A few nice pick up artists images I found:
♪”Girl but-tons, girl but-tons”♪
Image by Kino Praxis
I used to keep ALL of these on the strap of my emo-satchel, before emo was Emo, and before Emo became Fashioncore. Thankfully, a hard drive crash claimed every photo of me from that era.
Anonymous, possible follower of Marcellus Coffermans (active 1549-1579) maybe also circle of Frans Francken II (1581-1642), after Ambrosius Benson’s Madonna With Child (in Palermo), c. 1600
Image by blacque_jacques
Anonymous, possible follower of Marcellus Coffermans, (active Antwerp 1549 – 1579) and/or circle of Frans Francken II (1581-1642),
Untitled, after Ambrosius Benson (1495-1550) [Virgin and Child Enthroned]
Oil on copper
16.6 x 13.3 cm (6 1/2 x 5 1/4 in)
I bought this painting for €3,- at a country flea market (“vide-grenier,” meaning “clear the attic”) near Abbeville, France. A woman had it on a table with random household items. It looked like a nice piece of religious art, on copper, maybe a hundred or so years old, but was taped to a sheet of paper of the kind used for filling a cheap frame. The woman said she’d gotten it at another flea market, but I didn’t think to ask where, so that’s it as far as provenance is concerned. Later that day I noticed the reverse had a plate mark, looked online and found out the painting was probably 400 years old!
My painting appears to be a copy, though reversed and in a different style, of Madonna With Child attributed to Ambrosius Benson (1495-1550), oil on panel, 65 x 50 cm.(1) My artist must have had access to Benson’s work or a print of it, which would explain the reversal. Prints of artworks were generally reversed, since they were first copied, then etched or engraved onto a copper plate, then printed on paper.
In this Flemish-style half-length portrait, the Virgin Mary is seated and looking dreamily down at Baby Jesus, who is seated in her lap and reaching up to her–or to her breast–with both arms. Mary has a plump throat, slightly rosy cheeks and brown hair falling on her shoulders in a mass, possibly covered by a sheer veil. She wears a red dress with a low, narrow and angular neckline. The dress is covered by a red cloak trimmed with gold thread in a sinuous pattern of tiny dots. Mary’s right hand, of which only the fingers are visible, supports Jesus’s back, while her left holds his right foot. The painting ends at Mary’s knees, which dominate the foreground. Baby Jesus has curly hair with a slight widow’s peak, a sharp little nose, a thick neck and bright red lips. He appears to be looking at and reaching toward Mary’s breast. He is wearing a white garment, similar to a christening dress, that is covered by a mantle of sheer material trimmed in gold, painted in dots. Jesus is sitting on a white cloth draped on Mary’s right knee. A golden glow surrounds each figure’s head. The glow from Mary’s head illuminates barely visible clouds behind her. On her right, by her hand, are more curved yellow lines. These could be the outline of a throne or just more illuminated clouds.
The general shape of Mary and Jesus appears to have been laid down in red paint and the details painted over it. The faces are finely painted and lifelike, the hands and other parts less so and may have been retouched. Jesus’s hair is well-defined, but Mary’s appears to be a muddy smudge overlaid with a few finely painted strands. The dress neckline seems to have been painted over an earlier one. The folds of Mary’s robe are painted competently enough, but not nearly as skillfully as her face. The apparent production method, sparse background and small size suggest a household devotional object turned out by a workshop. Stylistic differences between the original and my painting reflect changes over time, but overall the painting looks old-fashioned for its time.
On the reverse, in the center, is a mark stamped into the copper and partly worn away. It’s about 5 mm high, consisting of the letters “PS” inside a heart with a cross on top of it (looks like the Sacred Heart of Jesus). The reverse is otherwise bare.
The painting’s condition is poor. The front is badly scratched and chipped, in some places exposing the copper support, which is oxidized. The lower righthand corner is bent. The reverse is extensively oxidized and covered with residues of the old cellophane tape mentioned above. There was no information on the paper so I threw it away. One restoration expert I consulted told me to leave the painting as is and not even have it cleaned, while another said that was okay, but it should be done in Antwerp.
The dating range 1587 – 1602 is based on a 1998 paper on coppersmith’s plate marks by Jørgen Wadum of the University of Amsterdam. (2) The mark on my painting is that of Antwerp coppersmith Peeter Stas, active in Antwerp 1587-1610), the cross atop the heart actually being a partly rubbed-off number 4. From 1602 on, Stas often added a date stamp, and his marks after 1606 were more elaborate. There’s no way of knowing whether the plate was painted in the same year it was made, but chances are it was within a few years. It’s unknown whether Stas dated his smaller copper panels.
