Category Archives: 16th century

On the 500th Anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death, a look at a masterpiece, the Battle of Anghiari, and its Fabled Competition with Michelangelo for the Laurel of Greatest High Renaissance Artist in Sixteenth-Century Italy.

Profile Portrait of Leonardo da Vinci, attributed to Francesco Melzi, circa 1515–1517, Royal Trust Collection.

On May 2, 2019, the world remembered the day 500 years ago when Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Italian Renaissance artist and polymath, died. The 67-year-old applied the spheres of the human brain to its many branches of knowledge and voraciously fused his interests and studies into one lifetime that inspired universal learning in Europe.

Leonardo da Vinci made original contributions as an inventor, draftsman, painter, sculptor, architect, scientist, musician, mathematician, engineer, writer, anatomist, geologist, astronomer, botanist, paleontologist and cartographer.1 Leonardo was involved in military science, hydraulics, aerodynamics, and optics. Used by princes and admired by kings, charming and handsome Leonardo da Vinci could show in his notebooks that he was often misanthropic.2 A significant part of his important visionary achievements is that Leonardo da Vinci painted two of the most reproduced artistic masterpieces of all time: the Mona Lisa (1503, Louvre. Paris) and The Last Supper (1490s, Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan). Leonardo, after a lifetime of adventure, curiosity, and solid achievement died in Amboise, France, following a short illness.

Italy, c. 1500.

In 1516 Leonardo left Italy for the first time to live in France under the protection of its most cultured young French king, François I (1494-1547). As a dedicated artist, Leonardo experienced a lifetime of disappointment from most of his would-be patrons starting with his father through to Lorenzo de’ Medici, the Magnificent (1449-1492), hapless Milanese duke Ludovico Sforza (1452-1508), Milanese governor Charles II d’Amboise (1473-1511), and Lorenzo’s son and a papal brother, Giuliano di Lorenzo de’ Medici (1479-1516), among others. As Leonardo was ahead of his times it can be said that only at the end of the artist’s life—in 1516, under the wing of François I—that the bulk of his times, that is, the temporarily powerful men in them, had failed him and mankind’s enduring greatness. François I was Leonardo’s first unconditional patron3—while the rest, relatively speaking, are history’s minor players.

François I, Jean Clouet, c. 1530. Louvre, Paris.

Lorenzo the Magnificent, Agnolo Bronzino (1503-1572), Uffizi, Florence, Italy.

Ludovico Sforza (detail), Master of the Pala Sforzesca, c.1495, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, Italy.

Charles II d’Amboise, Andrea Solario, 1507.

Giuliano de’ Medici, Raphael.

At Leonardo’s death his reputation as an artist and man rested, as Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) relates, on his physical strength, generosity, and artistic innovations which brought art and society out of its reliance on the past and its well-intentioned model books into a future of science and art which characterized the best of the Renaissance period. Because of Leonardo’s lifetime of study and work, mostly in isolation from a majority of his fellow artists’ and other practitioners’ careers, he bore the fruit of innovation, including new and creative forms and motifs for art. These emanated out of the imagination of the individual artist who closely observed the workings of nature. Leonardo’s artistic innovations included the subtle skill of sfumato (shadowing) and, as a draughtsman, progressive chalk and cross-hatching techniques. These inspired other great artists, like Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564), and only begins to account for the knowledge Leonardo gained from the physical sciences, particularly anatomy.

