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Jan Gossaert

1478 - 1532

Netherlandish Artist



Portrait of a Merchant - National Gallery of Art

an Gossaert, or Gossart, is commonly called Jan de Mabuse, from his birthplace, now known as Maubeuge (in Latin, Malbodium). He was born about the year 1470: when, about thirty-three years of age he obtained the freedom of the guild of Antwerp, and resided in that city until 1507.

Jan Gossaert, or Gossart, is commonly called Jan de Mabuse, from his birthplace, now known as Maubeuge (in Latin, Malbodium). He was born about the year 1470: when, about thirty-three years of age he obtained the freedom of the guild of Antwerp, and resided in that city until 1507. A few-years later he accompanied Philip of Burgundy, son of Philip the Good, to Italy. He obtained, from the title of his patron, who, besides being a bishop, was an admiral, the name of "peintre de 1'amiral." Mabuse stayed in Italy, at Florence and Rome, about twelve years, during which time he studied the works of the great masters—-if not with improvement to his own style, at least without that servile imitation which afterwards characterized so many of his countrymen. Mabuse had the honor of serving several crowned heads : he painted for Christian II. of Denmark, for Margaret of Austria, and for Henry VII. of England—during a residence of a. short time in this country. We have, however, very scanty proof of Mabuse's stay in England. He died at Antwerp on the ist of October, 1532.
While in Italy, Mabuse, by correcting the stiffness of the school of Leyden, where he is said to have studied, by the Italian ease and taste, commenced the sort of compromise between the styles of the South and North which characterizes this second epoch of Flemish art; and on his return to his country, he devoted all the rest of his works to making this new intermediate style well known. We must therefore accord to him, notwithstanding his very lax morals, a grave and very important position in the traditional history of art.

Jan de Mabuse has left numerous works; they may be found in Antwerp, Brussels, Munich, Berlin, Hampton Court, St. Petersburg, and a few imperfect specimens at Paris. Let us take those of Berlin to mark the changes in his style. The large Calvary, in which the cross of the Saviour is not erected on the barren Golgotha but in the midst of a green and smiling landscape, terminated in the distance by the view of a Flemish city, is a work of his youth, although it is admirable from its power of expression, its coloring, perspective, and good preservation. The Drunkenness of Noah is the copy of a fresco in the ceiling of the Sistine, and the figures in a Madonna in the midst of an ornamental landscape are imitated from Leonardo da Vinci. But after these thoroughly Italian works, the compromise between the two arts is seen clearly in two diptychs, one of which contains Adam and Five, and the other Neptune and Amphitrite. These figures are tall, strong, and full, both in form and painting, already very different from the primitive meagerness and dryness, and are far advanced in the Italian style. The mythological group is the finer, especially Neptune, who is crowned, and almost dressed in shells. The Italian qualities in this picture are so striking that it might very innocently be doubted whether a Fleming was the author, if he had not himself affixed his signature: "Joannes Malbodius pingebat, 1516." It was after his return from Italy, when he was about forty-five years old.

England possesses one of the best works of Mabuse, executed before his journey to Italy. It is the Adoration of the Kings, at Castle Howard, the seat of the Earl of Carlisle. The National Gallery has a Portrait of a man dressed in black; and we must not forget to mention the Children of Christian II. of Denmark, at Hampton Court.


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