oil on panel
h 69.5 cm × w 142.9 cm
h 86 cm × w 157.5 cm × t 6 cm
oil on panel
h 69.5 cm × w 142.9 cm
h 86 cm × w 157.5 cm × t 6 cm
The support consists of four horizontally grained oak planks (12.4, 22.6, 21 and 13.6 cm), 2.2-2.5 cm thick. In the past the planks were held together by three vertical battens that were attached to the horizontal planks with dowels, which are also visible on the front of the panel. In addition, there are pairs of small holes on the back on either side of the joins at the points where the battens were attached. Similar series of paired holes can be seen at the sides on the front of the panel. They probably served to hold the panel in its original frame. Dendrochronology has shown that the youngest heartwood ring was formed in 1351. The panel could have been ready for use by 1362, but a date in or after 1376 is more likely. The white ground layer, visible through the paint layers, may have been applied when the painting was in its frame. At the top, left and right traces of unpainted edges and a barbe, which have been overpainted, are visible in raking light. No underdrawing is visible with the naked eye, nor with infrared reflectography. The paint layers were built up using reserves and without much detail. Large areas of gold and silver foil were used for the knights’ armour, the stars and other elements. The decoration of St George’s white tunic resembles pressed brocade but is in fact painted.
Poor. There are substantial paint losses, much retouching and overpainting. The damaged areas of gold and silver foil have been painted over with bronze paint. The varnish is discoloured.
? Commissioned by a member of the Van Montfoort family for the altar of the Virgin Mary, St Janskerk, Linschoten;1 …; ? collection Jonkheer Godschalck van Harmale, Hofstede Heulenstein, Linschoten, 1659;2 ? his nephew, Gerlach van der Capellen, Lord of Mervelt and Schalkwijk, Hofstede Heulenstein, Linschoten, 1662;3 ? from whom to Leonard van der Nath, Hofstede Heulenstein, Linschoten, 1666;4 ? from whom to Magdalena Van Outvorst, Hofstede Heulenstein, Linschoten, 1705;5 ? her son, Hendrik de Sandra, Hofstede Heulenstein, Linschoten;6 ? from his heirs to Elisabeth Buijs, Lady of Kattenbroek, Hofstede Heulenstein, Linschoten, 1775;7 ? from whom to Bastiaan van Rossum, Hofstede Heulenstein, Linschoten, 1810;8 from whom to Jan Knijff (1772-1848), Hofstede Heulenstein, Linschoten, 1836;9 his niece, Mensina Knijff (1808-80); her husband, Dr Hermanus van der Lee (1814-1884), Woerden;10 his son-in-law, Jan Janse Koning (1839-c. 1930), Leiderdorp;11 by whom presented to the museum, through the mediation of C.J. van Leeuwen, Woerden, August 1885;12 on loan to the Centraal Museum, Utrecht, 2003-10
Object number: SK-A-831
Credit line: Gift from the H. van der Lee Bequest, Woerden
Copyright: Public domain
Anonymous, northern Netherlands
This memorial tablet is one of the few surviving examples of northern Netherlandish panel painting from around 1400. It shows four lords of the knightly De Rovere van Montfoort family kneeling before an enthroned Virgin and Child. Above each of them is the De Rovere van Montfoort coat of arms and crest. Each figure wears the same armour and tunic. They are being presented to the Virgin by St George, who is identified by his banner and shield with a red cross on a white field.13 The scene is set against a blue background strewn with gold stars, possibly in allusion to heaven as the home of the Mother of God.14 Similar backgrounds are found mainly in eastern Netherlandish and German works, such as the Roermond altarpiece with Eighteen Scenes from the Life of Christ of c. 1430-40 (SK-A-1491) and the former altarpiece with The Crucifixion of c. 1400 in the St Walburgkerk in Zutphen.15 The first three knights are identified in the inscription below the scene. They are Jan I, Burgrave of Montfoort, his great-uncle Roelof de Rovere van Heulestein, and his uncle Willem de Rovere van Montfoort. All three of them were killed at the Battle of Warns on 26 September 1345, where they fought alongside Count Willem IV of Holland to put down a rebellion by the Frisians. Their identities are confirmed by the mention of their deaths in the necrology of the Abbey of St Servaas in Utrecht.16 It is possible that the name of the fourth