Leonardo spent his final three years in Italy in the Vatican (1513-1516), effectively a refuge from petty Italian tyrants. He departed for France in 1516 under the protection of its warrior and cultured 21-year-old new king, François I, whom 64-year-old Leonardo first met in late 15154. Like his cousin and father-in-law predecessor King Louis XII of France (1462-1515) and his cultured mother Louise de Savoie (1476-1531), François I worked hard to recruit the Italian High Renaissance’s most inventive artist for the Gallic Kingdom. When Leonardo finally crossed the Alps he carried with him his recent paintings of the Mona Lisa, Saint John the Baptist, and the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne—all works in the Louvre in Paris today.5 In the second edition of Vasari’s Lives of the Artists6 he described Leonardo in his last months of life in France. In 1519, after a happy period in France at the Château de Cloux, Leonardo was a sick and bedridden man. At the very end, Vasari writes, Leonardo “could not stand [and had to be] supported by his friends and servants.”7. The King paid Leonardo “affectionate visits” in these last days. Vasari intimates that the dying artist consciously felt himself honored to be ministered to by François I Vasari and that Leonardo realized the distinct privilege to “[breathe] his last in [the king’s] arms.”8 This death bed scene, particularly Vasari’s tender detail, has been subsequently imagined in the artwork of artists, including Ingres’ famous painting dated 1818 in the collection of the Petit Palais in Paris.

Louis XII of France, Workshop of Jean Perréal, c. 1514. Cousin and father-in-law of François I Louis admired and collected Leonardo and passed down this admiration to France.

Bemberg fondation Toulouse – Portrait de Louise de Savoie, mère de François Ier – École De Jean Clouet (1475;1485-1540) 22×17 Inv.1013

Louise de Savoie, School of Jean Clouet, Toulouse, France. The mother of François I worked hard to convince Leonardo to leave Italy for France. Leonardo carried with him over the Alps to France three of his recent paintings — the Mona Lisa (1503), Saint John the Baptist (1513), and the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne (1503). All are in the Louvre today.

Châteaux de Cloux (Clos Lucé), Amboise, France.

Leonardo’s room, Châteaux de Cloux.

Death of Leonardo, Cesare Mussini (1804-1888).

Death of Leonardo, pencil, 11 x 8½ in. (28 x 21.8 cm.), Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867).

Death Of Leonardo da Vinci, 1818, oil on canvas, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Petit Palais, Paris.

Ink consecrated to the artistry of Leonardo da Vinci is vast. The Bible-like exhibition catalog for Leonardo da Vinci, Master Draftsman from the 2003 show at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City is a 786-page testament. That tome presents and discusses about 100 drawings by the master. This article focuses on one image – Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari, particularly its central section called the Battle of The Standard.

In October 1503 Leonardo’s commission by the Florentine Republic was to commemorate the military victory of the Florentines over the Milanese in 1440. It would be one of the major artworks in the newly-built Sala de Gran Consiglio (Grand Council Hall) by IL Cronaca (“The Chronicler”) to the rear of the Palazzo della Signoria, also known as the Palazzo Vecchio.9 The commission was given to Leonardo by Republican standard-bearer Piero Soderini (1450-1522) with one of Leonardo’s contracts signed by Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527)—and so entered into the annals of what became a fabled art competition (“concorrenza”).

Ink consecrated to the artistry of Leonardo da Vinci is vast.

View of Florence (detail, Arno River, Palazzo Vecchio, Duomo), c. 1561, Giorgio Vasari.

Piero Soderini (1450-1522) by Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio. The statesman of the Florentine Republic awarded Leonardo the mural commission for the Battle of Anghiari in October 1503.

Today’s Salone dei Cinquecento by Giorgio Vasari, 1563-1572. In the process of re-decorating this room with its coffered ceiling and walls with paintings of battle scenes dedicated to the exaltation of Cosimo I de’ Medici, Leonardo da Vinci’s innovative fresco of the Battle of Anghiari was lost or destroyed.

Battle of Marciano by Giorgio Vasari, 1571, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy.

Peter Paul Rubens’ copy of 1603 of the lost Battle for the Standard, the central section of the Battle of Anghiari fresco by Leonardo, 1503-06, in Palazzo della Signoria (also, Palazzo Vecchio) in Florence. While Rubens’ copy is the best known, there are copies of Leonardo’s work by other 16th century artists.

