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Quentin Massys

(c. 1466—1530)


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(b Louvain, c.1466; d Antwerp, Apr./Sept. 1530).

Netherlandish painter, the leading artist of his day in Antwerp. He became a master in the painters' guild there in 1491, but his early career is obscure and his training is a matter of conjecture (van Mander says he was self-taught, and according to another early account he originally followed his father's trade as a blacksmith but took up art to woo his sweetheart away from a painter she admired). His first dated works are the altarpieces of St Anne (1507–9, Mus. Royaux, Brussels) and the Lamentation (1508–11, Koninklijk Mus., Antwerp). Massys continued the tradition of the great masters of 15th-century Netherlandish art, but he was also clearly aware of Italian art (particularly the work of Leonardo) and may well have crossed the Alps at some point in his career. In his exquisite Madonna and Child with Angels (c.1505, Courtauld Gal., London), for example, the iconographic type of the standing Virgin goes back to Jan van Eyck, but the putti holding a garland reveal Renaissance influence. The landscape backgrounds of some of his religious works were evidently done by his friend Patinir. Massys also painted portraits and genre scenes. The satirical quality in his pictures of bankers, tax-collectors, and avaricious merchants has been linked with the writings of the great humanist Erasmus. Certainly the two met, for Massys painted a pair of portraits of Erasmus (Royal Coll.) and his friend Petrus Aegidius (Earl of Radnor Coll., Longford Castle, Wiltshire) as a gift for Sir Thomas More in 1517. They instituted a new type—the scholar in his study—that influenced Holbein among others. Massys had two painter sons, Jan and Cornelis.

Subjects: Art.


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