oil on panel
support: h 83 cm × w 59 cm
oil on panel
support: h 83 cm × w 59 cm
The support, the top of which is rounded, consists of three vertically grained oak planks (15.4, 28 and 15.5 cm), 1.8 cm thick. The panel is bevelled on all sides. During a later restoration dovetails were inserted along the joins, which are covered by pieces of linen. Dendrochronology has shown that the youngest heartwood ring was formed in 1492. The panel could have been ready for use by 1503, but a date in or after 1517 is more likely. The white ground was applied in the frame. There are unpainted edges approx. 0.5-0.8 cm wide on all sides, with traces of a barbe (painted surface: 81.6 x 58 cm). The off-white ground is visible along the edges and shows through the thinly applied paint layers. Underdrawing is not visible with the naked eye, but some lines in the turban worn by the soldier on the left can be seen with infrared reflectography. Contours and details were indicated with lines in a dark paint. Glazing is only present in the reds. The painter scratched in the paint layer in the earth and rocks at bottom left, possibly with the end of his brush. Some changes are detectable with the naked eye: the leg of the soldier at bottom left was moved to the right, the tiny standing soldier in the background was placed more to the left, and some changes were made to the cross being raised on the hill.
Fair. The painting is abraded, especially in the dark brown areas. There is a strong craquelure pattern in the sky, and raised paint and discoloured retouchings along the left join. The sleeve of the figure on the left is discoloured and transparent. The varnish is discoloured.
…; sale, R.E.A. Wilson, London (Sotheby's), 25 July 1934, no 98, to the dealer P. & D. Colnaghi, London;1 from whom, fl. 6,000, to Isaäc de Bruijn (1872-1953), Spiez and Muri, near Bern, 1935;2 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;3 transferred to the museum, 1961
Object number: SK-A-4048
Credit line: De Bruijn-van der Leeuw Bequest, Muri, Switzerland
Copyright: Public domain
Quinten Massijs (Louvain 1466 - Antwerp 1530)
Quinten Massijs was born in Louvain between 4 April and 10 September 1466 as the son of a smith, Joost Massijs, and his wife Catherina van Kincken. His apprenticeship is not documented, but he probably trained as a painter in his native Louvain, possibly in the workshop of Aelbert Bouts, whose influence is evident in his work. Massijs then moved to Antwerp, where he is first recorded as a master in the ledgers of the Guild of St Luke in 1491. He was married twice, first to Alyt Tuylt in Louvain in 1492, and after her death in 1507 to Catherine Heyns in Antwerp in 1508. He and Catherine owned two houses in the city. He died between 13 July and 16 September 1530, at which time he was staying in a Carthusian monastery in Kiel, on the outskirts of Antwerp.
There are four pupils of Quinten Massijs documented between 1495 and 1510: Adriaen (1495), Willem Muelenbroec (1501), Eduart Portugalois (1504) and Hennen Boeckmakere (1510). No further pupils are mentioned, probably because the two sons of his second marriage, Cornelis and Jan, were apprentices and later assistants in his workshop. This supposition is bolstered by the fact that in 1531, shortly after their father’s death, both of them enrolled as masters in the Antwerp guild.
Massijs’s reconstructed oeuvre consists of some 60 paintings, 6 of which are signed and dated. He mainly painted religious works, both large and small, as well as secular subjects and portraits. He executed his first major commission between 1507 and 1509: the St Anne Altarpiece for the chapel of the St Anne fraternity in the St Pieterskerk in Louvain.4 Before it was finished he accepted another assignment to paint the St John Altarpiece for the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk in Antwerp.5 Massijs also received several commissions from Portugal. Between 1509 and 1513, for instance, he painted a Retable of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows for the Madre de Deus Convent at Xabregas, near Lisbon.6
Massijs worked in the Flemish tradition, particularly at the beginning of his career, when his paintings show the influence of important predecessors like Dieric and Aelbert Bouts, Rogier van der Weyden and Jan van Eyck. He later incorporated Italian elements that he encountered in Antwerp. Among other things, he was clearly inspired by the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, although there is no indication that he ever went to Italy himself.