After Leonardo Da Vinci, Fight For the Standard (from the Battle of Anghiari), oil on canvas, 28.625 x 33.125 in. (72.8 x 84 cm).

After Leonardo Da Vinci, Fight For the Standard (from the Battle of Anghiari) oil on canvas, 16th century, Museo Horne, Florence.

In 1503 Leonardo da Vinci was at the height of his artistic powers. The Battle of Anghiari was a commission for a large scale, complex and dramatic fresco mural on one wall of the Sala de Gran Consiglio in Florence during the short-lived restored Republic (c.1492-1512). Leonardo looked to paint the fresco in dazzling oils and glazes but his complicated experimental techniques to adhere the pigment to the wall largely failed.10 With the fresco’s ultimate destruction in the early 1560’s under Vasari who redecorated the Great Council Hall with six of his own massive battle scenes, he and his Medici rulers were faced with another of Leonardo’s deteriorating frescos similar to the disastrous flaking of The Last Supper in Milan. The Battle of Anghiari was not in an obscure monastery refectory but the central hall of changing political power in Florence.11

Leonardo’s Last Supper fresco in Milan started flaking almost as soon as it was painted in the 1490’s. Leonardo’s experimental painting techniques for that project had largely failed.

Fragmentary remains by Leonardo of his Florentine project are his preparatory drawings whose subjects include horses, riders, and combatants on the battlefield in various stages of creative development. Some of these drawings were made by Leonardo immediately upon receiving his commission in late 1503.12 Several copies and copies of copies made by other artists also survive. While the preparatory drawings do not complete the full composition— though contemporary written sources lend credence to books of sketches that are lost13—Leonardo possibly did not even complete a cartoon before he started painting on the wall.14 While copies by others intrigue, they are problematic to envision Leonardo’s final fresco of the Battle of Anghiari—yet each of these sources provide insights.

The Battle of Anghiari is arguably Leonardo’s most important public commission.15 It manifested itself in the context of impactful local history, civic pride, city government, and the artist’s own vision and skills in its employ. Florence was Leonardo’s native city and he wanted to make a strong impression. Sixty years after Leonardo left his brilliant fresco on the west wall.16 Vasari, whose redecoration of the Palazzo Vecchio included a fresco cycle of his own almost certainly covered over all or part of Leonardo’s unfinished fresco. A desire for new artwork to showcase the Medici restoration under Cosimo I de’ Medici (1519-1574) naturally extended to the Grand Council Hall. The late-fifteenth-century Republic had commissioned Leonard’s battle fresco—and that form of government had ended in Florence in 1512.

Portrait of Cosimo I de’ Medici, 1535, Alessandro Allori (1536-1607), oil on poplar, 86 x 65 cm (34 x 25 5/8 in.), Florence. Cosimo I de’ Medici (1519 -1574) ruled Florence from 1537 until his death.

Cosimo I de’ Medici (detail), c. 1564, by Giorgio Vasari, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence.

As Vasari relates in his Lives of the Artists, Leonardo depicted a scene from the life of Niccolò Piccinino (1386-1444), an Italian mercenary officer or “condottiere” in the service of the politically brilliant and physically repulsive duke of Milan, Filippo Maria Visconti (1392-1447). Fighting for Milan, Piccinino—aided by two score of cavalry squadron, many foot soldiers17and treacherous Florentine exiles—was defeated by a force led by the Republic of Florence under Francesco I Sforza (1401-1466). The victory at the Battle of Anghiari on June 29, 1440 handed the Florentines domination of central Italy. At the turn of the sixteenth century the new republic of Florence continued to face warring tyrants as neighbors including Cesare Borgia (1475-1507). At the start of a new century and Republic the timing was ripe to depict in its government hall valorous Florentine warriors defeating political enemies. In 1503, Florentine officials gave Leonardo an in-depth orientation of the 1440 battle using historical texts but the artist brushed these aside as he conceived the scene to be depicted, a virtually cinematic induction of the battle’s climax —the mortal contest by the Florentines to capture the standard from the Milanese. Leonardo’s first sketches for it are of a condensed melée full of the swirling movement and stirring sensations of battle.18 The actual standards taken during the battle had been kept in the Grand Council Hall as a trophy.19

Niccolò Piccinino. Defeated at the Battle of Anghiari, the Italian mercenary becomes the central protagonist of Leonardo’s fresco.

