oil on panel
support: h 37.8 cm × w 29.4 cm
oil on panel
support: h 37.8 cm × w 29.4 cm
The support is a single vertically grained plank, approx. 1.0 cm thick. The panel is probably slightly trimmed on all sides, and thinned to a thickness of approx. 0.5 cm. There are also original, diagonal rasp marks on the reverse. 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. There are no unpainted edges nor remains of a barbe. A very thin, white ground, visible at the edges, was applied up to the edges. Examination with infrared reflectography revealed an underdrawing in a dry medium in the contours of the face along the nose, mouth and eyes. There may also be contours in the neck. The figure was reserved. The fur collar and the hair were painted over the background. The bonnet was painted wet in wet and was originally slightly larger than the finished version. The flesh colours, in particular, were painted very smoothly, with marked contrasts between the light and shaded passages. The cartouche was left in reserve. The white of the cartouche was applied quite thickly, and the black letters and the monogram were painted on top of the white paint.
Fair. The painting is abraded and there are many losses as well as raised paint along the vertical grain. There are discoloured fillings and retouchings in the background.
…; from the dealer A. Myers, London, fl. 1,200, to the museum, June 1887;1 on loan to the Amsterdams Historisch Museum, 2004-09
Object number: SK-A-1405
Copyright: Public domain
Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen (Oostzaan c. 1472/77 - Amsterdam 1528/33), workshop of
Van Mander states that Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen was born in Oostzaan, a small village north of Amsterdam, and that he was already an experienced painter with teenage children when Jan van Scorel entered his workshop around 1512. Going by Van Mander’s information that Jacob’s son Dirck died in 1567 at around 70 years of age, meaning that he was born c. 1497, it is assumed that Jacob was born between 1472 and 1477. There is no information about his parents, nor when he moved to Amsterdam or by whom he was trained. Nor is it known when Jacob married his wife Anna. They had four children, at least two of whom were trained by their father: Cornelis Jacobsz, about whom there is no further information, and Dirck Jacobsz, who was best known as a portrait painter. Also according to Van Mander, Jacob Cornelisz’s brother was Cornelis Buys I, who was active as a painter in Alkmaar. The earliest mention of Jacob Cornelisz in Amsterdam is an archival document from 1500 that shows that he bought a house in the Kalverstraat. Since his wife is recorded as a widow on 18 October 1533, and his second house was sold in his absence in the autumn of 1532, it is accepted that he died before the first date, and possibly before the second. In 1526, 1527 and 1528, Egmond Abbey paid him for work on a large retable, so his date of death can be placed somewhere between 1528 and 1533.
Several of the paintings and the bulk of the drawings by Jacob Cornelisz bear his initials I (for Iacob) and A (referring to the city where he worked) and his monogram, which consists of a V and an upside-down W, the latter probably an allusion to the surname War or Warre that he sometimes used.
Most of the 200-odd woodcuts after designs by Jacob Cornelisz are dated between 1507 and 1522, making it easy to follow his development. Only 6 of the 30 or so paintings attributed to him have the monogram, but a good number are dated. The earliest ones with dates are two of 1507 that are attributed to him: the Noli me tangere in Kassel,2 and The Crucifixion in a private collection.3 His last known, securely attributed painting dates from 1526 (SK-A-668).
In addition to paintings on canvas and panel and woodcuts there are designs for stained-glass windows and copes, and ceiling paintings. Jacob’s painted oeuvre mostly consists of religious works: large altarpieces, smaller panels for private devotion, and several which appear to have been made for the open market. There are also a few autonomous portraits that are attributed to him. Jacob’s earliest works are craftsman-like and executed in a very laborious technique, looking more as if they were drawn with paint than painted. The choice of subject is traditional. It was only in his later work, undoubtedly influenced by Jan van Scorel, that he transcended the craftsman-like in technique, style and iconography. His large output indicates that he had a sizable workshop with several assistants, including Jan van Scorel and his sons Cornelis Jacobsz and Dirck Jacobsz, and possibly his grandsons Cornelis Anthonisz and Jacob Dirksz as well.
Van Mander 1604, fol. 207r-v; Brulliot I, 1832, no. 19; Cohen in Thieme/Becker VII, 1912, pp. 428-30; Steinbart 1922, pp. 2-8; Steinbart 1929, pp. 1-48; Friedländer XII, 1935, pp. 96-111; Steinbart 1937; Hoogewerff III, 1939, pp. 72-143; Bruyn 1966, pp. 149, 160, 161; ENP XII, 1975, pp. 53-64; Van Eeghen 1986, pp. 95-132; Carroll 1987; Miedema II, 1995, pp. 284-93; Carroll in Turner 1996, VII, pp. 868-70; Beaujean in Saur XXI, 1999, pp. 235-38; Meuwissen 2006, pp. 55-81
This bust-length portrait shows a man in three-quarter profile wearing a black bonnet with earflaps, and a fur-trimmed black and dark blue gown over a white shirt with a gathered collar and a red jacket. The panel is signed and dated very prominently on a trompe l’oeil piece of paper attached to the background with two pins.