Massijs was a friend of Joachim Patinir, as evidenced by the fact that after the latter’s death in 1524 he was appointed guardian of his daughters, along with the painters Karel Alaerts and Jan Buyst. One of the paintings on which Massijs and Patinir collaborated was the Landscape with the Temptation of St Antony in Madrid.7
Van Mander 1604, fols. 215-16; Fickaert 1648; Van Fornenbergh 1658; Van Even 1846; De Bosschere 1907; Friedländer VII, 1929, pp. 15-78; Friedländer in Thieme/Becker XXIV, 1930, pp. 227-28; Boon 1942; ENP VII, 1971, pp. 12-40; De Bosque 1975; Silver 1984; Miedema III, 1996, pp. 37-47; Campbell-Hutchison in Turner 1996, XXI, pp. 352-57
The Carrying of the Cross traces Christ’s journey from Pontius Pilate’s court, where he was flagellated and mocked by Roman soldiers, to Golgotha, the hill on which he was crucified, which is seen in the right background of this painting (Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26-32; John 19:17). Here he is shown at the moment when he falls under the weight of the cross just outside the gate of Jerusalem in the left background. He is surrounded by three executioners with grimacing faces, and a trumpeter, whose instrument is decorated with a yellow banner with the device of a double-headed eagle - the flag of the Holy Roman Empire. The diagonals of the cross isolate Christ in the picture surface and emphasise the weight of the burden he must carry. His pain-filled gaze is directed at the viewer, who is being called on to suffer with him, as it were. This exhortation to empathise was very common in meditative literature of the late middle ages.8
It has been suggested that this painting was part of an altarpiece depicting the seven sorrows of the Virgin.9 Devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows became popular in Flanders at the end of the 15th century, and there were many altarpieces honouring her, such as the 1505 Altarpiece of the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin by Jan Joest van Kalcar in Palencia Cathedral,10 and the altarpiece of the same name by Adriaan Isenbrandt in the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk in Bruges.11 In such altarpieces, the Crucifixion usually occupies a separate position above the mourning Virgin. The Amsterdam panel is closely related to a Crucifixion in a seven sorrows altarpiece that Quinten Massijs painted between 1509 and 1513 on a commission from Queen Eleanor of Portugal for the Madre de Deus Convent in Xabregas, near Lisbon.12 In the Madre de Deus Carrying of the Cross, though, he surrounded Christ with numerous figures, among them the Virgin and Simon of Cyrene, but Golgotha is not shown (fig. a). The composition of that painting was influenced by Jheronimus Bosch’s Carrying of the Cross in Madrid,13 while the Rijksmuseum panel is closer to Bosch’s Carrying of the Cross in Ghent (fig. b). The focus is more on the central figure of Christ, who stands for what is good, surrounded by grotesque figures representing evil. This, together with the fact that there are no known panels which could have formed a larger ensemble with this work, makes it not unlikely that the Amsterdam painting is an autonomous work.
Major differences in quality between the panels of the Madre de Deus altarpiece suggest that it was executed mainly by assistants in Massijs’s workshop. What sets the Amsterdam Carrying of the Cross apart as a work by the master himself is the subtle handling of colour and the modelling. Although the thin paint layer, which allows the ground to show through, is uncharacteristic of Massijs, it can be explained as wear caused by old restoration campaigns. Ponderous movements, bold colours and the crowded composition with grotesque executioners link it to the Passion scenes on the wings of Massijs’s St John Altarpiece of 1508-10 in Antwerp.14 The figure of Christ with his delicate, sharp features also recalls the Passion scenes that Massijs produced in subsequent years, such as the Passion Altarpiece of 1514-17 in Coimbra.15 This suggests a date of c. 1510-15 for the Rijksmuseum panel, which is supported by the dendrochronology.
Friedländer XIV, 1937, p. 108; Boon 1942, p. 28; Bodkin 1945, p. 35; Vroom 1945, no. IV; Tóth-Ubbens in coll. cat. The Hague 1968, pp. 38-39, no. 961; ENP VII, 1971, p. 80, no. supp. 167; De Bosque 1975, p. 158; Silver 1984, pp. 96-97, 201, 208, no. 15
1976, p. 370, no. A 4048