As to how my artist had access to copy Benson’s work, I got valuable insights at this year’s (2014) TEFAF from experts and Old Masters dealers, to whom I am very grateful. Throughout the 1500s and early into the 1600s, Antwerp was the world’s art market. Local workshops had large showrooms for displaying their wares to dealers and to the public. Starting around 1530, the New Bourse (trading exchange) devoted an entire floor to semi-annual art fairs which, over time blended into a continuous marketplace. There, painters and makers of art supplies displayed their wares and specialties in stalls usually staffed by their wives. By the late 1500s, the art market was highly specialized, so customers could order landscapes, religious subjects, etc. by type and size. Dealers serving the foreign market fulfilled orders on behalf of their customers during regular trips to Spain, France, etc. A wealthy customer could request, for example, a home altarpiece with the Virgin and Child in the center and himself and his wife on either side displaying their devotion. The master of a workshop would paint the finer details and then farm out the rest to assistants or even other workshops.
That Antwerp continued to churn out old-fashioned art like Madonna paintings even into the early 1600s, the time of Rubens and the Baroque era, is down to a number of related reasons. Antwerp’s main and sometimes only trading partner was Spain, and in both countries the Counter-Reformation was in full swing. Also, the Protestant Iconoclasm of 1566 left a lot of churches bare of altars and furnishings, creating decades of backorders for replacement or restoration. Thus, art that was strictly devotional still had a ready market. Antwerp had sided with the Dutch in their 80 Years War of independence (1568-1602, 1609-1649)) after the Spanish Fury of 1576, when unpaid Spanish troops mutinied and went on a looting and killing spree. However, Spain recaptured the city in 1585 after a year-long siege. The terms of surrender were generous, giving Protestants (and probably also Jews) two years to convert or settle their affairs and leave. Continuing the religious cleansing, the Jesuits moved in and reinstituted the cult of the Virgin Mary, setting up “Maria Sodalities,” organizations that artists and other professionals joined if they knew what was good for them. Finally, the city now being enemy territory, the Dutch fleet kept up its ongoing blockade of the river Schelde, Antwerp’s access to the sea, thus further isolating the city culturally and economically from Protestant Europe. The city’s population dropped by 60% (the few remaining Jews probably left about then also, to the benefit of Amsterdam and making it the diamond capital that it is today). The late 1500s may have been tough for other Antwerp residents, but artists probably did quite well then.
One artist who owned his own workshop was Marcellus Coffermans (active 1549-1579), who produced religious art on an industrial scale, mostly for export to Spain. Though Coffermans was based in Antwerp, he kept the market alive for the old masters of Bruges: Memling, David, Benson, etc. De Vriy’s biography and catalog of Coffermans documents a large inventory of work, possibly including also the contents of the other workshops, such as Benson’s, when the proprietor died or went bankrupt. Some of Coffermans’s own work picks up elements from Benson. I go into more detail below. De Vry also documents a direct copy of a work by Benson. (10)
Coffermans produced many small and medium sized works, some on copper. Works attributed to “follower of,” “circle of“ or “after” Coffermans have many of the stylistic elements in my painting. In the fullness of time, no doubt Coffermans’s shop also closed down and its contents ended up on the floor of the Old Bourse. Coffermans and the Antwerp art market are probably my best links between the Benson painting and mine.
The image reversal, on the other hand, is hard to explain. One of the dealers suggested my painting may have been copied from a print. There was a print shop, The Four Winds, active 1548 to 1601. Hieronymus Cock (1518-1570) and his wife Volcken Diercx (d. 1601) were prolific publishers who made prints after Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Brueghel the Elder. However, nobody seems to have been interested in older Flemish artists, but instead wanted output from Italian High Renaissance artists. Perhaps someone like Coffermans commissioned books of compositions for dealers to take abroad, but there’s no record of anything like that. It’s also possible that my artist used a mirror to copy the work.
Below I went into the background of 15th and 16th century Flemish painting. I wanted to trace this specific Virgin and Child composition and elements such as Mary’s rounded neck and Jesus’s widow’s peak, as these seem to be characteristic of Benson’s work, and would cover the 50-year gap between his painting and this one. The above elements appear in the output of Marcellus Coffermans (active Antwerp 1554 to 1575 or 1578) and Frans Francken II (1581-1642). Since my painting’s date falls within the career of the latter, the artist might have worked for Francken.