Front (Recto) of a medal of Duke of Milan, Filippo Maria Visconti, by Pisanello (1395-1455).

Local battles such as the Battle of Anghiari were usually part of larger campaigns— in this instance, The Lombardy Wars of 1423-1454— and fought by hired warriors. Mercenaries usually provided terms to competing foes that protected the mercenary’s best interest. Following the Battle of Anghiari, Piccinino, who had been captured, was soon after released. In the next battle at Martinengo, he defeated and captured Sforza. Because of these endless war games, Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) advised in The Prince that a ruler should not be tempted to use these swords for hire – and cited Francesco Sforza by example.20

Mercenary Francesco Sforza, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan.

Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito (1536-1603). Machiavelli, author of The Prince, signed an order to commission Leonardo to create the fresco commemorating the Battle of Anghiari for Florence’s newly-built Sala de Gran Consiglio (Grand Council Hall).

Leonardo’s sketches of probably Cesare Borgia.

Cosimo I de’ Medici who ruled Florence starting in 1547 was interested in that which supports power— including art. Vasari’s new paintings of Cosimo I de’ Medici’s wartime exploits was partly a political act. By ridding the hall of Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari — a Republican military victory from long ago — Vasari worked his political masters’ desires. The ultimate reasons and fate of Leonardo’s artwork is not known but if Vasari destroyed the mural he would not be the first Italian artist to destroy a competitor’s artwork as shall be seen.

In late 1503 Leonardo, installed in a temporary workshop at Santa Maria Novella, about a fifteen-minute walk to the Palazzo, was given a deadline for the mural’s completion of February 1505. Like the fabled competition between Leonardo and Michelangelo that was intentionally arranged by Florence’s political operatives, the deadline for completion was also a demand for Leonardo’s art outside the artist’s concerns. The first late winter deadline passed as did those in spring and summer. Setbacks included Leonardo’s meticulously slow work, other projects he took up that kept him away from the fresco, and even bad weather.21

Leonardo’s designated workshop for the mural commission was the Dominican church built in 1420, Santa Maria Novella.

In early 1504 the wall painting of the Battle of Anghiari and its 51-year-old artist was joined by Michelangelo Buonarroti who would paint his Battle of Cascina in the same room and possibly on the same wall. Michelangelo, recently turned 28 years old, would depict the Florentine military victory over Pisa in 1364. Neither this imposed rivalry or proximity encouraged their friendship.22 Michelangelo was intense, pious, and unwashed contrasting to Leonardo’s genial, independent, and stylish manner.23 However, their professional relationship temporarily influenced each other’s artmaking.

Michelangelo, Self-Portrait.

Leonardo da Vinci, (Lucan) Self-Portrait.

In 1504 and 1505, Michelangelo learned to use Leonardo’s innovative stylus cross-hatching technique along with the chalk technique that Leonardo was continuing to exploit in the Battle of Anghiari. Inspired by Michelangelo, Leonardo did masterful drawings of nude figures though he did not use them. In Michelangelo’s preparatory drawings for the Battle of Cascina—that and copies by others are what survive of the project– the younger artist used Leonardo’s cross hatching technique for the pull of the skin. He experimented with Leonardo’s chalk technique to display types and degrees of muscular tension on figures.24 Yet, according to Vasari, the two clashed at almost every turn. Michelangelo’s use of Leonardo’s advanced techniques was restricted to the short period of their common commission and Leonardo openly disparaged Michelangelo’s cartoon of male nude bathers as coldly analytical.25

Two Michelangelo chalk studies. Above: Life Study for a bathing soldier in the lost cartoon for the Battle of Cascina, black chalk, 404 x 258 cm, Teylers Museum, Haarlem, The Netherlands. Below: Male back with a flag.