knight, on the far right, was also recorded in the part of the inscription at the bottom that has now almost completely disappeared. He has been identified variously in the past.17 The suggestion made by Frederiks and later explored further by Plomp is the most likely one. They cite a family history written by Burgrave Jan II in 1448 which mentions a fourth member of the family who fought at Warns.18 He was Hendrik de Rovere van Heulestein, the son of the Roelof killed in the battle, who was seriously wounded but survived. He inherited his father’s estates, is recorded as a knight in 1350 and died around 1360, whereupon his sister Hadewych was enfeoffed with Heulestein in 1361.19 If this identification is correct, St George is playing a dual role in the scene. He is not only the intercessor for all four men, but by placing his hand demonstratively on Hendrik’s arm he is acting as his patron saint, having saved him from death.20
Although the poor condition of the painting makes it virtually impossible to get a good idea of its original quality and style, one can see both Burgundian and German influences at work in the composition and execution. The composition as a whole seems to have been derived from a specific type of the adoration of the Magi in which the enthroned Virgin and Child are not in the centre but off to one side. That type is found mainly in late-medieval German art, an example being the Cologne Adoration of the Magi painted in the second quarter of the 15th century (fig. a).21
The enthroned Virgin appears to be based on a French model popularised in the 1380s by Burgundian miniaturists like Jacquemart de Hesdin (fig. b) and Andre Beauneveu. It was a type that was widely imitated in north European miniatures and paintings until the first half of the 15th century.
It is not known who commissioned this memorial tablet. The most logical scenario is that it was ordered when the struggle between the counts of Holland and the Frisians flared up again between 1396 and 1401, when the memory of the defeat in 1345 would still not have faded. This would mean that the most likely patron is Hendrik III van Montfoort (d. 1402), the nephew of Jan I, who was enfeoffed with Heulestein in 1384. Although he had formerly opposed the counts of Holland, he fought beside them against the Frisians between 1396 and 1401.22 Hendrik III could have ordered the tablet for installation over the altar of the Virgin in the church at Montfoort or, and this seems more likely, over the altar of the Virgin in St Janskerk in Linschoten. The will of Roelof de Rovere killed in 1345 stipulated that he was to be buried in or near the church in Linschoten, and although this was prevented by his untimely death at Warns, it is generally assumed that the lords of Montfoort were buried in or near St Jan’s in Linschoten.23 The painting served not only to commemorate the dead men, but with Hendrik III as the patron it would have had a political function, for it displayed the age-old ties between the house of Montfoort and the counts of Holland, and at the same time testified to the loyalty between them.24 The stylistic features and the dendrochronology support a dating after 1380, but if the tablet was commissioned by Hendrik III a more likely date is around 1400.25
The painting was in Kasteel Heulenstein until 1836,26 but it is not known how it got there. The original Huis Heulenstein was demolished in 1418, and although enfeoffments continue to speak of the house and manor of Heulenstein, the present manor-house was not built until 1659 by Jonckheer Godschalk van Harmale.27 The painting may have been in an earlier residence during the Reformation before being transferred to the new manor-house in the 17th century.
Judith Niessen 2009
Revised by Matthias Ubel on 1 December 2014, see Archived versions below.
Obreen VI, 1884-87, pp. 75-81; Hoogewerff I, 1936, pp. 92-98; Boon 1950, p. 46; Panofsky 1953, I, p. 92; Amsterdam 1958, p. 39, no. 1; Bauch 1967b, p. 105; Plomp 1977, pp. 44-49; Châtelet 1981, pp. 13-14, 189, no. 2; Van Anrooij 1989, pp. 22-28; Van Bueren in Utrecht 1999, pp. 231-32, no. 85; Roelofs in Nijmegen 2005, p. 282, no. 41
1887, p. 66, no. 525 (as Dutch school, 14th century); 1903, p. 5, no. 37; 1934, p. 4, no. 37; 1960, pp. 4-5, no. 37; 1976, p. 651, no. A 831