The lamentation
Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder
Brugge c 1520 – 1586/1604 London
W x H
146 x 168cm
Work
The first name association with the lower part of the right wing of the passion triptych by Barend van Orley (1488 / 92-1542) and his studio is evident. This was intended for the main altar of the burial church in Brou of the com- missioner (in testament) Margaret of Austria (1480-1530) and Philibert II of Savoy, Margaret's deceased third husband. Margareta van Parma, however, decided that this should be placed in the mausoleum of Charles the Bold in the Bruges Lievevrouwkerk, where it still remains to this day. At the death of Barend van Orley it remained unfinished. Only in 1560 did Marcus Gheeraerts the elder (Brugge, c 1520-1586 / 1604 London) get the job to finish it. The latter became master in the Bruges painters' guild in 1558. How far Bernard van Orley had advanced in 1542 is not known. The central panel with the Calvary was probably far advanced or finished. The side pan- els were unfinished. This proved to be the case with the scientific material research conducted by Dr Lars Hendriksman (head curator Bonnefanten- museum Maastricht) in 2006 and in which I gained insight from him. From this research it appears that the Lamentation on the right wing shows a difference in execution between the left part of it and the right one. This is mainly reflected in comparing the feet, hands and other parts. The signing is very brief everywhere. She points to a detailed grisaille underpainting that served as a guide for finishing the whole. The research of the panel concerned, carried out by Prof. Dr Maximilian Martens (Uni Gent Labo), also shows a summary signing, which is highlight- ed in details. Van Orley was active as a designer of tapestries at the end of his life, since 1530. He adapted his preparatory technique to this medium, prob- ably following Tommaso Vincidor (see Nicole Dacos), who accompanied the Rafael cartons in the lowlands, where the series of carpets was woven. In that period he had most of the work carried out by his capable companions and pupils. His last known pupil received from Orley in 1542: G. Willems. This is also the case in the triptych in the Brugse Lieve Vrouwe church. The execution of the Lamentation discussed here follows very closely the origi- nal. In my view, the execution was done by Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder, in whose studio the unfinished order for Brou was found. Gheeraerts delivered this finished piece before 1565 to the Bruges church. In 1568 he had to leave for England, condemned for heresy together with his son Marcus II. All his goods in Bruges were then confiscated. It was not until 1577 that he traveled back to Antwerp, where he stayed until 1586. After the fall of the city he left for London where he died in 1604. His style was initially influenced by Orley. After 1565 he followed the Romanism of Maarten De Vos. His ductus and style are also in line with the little-known work of Vincent Sellaer. I recently consulted Dr Lars Hendriksman for guidance. He indicated that the Lamentation illustrated here must have come from the studio of Marcus Gheeraerts during the period 1560-65. It may have been used as a life sized ‘videmus’. This allowed the client Margareta van Parma to visualise the final result that Gheeraerts would create. From well known versions of the Lamentation which have been researched, this one is the most consistent with the triptych completed in Bruges during 1565. Dr Lars Hendriksman sent me his articles and report on his research. My hypothesis, parallel to his assessment, is that it may only have arisen in the immediate vicinity of the unfinished, since it also closely matches the work probably completed by Marcus Gheeraerts in Bruges, started by Ber- nard Van Orley and his studio in Brussels.
Exhibitions
Basel museum: Exhibition of Art XV-XVIIIthC from Basel private collections
Literature
J. Farmer, Bernard van Orley or Brussels, dissertation Princeton University 1981, pp 189-201. L. Hendrikman, Bernard van Orley's Passion triptych for the main altar at Brou: commissions and Copies, 2006, pp 82-93. The conclusions from the research and the dialogue with Dr Lars Hendrikman and Prof. Dr. Maximilian Martens. Prof Dr Dr hc Jan De Maere - Director DVK vzw