Leonardo da Vinci, Anatomical Studies of the Nude, connected with the Battle of Anghiari, c. 1504, Royal Library, Windsor. Though influenced by Michelangelo’s nude drawings in this time, Leonardo’s design and imagery for his battle scene looked to invention and unexpected drama rather than the nude.

In spring 1505 Michelangelo’s cartoon was finished but his painting barely started—and the younger artist left Florence for Rome. Michelangelo accepted the commission to build the tomb of Pope Julius II (1443-1513) although it would not be completed until 1545 and on a much-reduced scale. He returned to Florence the following spring but was soon back in Rome to paint, between 1508 and 1512, the Sistine Chapel ceiling. In 1506 Leonardo’s gradual departure for Milan, complete by 1508, began. Leonardo stayed in Milan until 1513 when he was invited by the pope to the Vatican. Leonardo and Michelangelo had in Florence shared a common commission from the Republic. Their two battle scenes presented, each in their own way, a tangle of intertwined figures. Otherwise, each artist created compositions of varying subject matter and style which proved seminal for art-making schools of the future. Leonardo’s swirling horsemen in the Battle of Anghiari inspired the Baroque style and Michelangelo’s bathers in the Battle of Cascina displayed a perfect template for Classicism. These two great artists also shared, despite their age difference or varying temperaments, the fact that neither of them completed their commissioned work.

Michelangelo, The Tomb of Pope Julius II, completed 1545, San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome.

Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel ceiling, 1508-1512, Rome (The Vatican).

Michelangelo, David, 1501-1504, Galleria dell’ Accademia, Florence, Italy.

Michelangelo’s David had just been placed Florence’s central square when the painting competition (“concorrenza“) between himself and Leonardo da Vinci began. Leonardo had served on his native city’s committee which decided where to place Michelangelo’s 17-foot tall marble sculpture. Today a copy stands outside the Palazzo Vecchio.

At the time of the public commission in Florence, Leonardo had just finished his Mona Lisa (1503, Louvre, Paris) and Michelangelo had just installed, in the city square, his David (1501-1504, Accademia Gallery Museum, Florence). Leonardo had been part of the city committee to recommend where Michelangelo’s David should be placed.26 Over the next decade, until 1512, Leonardo’s and Michelangelo’s unfinished wall paintings—that they both had abandoned (a worthy reason for a later Medici to paint it over)—adorned the same room possibly side by side. Michelangelo’s work was mutilated first with the fall of the Republic. Young artists had flocked to study and copy these unfinished artworks, including a young Raphael.27 In 1512 one of these artists, a 24-year-old named Bartolommeo Bandinelli (1488-1560)—he had been obsessive in studying Michelangelo’s cartoon to the point of sneaking in to the Council Hall at night—in one moment grabbed the cartoon and cut it into pieces. The motivation for Bandinelli’s destruction is unclear. The center section of Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari – namely, Battle of the Standard– remained intact on the wall and for decades saw copies and written descriptions made of it. After 1508, neither Michelangelo nor Leonardo were anywhere near Florence as both moved on to larger opportunities.28

Michelangelo, Battle of Cascina, 1504-6, destroyed copy by Aristotile da Sangallo, grisaille on panel, 30 x 52 in. The Courtauld Institute of Art, London. Leonardo openly disparaged Michelangelo’s cartoon of male nude bathers as coldly analytical. Younger artists preferred the noble and expressive form of Michelangelo’s nudes to Leonardo’s messier constructions.

