oil on panel
support: h 69.6 cm × w 28.1 cm
oil on panel
support: h 69.6 cm × w 28.1 cm
…; sale, Johann Orth (1852-1911), former Archduke of Austria, Berlin (Heilbron), 11 (12) November 1912 sqq., no. 526, with pendant, SK-A-4751-B, as Netherlandish-German master, 16th century; ...; private collection, 1939;1 …; anonymous sale, London (Sotheby’s), 16 April 1980, no. 29, as Cornelis Engebrechtsz, unframed, £ 9,000 (fl. 45,357), to the museum, with support from the Rijksmuseum-Stichting
Object number: SK-A-4751-A
Copyright: Public domain
Aertgen Claesz van Leyden (Leiden c. 1498 - Leiden c. 1564), attributed to
According to Van Mander, Aert Claesz, better known as Aertgen van Leyden, was born in 1498 as the son of a Leiden fuller, and drowned in Volkersgracht in Leiden in 1564. He initially took up his father’s trade, but in 1516 he was apprenticed to the painter Cornelis Engelbrechtsz. He is documented in August 1521 as ‘Aernt Claesz, painter’ in connection with a debt that he owed to the Guild of St Luke, and he appears in the tax registers as ‘Aertgen, painter’ in 1561 and 1564, when he was living at the address on Zijdegracht recorded by Van Mander.
The latter relates that Aertgen followed the style of his teacher when he became a master painter, before being influenced by Jan van Scorel and later by Maarten van Heemskerck. This evident lack of an individual, recognisable style went hand in hand with a ‘shoddy and unpleasing’ manner of painting, although Van Mander does praise his compositions as being ‘very clever and lively’. He also reports that Aertgen made many designs for glass painters and other artists. Van Mander had himself seen several of Aertgen’s works, among them a Nativity belonging to the widow of the Leiden burgomaster Joan van Wassenaer, and a Triptych with the Last Judgement in the home of Jan Diricksz van Montfoort. Aertgen’s paintings must have been quite popular in the 17th century, judging by the frequent mentions of them in leading collections. Rubens, for example, had a Nativity of his, and the inventory of Rembrandt’s possessions drawn up in 1656 lists several works by him.
Attempts were made to reconstruct Aertgen’s oeuvre in the early decades of the 20th century on the basis of Van Mander’s description of the various influences and styles in his work. Two groups of drawings which Wescher had assigned in 1928 to the Master of 1527 and the Master of the Miracles of the Apostles were attributed to Aertgen van Leyden by Hoogewerff and Van Regteren Altena in 1939, together with a Cologne Nativity and several other paintings. In 1960, Bruyn added a few more paintings and drawings to this large and varied group of works, the core one being The Sermon in the Church (now The Calling of St Antony, SK-A-1691) in Amsterdam, which until then had been given to Lucas van Leyden.
The rediscovery in Valenciennes in 1972 of the 1555 Triptych with the Last Judgement with the Montfoort Family described by Van Mander defines the parameters of the artist’s late style, with elongated figures in the manner of Maarten van Heemskerck.2 This late triptych could be tied in with five other paintings, but had little if any connection with the oeuvre previously assigned to Aertgen, which as a result was reattributed in the 1986 Art Before the Iconoclasm exhibition to various masters with ad hoc names, such as the Master of the Sermon in the Church.
For the present catalogue, however, it was decided to restore those works to him, because they match Van Mander’s description of his oeuvre. Moreover, to date there have been no convincing reattributions of them to other artists. In addition, there are sufficient points of interrelationship between the various groups of paintings and drawings attributed to Aertgen to justify placing them under one name. It should be noted, though, that there were practical reasons for adopting this approach, and not personal art-historical convictions, for it is still conceivable that several artists were responsible for the oeuvre attributed to Aertgen van Leyden, the more so because there were many artists active in Leiden in this period whose works are at present unknown.
Van Mander 1604, fols. 236v-38r; Cohen in Thieme/Becker VII, 1912, pp. 35-36; Wescher 1928; Hoogewerff III, 1939, pp. 388-419; Van Regteren Altena 1939; Bruyn 1960; Bangs 1979, pp. 136-37; coll. cat. Leiden 1983, pp. 92-93, nos. 252-54; Scholten in Amsterdam 1986a, pp. 328-30; Filedt Kok in Turner 1996, I, pp. 166-68; Miedema IV, 1997, pp. 1-10; Feurer in Saur XIX, 1998, pp. 350-51; Ekkart 2000, pp. 125-29; Filedt Kok in exh. cat. Leiden 2011, pp. 201-02
(Menno Balm/Jan Piet Filedt Kok)
See the entry on SK-A-3480.