The red-cloaked Madonna seated with Baby Jesus in her lap was a well-known Netherlandish composition, used by masters such as Quentin Matsys (1466-1529), Gerard David (c1460-1523), Jan van Eyck (1422-1441) and Hans Memling (active 1465-1494). See also this work by the Master of Frankfurt (active 1485-1525) (3) and Anonymous, Flemish School, 16th century (4). A close match, in terms of composition, positions of the figures is and even size is “The Madonna and Child Enthroned" by Adriaen Isenbrant (or Ysenbrandt) (1480 or 1490 – 1551), who probably painted it around the second quarter of the 16th century. Since 1991 it has hung in Tokyo’s Museum of Western Art (5)
Isenbrant was a pupil of David, and ran a successful workshop that produced a lot of religious art. Many of these were copies of older works and the quality of the background and lesser details varied widely from one work to the next. (6)
Memling, van Eyck and David were based in Bruges, as was Isenbrant. Up to around 1500, Bruges was a commercial center of Europe, but over the next 50 years, the canal that provided access to the sea silted up and the action moved to Antwerp.
Elements of my painting, such as the curly head and white clothing of Baby Jesus, are common in works by the aforementioned masters, such as David’s ”Virgin Among The Virgins.” (7) Similarly, the gold-thread trim of Mary’s robe appears in Memling, Van Eyck and the Master of Frankfurt. Ambrosius Benson, like Isenbrant, was also a pupil of David. He came from Milan specifically to study and work in Bruges, where he would go on to run a successful workshop of his own. Benson’s “Virgin With The Pear” shows his teacher’s influence, while “Virgin And Child With Saints” owes an awful lot to David’s “Virgin Among Virgins.” However, Benson sometimes gave Mary and the child haloes, a throwback to Byzantine style. Also, unlike David or Isenbrant, Benson often gave his Madonnas a rounded neck, as in “Rest On The Flight Into Egypt.” (8)(9)
Even without the Benson work that my painting obviously copies, the above means I can safely attribute my painting to “Follower of Ambrosius Benson.” However, Benson died 40 to 50 years before my artist was active. Happily, Benson’s style and the details like Mary’s plump neck and haloes featured frequently in works by painters closer in time, and sometimes in style, to mine.
Marcellus Coffermans, like Isenbrant, David and Benson, ran a studio that turned out religious art in quantity, mostly for export to Spain, as mentioned above. Coffermans’ “The Virgin With The Child In Glory” features a yellow glow–a sort of joint halo–and a crudely painted starburst illuminating clouds in the background. Likewise the halos/auras in “Virgin of Belén” and another “Virgin and Child,” both in Seville, Spain are similar to the ones in mine. In the latter two works, Mary’s hair is the same muddy brown as in my painting. She also wears a sheer veil over her head, which may be on my work as well.(11)
The latter two of the three works by Coffermans, along with Coronation of the Virgin (1575) and The Holy Family With An Angel, An Extensive Landscape Beyond contain most, if not all, of the elements in my painting. The last one has a composition similar to mine, though reversed, and it looks as if my artist tried to copy the pattern of the gold thread that trims Mary’s cloak. Coffermans gave Mary a plump neck in all of the Madonnas above plus one that’s in the Bass Museum of Art. (11)
The Madonna With Child in Palermo that I linked to above, was attributed to Benson by a Rubens expert in 1988, but otherwise I couldn’t find its provenance. However, it provides the most direct link between the Bruges masters and my painting, which copies Benson’s composition almost exactly but reverses it and eschews the original’s chiaroscuro for more pleasing embellishments, like haloes and gold trim on the robe, more in the style of Coffermans.
“Follower of Marcellus Coffermans,” in addition to “Follower of Ambrosius Benson,” seems a good fit for my artist, but Coffermans died in 1579, so we’re still 10 to 25 years short. However, at the turn of the 17th century the market was still strong for explicitly religious figures like the Madonna and Child, when placed within landscapes (as “staffage”) or else bordered by flowers. Such paintings were often joint efforts by two painters, one doing the human figure(s) and the other doing the background, or the master of a workshop did the one while assistants did the other. Among the next generation of Flemish painters in this line I found one such: Frans Francken II (1581-1642).
