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Jan Gossaert

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Jan Mabuse (c. 1478 – October 1, 1532), the name adopted (from his birthplace, Maubeuge) by the Flemish painter Jenni Gosart, or Jennyn van Hennegouwe (Hainaut), as he called himself when he matriculated in the guild of St Luke, at Antwerp, in 1503.

We know nothing of his early life, but his works tell us that he stood in his first period under the influence of artists to whom plastic models were familiar; and this leads to the belief that he spent his youth on the French border rather than on the banks of the Scheldt. Without the subtlety or power of Van der Weyden, he had this much in common with the great master of Tournai and Brussels, that his compositions were usually framed in architectural backgrounds.

But whilst Mabuse thus early betrays his dependence on the masters of the French frontier, he also confesses admiration for the great painters who first gave lustre to Antwerp; and in the large altar-pieces of Castle Howard and Scawby he combines in a quaint and not unskilful medley the sentiment of Memling, the bright and decided contrasts of pigment peculiar to colored reliefs, the cornered and packed drapery familiar to Van der Weyden, and the bold but Socratic cast of face remarkable in the works of Quentin Matsys. At Scawby he illustrates the legend of the count of Toulouse, who parted with his wordly goods to assume the frock of a hermit.

At Castle Howard he represents the Adoration of the Kings, and throws together some thirty figures on an architectural background, varied in detail, massive in shape and fanciful in ornament. He surprises us by pompous costume and flaring contrasts of tone. His figures, like pieces on a chess-board, are often rigid and conventional. The landscape which shows through the colonnades is adorned with towers and steeples in the minute fashion of Van der Weyden. After a residence of a few years at Antwerp, Mabuse took service with Philip of Burgundy, bastard of Philip the Good, at that time lord of Somerdyk and admiral of Zeeland. One of his pictures had already become celebrated a Descent from the Cross (50 figures), on the high altar of the monastery of St Michael of Tongerloo.


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