Focusing on Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari, and, particularly, the Battle of the Standard, its central panel, one is impressed by Leonardo’s revolutionary approach to drawing.  Leonardo shattered tradition, specifically in drawing. First, Leonardo was not tidy in his drawing. Medieval tradition was fundamentally concerned with conserving the controlled line. A draftsman’s artistic ability was judged by patrons and cultural tastemakers by the accurate lines he created directly out of an existing model-book.  Leonardo’s early silverpoint drawing of a Bust of a Warrior in the British Museum demonstrates his ability to masterfully fulfill this Renaissance expectation.29 As Leonardo the artist developed, by the end of the fifteenth century he was attacking this long-held linear tradition in his notebooks as a failed technique.30 The fiery scribbling of Leonardo’s drawing style expresses his process of creative exploration but equally his rebellion towards the old technique. In its place, Leonardo shows himself in his drawings to be actively pushing outside the linear restraint of quattrocento drawing and formulating a new artistic standard derived from orientation to the model. As an avant-garde artist in this mode Leonardo practiced it alone for 25 years.31 The profligacy of his drawings – often multiple images on the same page of paper expressing his changing primo pensiero (“first thoughts”) – indicates the brilliancy of Leonardo’s creativity. His drawing technique points to the artist seeking to free the immaginativa to emphasize dramatic invention that included individual details (such as heads) and unto an entire scene.  Leonardo’s artistic practice worked to overturn, or revolutionize, the tradition-bound formulas imposed on art. He replaced it with a new and radical conception of nature ever-changing as the drawing framework.

Leonardo da Vinci, Bust of a Warrior in profile, 28.7 x 21.1 cm, silverpoint, c.1478, The British Museum.

Model-book page, 1390’s, pen and ink with wash and watercolors on parchment, workshop of Giovannino de’ Grassi (1350-1398).

Giorgio Vasari, Self-portrait, 1560’s. Vasari goes into admirable detail on Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari in his Lives of the Artists in editions of 1550 and 1568. That Vasari destroyed or painted over this same work by Leonardo around the same time during a re-decoration of Florence’s Grand Council Hall is difficult to reconcile with his writings.

Invested Quattrocento cultural taste-makers and practitioners found danger in Leonardo’s new artistic direction. Art producers and patrons could not understand why a single artist for his own personal exploration would forsake generations of practiced skill and systematics. The challenge for Leonardo after he discarded the model-book was difficult and clear– to invent figures and forms to replace it. This monumental task helps explain some of the artist’s motivation for working in many areas such as anatomy, mechanics, botany, and geophysics. Wide study was certainly owing to Leonardo’s “unquenchable curiosity”32 but its practical application worked to fulfill his ambition to locate source material to replace the model-book’s groupings, movements, and forms that he had audaciously sacked. The culmination of his approach is manifest in the Battle of Anghiari. To discover some of Leonardo’s unfolding revolutionary creative process makes this artwork exciting to consider as Vasari describes it in detail in his Lives:

The great achievements of this inspired artist so increased his prestige that everyone who loved art, or rather every single person in Florence, was anxious for him to leave the city some memorial; and it was being proposed everywhere that Leonardo should be commissioned to do some great and notable work which would enable the state to be honored and adorned by his discerning talent, grace, and judgement.  As it happened the great hall of the council was being constructed under the architectural direction of Giuliano Sangallo, Simone Pollaiuolo (known as Cronaca), Michelangelo Buonarroti and Baccio d’ Agnolo, as I shall relate at greater length in the right place.  It was finished in a hurry, after the head of the government and the chief citizens had conferred together, it was publicly announced that a splendid painting would be commissioned from Leonardo.  And then he was asked by Piero Soderini, the Gonfalonier of Justice, to do a decorative painting for the council hall.  As a start, therefore, Leonardo began work in the Hall of the Pope, in Santa Maria Novella, on a cartoon illustrating an incident in the life of Niccolò Piccinino, a commander of Duke Filippo of Milan.  He showed a group of horsemen fighting for a standard, in a drawing which was regarded as very fine and successful because of the wonderful ideas he expressed in his interpretation of the battle.  In the drawing, rage, fury, and vindictiveness are displayed both by the men and by the horses, two of which with their forelegs interlocked are battling with their teeth no less fiercely than their riders are struggling for the standard, the staff of which has been grasped by a soldier who, as he turns and spurs his horse to flight, is trying by the strength of his shoulders to wrest it by force from the hands of four others.  Two of them are struggling for it with one hand and attempting with the other to cut the staff with their raised swords; and an old soldier in a red cap roars out as he grips the staff with one hand and with the other raises a scimitar and aims a furious blow to cut off both the hands of those who are gnashing their teeth and ferociously defending their standard.  Besides this, on the ground between the legs of the horses there are two figures, foreshortened, shown fighting together; the one on the ground has over him a soldier who has raised his arm as high as possible to plunge his dagger with greater force into the throat of his enemy, who struggles frantically with his arms and legs to escape death.