Frans Francken became a member of the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke in 1605, under the sponsorship of his father, Frans Francken I (1542-1616). According to Ursula Härting’s catalogue raisonnée of Francken’s work, in the first half of his career Francken and his workshop produced many Madonnas within garlands of flowers or landscapes painted by Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625) and others (12). Some of the Madonnas look similar to mine, such as this one, attributed to “Studio of…” (13)
This would resolve the problem of dating my painting. However, Francken’s depictions of the women, at least later in his career, are “riper” (Härting’s words) than mine. Therefore, if Francken had anything to do with my Madonna, it was either during his apprenticeship or by someone in his studio. In any case, the catalogue lists a few paintings in which the Madonna looks like mine. There are no good images online, but here are the Härting catalogue numbers and some links:
-102. The Adoration of the Kings, oil on Wood, 124 x 92 cm (14). The cape of the king nearest Jesus has embroidery on it similar to that on Mary’s cloak on mine.
-(Circle of Frans Francken II) The Adoration of the Kings (15)
-113A. Mary and Child Enthroned, oil on copper, 23 x 17 cm
-116. Madonna and Child Crowned by Angels (16)
-254. The Vision of Saint Ildefonso
Even if there’s no real connection to Frans Francken II or his studio, the above examples show how the style of my painting had survived into the 17th century, even unto Ambrosius Brueghel’s (1617-1675), Holy Virgin and Child, dated “second half of the 17th century,” oil on panel, size not given, It has a similar composition to mine. (17).
(1)The Wikimedia image is sourced from the painting offered for sale on the website www.antonellogovernale.com/ambrosius-benson-attribuito-ma… with the attached attribution (in 1988) by Rubens expert Dr. Didier Bodart.
(2)Wadum, Jørgen, Peeter Stas: An Antwerp Coppersmith and His Marks (1587-1610). Paper delivered at the Dublin Congress on Painting Techniques History, Materials and Studio Practice 7-11 September 1998. Published that same year by the International Institute for the Conservation of Historical Works and available online at dare.uva.nl/document/137028
(3)See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Master_of_Frankfurt for similar works
(4)Flemish School, 16th century, Christie’s Sale 3003: Old Masters and 19th Century Art, 8 May 2012,
Amsterdam; Lot 35.
(5)Adriaen Isenbrant, Madonna and Child Enthroned, oil on panel, 35 x 35 cm
(6)Adriaen Isenbrant biography: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adriaen_Isenbrandt
(7)Gerard David’s ”Virgin Among Virgins”: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerard_David
(8)Marlier, George, Ambrosius Benson et la peinture à Bruges au temps de Charles-Quint, Editions du Musée De Maerlant (Damme, 1957)
(9)Ambrosius Benson: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambrosius_Benson
(10)De Vrij, Marc Rudolf, Marcellus Coffermans, M.R.V. (Amsterdam, 2003). Cat. No. 56 is a copy of Benson’s “Virgin Nursing” (Marlier, Cat. No. 65).
(11) Sotheby’s London, Old Master & British Paintings Evening Sale 08 December 2010, Lot 1, Oil on panel , 97 x 74.6 cm, oil on oak panel in gilt frame
(12) Härting, Ursula Alice , Frans Francken der Jüngere (1581-1642) : die Gemälde : mit kritischem Oeuvrekatalog, Freren: Luca, 1989)
(13) Christie’s Sale 2689 – Old Masters and 19th Century Art, 1 November 2011 Amsterdam, Lot 126. I couldn’t find this in Härting, but the catalogue lists a number of works similarly described but not illustrated.
(14) Adoration of the Kings: www.kunstbilder-galerie.de/gemaelde-kunstdrucke/bilder/fr…
(15) Adoration of the Kings (circle of…): commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Frans_Francken_dJ_%28circ…
(16) Mary and Child Crowned by Angels: www.kunstbilder-galerie.de/gemaelde-kunstdrucke/bilder/fr…
Stone Pony, In progress 5
Image by zabethanne
this next stage is slow. This is right in the middle of it. the color im laying in is actually an unbleached titanium and on the palette it looks sort of biegeish cream color. later, after ive modeled with it till im happy with it, ill start laying in the tones of white, the few redbrowns, and go back in with the dark last for detail work. The next shot will be the place where i leave it at to set up.
Its like carving. the strike through is important, because there is NO other way i know of to get the depth and volume. Once you push it far away from you, you can pick and choose what you want to bring forward again, there is more control, and you are not so subject to whatever random thing that happens right…if that makes sense?