Baptized in Antwerp on 28 September 1597, Justus (Josse; Juste) Sustermans (Suttermans; Susterman) was the son of Frans Sustermans, a draper from Bruges, and his wife, Esther Scheepmans. His artistic training was initially with the Antwerp painter Willem de Vos (active c. 1593-1629) and then in Paris with Frans Pourbus the Younger (1569-1622). In 1620 he traveled to Florence with a group of French tapestry makers, probably at the behest of the grand duke of Tuscany, Cosimo II de' Medici (1590-1621). In 1621 Sustermans was appointed court painter to the Medici, and he remained connected to the court as a portrait painter for the rest of his life, working first for Ferdinand II (1610-1670) and then for Cosimo III (1642-1723). He painted numerous portraits of the Medici, in particular the sons of Cosimo II, many of which were sent to other courts for diplomatic purposes.
Because the Medici had close family connections with other courts in northern Italy and Austria, Sustermans often spent time away from Florence, particularly in Vienna, where he and his brother Jan (active 1623-1631) received titles from Emperor Ferdinand II in 1623. Justus also traveled to Rome, where, in 1627, he painted portraits of Pope Urban VIII and most of the cardinals at the Vatican; in the mid-1640s he painted portraits of Cardinal Carlo de' Medici and Cardinal Camillo Pamphili. Other travels included stays at the Farnese court in Parma in 1639 and the court of Duke Francesco I d'Este in Modena in 1649. He also visited Genoa, Parma, and Innsbruck. He died in Florence in 1681.
Sustermans dated very few of his portraits, so a chronology of his works has to be based largely on the apparent age of identified sitters. His early portraits reflect the firm craftsmanship of Frans Pourbus, but the dominant influences on his mature style, in which his brushwork becomes looser and more expressive, were undoubtedly Titian, Sir Peter Paul Rubens, and Sir Anthony van Dyck, whose paintings he studied carefully in Genoa and at the various courts in which he worked. In 1638 he even commissioned Rubens' Horrors of War (Florence, Pitti Palace) for his own collection. In the 1660s and 1670s Sustermans' brushwork became more restrained, and he often placed his figures within a dark setting. He had a large workshop that copied or adapted his works throughout his career. Among the known artists from the workshop are Francesco (Bianchi) Buonavita, Valerio Marucelli, Giovanni Lionardo Henner, and the brothers Domenico and Valore Casini. These artists may also have executed subsidiary details in the portraits he painted. [This is the artist's biography published in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]
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