oil on panel
support: h 34.6 cm × w 24.4 cm
d 0.6 cm
painted surface: h 34.3 cm × w 24.2 cm
d 4.5 cm
oil on panel
support: h 34.6 cm × w 24.4 cm
d 0.6 cm
painted surface: h 34.3 cm × w 24.2 cm
d 4.5 cm
The support is a single vertically grained oak panel, 0.4-0.8 cm thick. A step 0.2-0.3 cm wide may have been cut along all the edges on the back of the panel creating a tongue to facilitate the attachment of the engaged frame. This tongue is now only preserved along the top, right and bottom edge. There are remains of paper strips approx. 3.0 cm wide along the edges. The reverse is covered with wax. Dendrochronology has shown that the youngest heartwood ring was formed in 1508. The panel could have been ready for use by 1519, but a date in or after 1533 is more likely. The white ground visible through the paint layers at the edges and in craquelures (especially in the neck) is smooth, and must have been applied in the frame. There are unpainted edges 0.2 cm wide at the top, bottom and right, and remains of a barbe on all sides, indicating that the panel has been only slightly reduced in size on the left. Infrared reflectography revealed some fine underdrawn contour lines applied with a dry material along the nose, in the left side of the face and in the neck. The figure was reserved, but the blue background colour overlaps the hair on the left. On the right, however, the hair was painted on top of the background. The paint layers are thin and transparent, especially in the face. A dry brush was used for the fur. Highlights, possibly of lead-tin yellow, were applied to the collar and insignia of the Order of the Golden Fleece, and the brocade pattern of the garment.
Fair. The panel has a slight convex warp. The paint is abraded, especially in the face and neck. There is some raised paint along the grain of the wood, and the varnish is discoloured.
…; sale, Dr Frederick Salmon (1796-1868) et al., London (Christie’s), 26 May 1868, no. 99, as Holbein; …; the dealer Henry Graves, London;1 …; collection Dominicus Antonius Josephus Kessler (1855-1939) and Mrs A.C.M.H. Kessler-Hülsmann (1868-1947), Kapelle op den Bosch, near Mechelen;2 donated, with xx other objects, by Mrs A.C.M.H. Kessler-Hülsmann to the museum, 1940
Object number: SK-A-3293
Credit line: Gift of Mr and Mrs Kessler-Hülsmann, Kapelle op den Bosch
Copyright: Public domain
Joos van Cleve (? Cleves c. 1485/90 - Antwerp 1540/41), workshop of
On the evidence of the painted self-portraits and the archival documents regarding Joos van Cleve’s career it can be assumed that he was probably born between 1485 and 1490. His name suggests that he or his family came from the city or region of Cleves in the north-west of North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany, near the current Dutch border and the river Rhine. He worked on the painted wings of the altarpiece in the Sankt Nikolaikirche in Kalkar from 1506 to 1509 under the supervision of Jan Joest. It is not known whether Van Cleve was Joest’s apprentice, or whether he was a journeyman. Nevertheless, his prominent self-portrait in The Raising of Lazarus in Kalkar would appear to demonstrate Joest’s recognition of his abilities as a painter.
Joos van Cleve was registered as a free master in the Antwerp Guild of St Luke in 1511, of which he was one of the deans in 1519, 1520 and 1525. In 1519 he married Anna Vijdt, who died in 1529, and he remarried shortly afterwards, his second wife being Katlijne van Mispelteren. Guicciardini states in his 1567 description of the Low Countries that Joos van Cleve painted many portraits of nobles at the court of King Francis I. This, combined with the fact that Van Cleve is not mentioned in Antwerp archival documents between 1529 and 1535, has led to the widespread belief that he was working at the French court at the time. A French document of 17 February 1533, however, records that Joos van Cleve gave the art dealer Joris Vezeleer (for his portrait see SK-A-3292) permission to receive a payment from Francis I for the delivery of three paintings. It could therefore be assumed that he stayed in Antwerp and that Vezeleer was his intermediary with the King of France. It is not known whether this procedure was in operation throughout that entire period, or whether Van Cleve was in France himself in the years 1529-32 and/or 1534-35.
In 1538, Joos van Cleve and Adriaen Tack are recorded as deans of the Poor Box, the guild’s fund for the aid of the poor and sick. On his sickbed on 10 November 1540, Joos van Cleve drew up a notarised document which was witnessed by Pieter Coecke van Aelst and Maarten Thysman, a glass-maker. Since Van Cleve’s wife, Katlijne van Mispelteren, was registered as a widow on 4 February 1541, it can be concluded that the artist must have died between those two dates. His son, Cornelis, took over the running of his father’s workshop.
It required most of the 19th century to identify Joos van Cleve as the author of a group of paintings assembled around the Cologne Death of the Virgin and the painting of the same subject in Munich.3 On the basis of stylistic similarities the painter of these works was referred to as The Master of the Death of the Virgin. Based on the documents relating to Joos van Cleve’s life that were published by Van den Branden in 1883, Firmenich-Richartz connected the ‘IvaB’ monogram on the wings of the Reinhold Altarpiece in Warsaw,4 and the Death of the Virgin triptych in Cologne to Joos van Cleve, thereby giving a name to the artistic personality known as the Master of the Death of the Virgin.
