Jan Gossaert (artist)|
Netherlandish, c. 1478 - 1532
Portrait of a Merchant, c. 1530
oil on panel
overall: 63.6 x 47.5 cm (25 1/16 x 18 11/16 in.) framed: 83.8 x 68.6 x 5.7 cm (33 x 27 x 2 1/4 in.)
Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund
Object 2 of 7
Occupational portraits like this were a northern tradition. The prosperous businessman is depicted with the tools of his trade: writing implements, sealing wax, scales, a pile of coins, and sheafs of paper labeled “letters” and “drafts.’ He may be Jeronimus Sandelin, later a tax collector in Zeeland, where Gossaert worked near the end of his life. In the 1500s merchants and bankers were eyed with suspicion and distrust despite their economic importance. Gossaert captures the man’s cautious frugality without caricature. His large figure fills the picture frame, and the precision of painted detail gives his portrait presence and immediacy.
At times Gossaert chose, as he did here, to re-create the forms (the occupational portrait, for example) as well as the precision and craftsmanship of such earlier northern artists as Jan van Eyck (d. 1441). In other works he was influenced instead by the ancient statues and monuments he had sketched while in Italy. In Gossaert’s small painting, Madonna and Child, Jesus’ robust but ungainly pose, for example, recalls ancient statues of the baby Herakles. This eclecticism met the varied demands of Antwerp’s diverse clientele and show an artist free to choose a self-conscious style.
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