The painting has been regarded as a self-portrait by Jacob Cornelisz since it was bought in 1887.4 This was based on the man’s twisted pose, the result of the artist looking sideways in a mirror in order to paint his portrait, combined with Jacob Cornelisz’s monogram. The identification was further confirmed by the double portrait that Jacob’s son Dirck (c. 1497-c. 1567) painted of his parents, which is now in Toledo (fig. a). That painting, which can be dated around 1550, shows exactly the same man as in the Amsterdam panel, but this time holding brushes and a maulstick as he works on a portrait of his wife. X-radiographs and infrared reflectograms of the double portrait revealed that there was a second portrait of Jacob Cornelisz beneath that of his wife.5 Initially, then, the artist was shown painting his self-portrait.
A tracing made on transparent paper (fig. b) showed that the Amsterdam portrait is exactly the same size and shape as that of Jacob Cornelisz in Toledo, and the same is true, although reversed left for right, of the second portrait of Jacob Cornelisz in that painting, which was ultimately replaced by that of his wife but is visible in an X-radiograph (fig. c).6 This means that there was a model for this portrait in the workshop, probably a pricked cartoon, which could be used whenever needed, either as it was or in mirror image. The mechanical underdrawing of the Amsterdam painting, which consists solely of contour lines, confirms the suspicion that the Amsterdam portrait was based on that cartoon (fig. d).
Although the signature on the Amsterdam painting and the relationship to the one in Toledo make it clear that we are dealing here with a product from the workshop of Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen, the attribution of the former to the master himself is problematical, as is its dating. Van Eeghen suggested in 1986 that Jacob Cornelisz may have died in 1532, ruling out the possibility that he painted the self-portrait.7 In addition, this painting differs technically from others by Jacob Cornelisz. It has a hard, smooth surface, whereas most of his paintings have thick layers of paint applied in a draughtsman-like manner with a small, stiff brush and thick, sturdy paint. Even the paint layers of his last dated works of 1524 and 1526 (SK-A-1349 and SK-A-668) which are themselves departures from his earlier paintings as regards technique and iconography, are not as thinly brushed as this self-portrait. Another discrepancy is the abundant use of lead white in the light passages in the face and neck, as can be seen in X-radiographs. This is not found in the X-radiographs of other paintings by Jacob Cornelisz in the Rijksmuseum. The strong chiaroscuro, with almost black shaded passages, is also unusual, as is the so-called turbid medium effect in the shaved area of the face, which was created by applying a semi-transparent layer over relatively dark paint.
The combination of the above-mentioned factors makes it clear that this is not an autograph self-portrait by Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen, nor can it be attributed to the painter of the double portrait in Toledo, Dirck Jacobsz, because the style is different. The latter work is executed more softly in light pastel colours, and the paint surface is thicker and, in the portrait of the woman in particular, the figure is modelled with quite broad, lively brushstrokes. The most likely explanation is that the Rijksmuseum portrait is a repetition of an older self-portrait that is now lost.8 That painting would have been one of the first Netherlandish self-portraits. The Amsterdam copy might be the work of Jacob’s grandson, Cornelis Anthonisz (?-1553), whose Copper Coin Banquet of 1533,9 with the portraits of 17 members of the Amsterdam crossbowmen’s civic guard, may portray a different kind of head but is not that far removed from the Rijksmuseum portrait in its technique.
Friedländer XII, 1935, pp. 97, 197, no. 289; Hoogewerff III, 1939, p. 133; ENP XII, 1975, pp. 53, 119, no. 289; Kloek and Carroll-Kremer in Amsterdam 1986a, pp. 196-97, no. 73 (as Jacob Cornelisz, 'Self-portrait'); Carroll 1987, pp. 280-84, no. 37, with earlier literature (as Jacob Cornelisz, 'Self-portrait'); Langedijk 1992, pp. 13-16 (as Jacob Cornelisz, 'Self-portrait'); Meuwissen in Groningen-Oostzaan 2003, pp. 62-63, no. 7
1903, p. 75, no. 721 (as 'Portrait of a man'); 1934, p. 74, no. 721; 1960, p. 74, no. 721; 1976, p. 176, no. A 1405 (as Jacob Cornelisz, 'Self-portrait')