National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Joris Vezeleer Joos van Cleve (artist)
Netherlandish, active 1505/1508 - 1540/1541
Joris Vezeleer, probably 1518
oil on panel
painted surface: 56.3 x 38.2 cm (22 3/16 x 15 1/16 in.) overall (panel, rounded top): 58 x 40 cm (22 13/16 x 15 3/4 in.) framed: 66 x 48.9 cm (26 x 19 1/4 in.)
Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund
1962.9.1
On View
From the Tour: Antwerp in the Early 1500s
Object 3 of 7

Joris Vezeleer headed a small Antwerp company that sold wool, other commodities, and luxury items. He provided tapestries and gems to such clients as French king Francis I and Mary of Hungary, the Holy Roman Emperor’s capable regent in the Netherlands. Diamond cutting, in particular, became an important industry of the Low Countries as new techniques enabled stone cutters to enhance the light reflected from gems by faceting them. Jews recently expelled from Portugal settled in Antwerp in the early 1500s and made it an important center of the diamond trade, as it continues to be today.

Vezeleer’s gesture of pulling on a fine leather glove marks him as a gentleman of means. In her portrait, his wife holds a pink, a flower associated with fidelity and seen often in wedding portraits. (The Vezeleers’ grandson was the famous Dutch poet and statesman Constantijn Huygens [d. 1687]; their great-grandson discovered the rings of Saturn.) In Joos van Cleve, Vezeleer, who was known as a collector of paintings, obtained the services of one of the finest artists working in Antwerp in the early 1500s. His skill with portraiture later led Van Cleve to Fontainebleau, where he painted Francis I and was exposed to the soft sfumato (from the Italian for “smoke”) style of Leonardo da Vinci, who spent the last years before his death (in 1519) working for the French court.

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