figure types, with a manner tending towards sfumato that is found in the works attributed to Isenbrant. Another typical feature is the detailed, decorative Renaissance ornamentation.
As regards the archaistic or Renaissance formal vocabulary, reference has been made both to possible classical sources,19 as well as to possible models in Lombardic Renaissance architecture.20 Although the individual ornamental motifs in the Rijksmuseum painting - candelabra, medallions, ram’s heads and horns - can be associated with that building, there are no direct models in Italian prints.21
There are three closely related variants of the Amsterdam Virgin and Child. One is slightly larger, measuring 77.5 x 56 cm,22 but the other two are much smaller.23 The architecture is very similar in these versions, but the Virgin is of a different type, since she is suckling the Child.24
The underdrawings of the variants in Switzerland and Madrid have punched dots that betray the use of pricked cartoons,25 but these are absent in the Amsterdam underdrawing. However, the angular contours and thin lines in the underdrawing of the Virgin’s gown (fig. a) could point to the use of a traced cartoon. The architecture and the ornaments, however, appear to have been drawn freehand (fig. b), unlike the similar ornamentation and ram’s heads on the Virgin’s throne in the panel with The Virgin of the Seven Sorrows from the 1521 diptych. There, as in the rest of the painting, one sees the dotted lines characteristic of the use of a pricked cartoon.26
As Friedländer had already remarked, the Amsterdam Virgin and Child is qualitatively one of the best of all the paintings attributed to Adriaen Isenbrant. The Virgin has the refinement and monumental qualities of her counterpart in the 1521 diptych, and is placed convincingly within the Renaissance architecture. That is not the case with the smaller repetitions mentioned above, in which her rather wooden figure has been pasted into the scene. These are hackwork from the artist’s studio.
The date of the painting is always placed around 1520-30 on stylistic grounds, but the dendrochronology would permit a date in the following decade.27
(Lars Hendrikman/Jan Piet Filedt Kok)
Waagen 1854, II, p. 182 (as Jan Jansz Mostaert); Bruges 1902, p. 64, no. 152 (as Anonymous); Hulin de Loo 1902, p. 122; Friedländer 1903a, p. 24; London 1911, pp. 80-82 (as Jan Gossaert); Friedländer XI, 1934, pp. 81, 83-84, 135, no. 173; Tóth-Ubbens in coll. cat. The Hague 1968, p. 29, no. 958; ENP XI, 1974, pp. 48-49, 87, no. 173; Périer-D’Ieteren 1989b, pp. 16-18; Broos in coll. cat. The Hague 1993, pp. 147-52; Borchert in Bruges 1998, II, pp. 80-81, no. 48, with earlier literature; Wilson 1998, pp. 108-09, 203-04; Kloek in Van Os ‘et al.’ 2000, pp. 114-25, no. 36; Van Wegen 2005, pp. 51-53
1976, p. 296, no. A 4045 (as Isenbrant)