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Jan Wierix - Portrait of Quinten Massijs - circa 1564-1615
Quentin Matsys (Dutch: Quinten Matsijs) (1466–1529) was a painter in the Flemish tradition and a founder of the Antwerp school. He was born at Leuven, where legend states he was trained as an ironsmith before becoming a painter. Matsys was active in Antwerp for over 20 years, creating numerous works with religious roots and satirical tendencies.
Most early accounts of Matsys’ life are composed primarily of legend and very little contemporary accounts exist of the nature of his activities or character. According to J. Molanus’ Historiae Lovaniensium Matsys is known to be a native of Leuven with humble beginnings as an ironsmith. One of four children, Matsys was born to Joost Matsys (d. 1483) and Catherine van Kincken sometime between 4 April and 10 September 1466. Legend states that Matsys abandoned his career as a blacksmith to woo his wife, who found painting to be a more romantic profession, though Karel van Mander claimed this to be false, and the real reason was a sickness during which he was too weak to work at the smithy and instead decorated prints for the carnival celebrations. Documented donations and possessions of Joost Matsys indicate that the family had a respectable income and that financial need was most likely not the reason Matsys turned to painting. During the period in which Matsys was active in Antwerp he took only four apprentices: Arian van Overbeke (master 1501, inscribed 1495), Willem Muelenbroec (inscribed 1501), Eduart Portugalois (master 1506, inscribed 1504), and Hennen Boeckmakere (inscribed 1510). It is widely believed that Joachim Patinir studied with Matsys at some point during his career and contributed to several of his landscapes. Lack of guild records during this time leaves Matsys’ travels to Italy and other parts of the Netherlands as part of his training up to question. For the most part, foreign influences on Matsys are inferred from his paintings and are considered to be a large portion of the artist’s training during the 16th century.
n comparison to other Northern Renaissance artists such as Holbein and Dürer Matsys shies away from refined and subtle detailing. Because there are numerous connections between him and these masters, however, it can be concluded that his departure in techniques was deliberate and not an act of ignorance. He most likely met Holbein more than once on his way to England, and Dürer is believed to have visited his house at Antwerp in 1520. Matsys also became the guardian of Joachim Patinir’s children after the death of that painter, who is believed to have worked on some of the landscapes in Matsys’ pictures.
His Virgin and Christ, Ecce Homo and Mater Dolorosa (London and Antwerp) are known for their serene and dignified mastery, gaining in delicacy and nuance in the works of his maturity. It is believed that he had known the work of Leonardo da Vinci in the form of prints made and circulated among northern artists (his Madonna and Child with the Lamb, inspired by The Virgin and Child with St. Anne, reflects da Vinci’s influences). This is largely regarded as proof that Matsys was greatly influenced by Italian Renaissance artists and that he most likely travelled to Italy for at least a brief period.
Matsys died at Antwerp in 1529. In spite of his religious devotion, several of his relatives died as a result of their faith. His sister Catherine and her husband suffered at Leuven in 1543 for what was then the capital offence of reading the Bible: he being decapitated, she allegedly buried alive in the square before the cathedral. In 1629 the first centennial of Matsys’ death was marked by a ceremony and erection of a relief plaque with an accompanying inscription on the facade of the Antwerp Cathedral. Benefactor Cornelius van der Geest is said to be responsible for the wording, stating: “in his time a smith and afterwards a famous painter”, keeping in accordance with the legends surrounding Matsys’ humble beginnings.
Nicaise de Keyser - The Fame of the Antwerp School (1861-1872)
Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, Quentin Matsys and Frans Floris can be seen among other notable Antwerp painters.
From the KMSKA website:
"The staircase of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp is perhaps best described as an ode to the fine arts. Visitors to the museum are introduced to Antwerp’s rich artistic history. It was the then curator of the museum Nicaise De Keyser who produced this ensemble of thirty-nine paintings. It took him over a decade to capture the history, the singularity and the international allure of the Antwerp School. Three large works constitute an imaginary group portrait of its most important representatives. The group consists of 137 renowned architects, painters, sculptors and engravers who worked in Antwerp between the late fifteenth and the eighteenth centuries. Twelve smaller paintings represent pivotal moments in Antwerp’s artistic history. The ensemble is crowned by twenty-four allegorical ceiling paintings referring to the inspiration sources of the Antwerp artists, as well as their patrons and the history of the academy with which the Antwerp School is so closely associated.”