At least five pupils are known to have been trained by Joos van Cleve. He and his workshop assistants were responsible for altarpieces commissioned by Italian, Netherlandish and German clients among others, devotional works produced in series for the open market, and many portraits. Besides the works in Warsaw and Cologne, five other paintings bear a monogram or contain a self-portrait of the painter.5 These works form the core of an oeuvre that nowadays comprises over 300 paintings, which are very divergent in both style and quality. At the beginning of his career one can detect the influences of Bruges painters and of his presumed master, Jan Joest. However, the work of Albrecht Dürer and of Italian artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Bernardino Luini soon began to play an important role. Although these various influences are visibly integrated in the artist’s works, Joos van Cleve did create a distinctive and recognisable oeuvre.
Guicciardini 1567, p. 98; Van Mander 1604, fols. 226r-27r; Van den Branden 1883, pp. 128-29; Firmenich-Richartz 1894; Cohen in Thieme/Becker VIII, 1912, pp. 98-99; Baldass 1925; Friedländer IX, 1931, pp. 20-73; ENP XII, 1975, pp. 17-47; Scailliérez 1991, pp. 7-14; Miedema III, 1996, pp. 158-65; Hand in Turner 1996, VIII, pp. 423-26; Ekkart in Saur XIX, 1998, pp. 550-52; Hand 2004, pp. 5-7; Leeflang 2007a, pp. 21-38
The Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I, is portrayed here wearing a black jerkin under a gown of gold brocade lined with brown fur, which is visible at the turned-back collar, and a beret or bonnet with an upturned brim known as Milan bonnet, and white gloves. The Order of the Golden Fleece, which he received on 30 April 1478, hangs from an ornate chain.
Maximilian was born on 22 March 1459 in Wiener-Neustadt. As the heir of the Habsburg dynasty, he became King of Germany and Archduke of Austria. His first marriage to Mary of Burgundy (1457-1482) on 18 August 1477 united the Habsburg empire with the lands of Burgundy. The couple’s two children, Philip the Handsome and Margaret of Austria, would both later serve as regents of the Netherlands. In 1493, Maximilian ascended to the throne as Holy Roman Emperor, and married his second wife Bianca Maria Sforza. He died on 12 January 1519.6
This portrait is related to an undated painting in Vienna, which is considered to be an autograph work by Van Cleve (fig. a).7 The Amsterdam panel and another version in Paris, inscribed on its original frame with the date 1510, are believed to be workshop copies.8 The prototype for this composition by Joos van Cleve thus seems to date from or shortly before 1510. Many additional versions exist as well, at least 11 from Joos van Cleve’s workshop, and even some attributed to the Master of Frankfurt.9 The copies can be divided into three groups by the attributes that Maximilian is holding: carnations, a scroll or a ring.10
The present portrait differs from those in Vienna and Paris in some important ways. Maximilian’s neck is longer here than in the other two versions, and slightly more of his torso is included. The Amsterdam panel is also not rounded at the top, as those in Vienna and Paris are. In the Rijksmuseum version, he is holding an extra piece of greenery beside the carnations that is not present in the other two paintings. Finally, while the versions in Vienna and Paris show Maximilian wearing the standard collar of the Golden Fleece – a chain of interlocking steels and flints – remarkably his collar in the Amsterdam painting appears to be a fanciful invention by the artist.11
The carnations in Maximilian’s hand are central to the overall interpretation of the portrait. The flower, a common symbol of love and the conjugal bond, featured prominently in the celebrations marking Maximilian’s betrothal to Mary of Burgundy.12 It has been argued, on the basis of this detail and the somewhat anachronistic composition, that Van Cleve did not paint the emperor from life but instead based this portrait on a late 15th-century image – a miniature or a panel painting – dating to the time of Maximilian’s first marriage in 1477.13 However, the age of the sitter in the Vienna, Paris and Amsterdam panels cannot be reconciled with a date of 1477, when Maximilian was only 18 years old. The man immortalised by Van Cleve and his assistants has long grey hair and must be around 40. By this time Maximilian had already married his second wife, Bianca Maria Sforza. Hand nevertheless assumed that the portraits from Van Cleve’s workshop may have functioned retrospectively within the Low Countries to reassert Maximilian’s former marital ties and thereby affirm the sovereign rights of Maximilian and his daughter Margaret in the region.14 According to Hand, the works based on the prototype dated around 1509-10 are a reference to the marriage of Maximilian and Mary and thus to a happier time in dynastic Habsburg-Burgundian relations. It is remarkable, though, that there are no known portraits of Mary of Burgundy or Maria Bianca Sforza from Van Cleve’s workshop that could have served as companion pieces. It is not clear whether the paintings were made as autonomous portraits referring to Maximilian’s papal recognition as Holy Roman Emperor in 1508 or to mark his visit to the Netherlands that year.
From an inventory drawn up from 20 April 1524 to 21 March 1530 is known that Margaret of Austria herself owned a portrait of her father ‘holding two carnations in his hand’, just as he does in this version.15 Although Eichberger assumed that Margaret owned the version of the portrait now in Vienna, it is odd that Maximilian appears to hold not two but three carnations in that painting.16 Whether the Amsterdam panel in which the emperor seems to hold two flowers is the painting mentioned in the inventory remains unknown.
(Marissa Bass/Micha Leeflang)
Ghent 1955, p. 117, no. 19 (as Van Cleve); Scailliérez 1991, pp. 84-87; Eichberger/Beaven 1995, pp. 232-35; Hand 2004, pp. 20, 113, no. 2.2; Leeflang 2007a, pp. 271-72
1960, p. 71, no. 696 B3; 1976, p. 169, no. A 3293 (as school of Van Cleve)