It is impossible to convey the fine draughtsmanship with which Leonardo depicted the soldiers’ costumes, with their distinctive variations, or the helmet-crests and the other ornaments, not to speak of the incredible mastery that he displayed in the forms and lineaments of the horses which with their bold spirit and muscles and shapely beauty, Leonardo portrayed better than any other artist.  It is said that to draw the cartoon Leonardo constructed an ingenious scaffolding that he could raise or lower by drawing it together or extending it.  He also conceived the wish to paint the picture in oils, but to do this he mixed such a thick composition for laying on the wall that, as he continued his painting in the hall, it started to run and spoil what had been done, So shortly afterwards he abandoned the work.”33

It seems nearly inconceivable that Vasari could write so appreciably of Leonardo’s fresco and then destroy it. Yet its removal, whether wholly destroyed, or lost by being painted over or misplaced, is a fact. Leonardo who no longer relied on the model-book as his authority the artist answered with his own creative immaginativa and all of the facets of nature. In this revolutionary creative process, Leonardo further anticipated the modern era’s introduction of the psychological component into a drawing. The psychological element that Leonardo introduced extended to the figures Leonardo depicted in drawings but it benefited the individual artist’s ability to think and dream creatively. To this end Leonardo consciously devised mental exercises to produce psychological effects in himself.34

Leonardo da Vinci, Head of a Warrior in Profile, black chalk, 220 x 116 mm, Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice. Leonardo anticipated the modern era’s introduction of the psychological component into a drawing.

Leonardo da Vinci, Study of a Warrior’s Head for the Battle of Anghiari (Recto), Red chalk on prepared paper, 22.6 × 18.6 cm. Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. It is half life size from a live model. Over the years some scholars have doubted its authenticity as a Leonardo drawing.

Verso of Study of a Warrior’s Head for the Battle of Anghiari (above drawing).

Leonardo da Vinci, Study of Two Warriors’ Heads for Battle of Anghiari (c. 1504–5). Black chalk or charcoal, traces of red chalk on paper, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. This is one of the most famous drawing studies by Leonardo da Vinci for the Battle of Anghiari fresco mural project.

Within wide study in the physical sciences, Leonardo attempted everything̱– and did not always finish. It was the immensity of his study and his loathing of the finished quality of the model-book that allowed Leonardo to abandon projects and pick up new and creative directions and methods. Leonardo’s world view as an artist for his art was universal—indeed, he personified the popular definition of “Renaissance Man.” In his artistic boldness and innovation, Leonardo’s methods and objectives found him its sole practitioner for years—even decades. Yet Leonardo was a man of his times. The era of the mid-to-late fifteenth century was one of social awakening to the globe and its conquest by nations and kingdoms. The historical period saw great changes in cultural perceptions based on European cities achieving charters of economic and political freedom as well as new scientific and other discoveries. These included the heliocentric model of the solar system by astronomer and mathematician Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) and the international voyages of discovery by Christopher Columbus (1451-1506). It was an age of revolutionary ideas and technology and Leonardo da Vinci had no doubt it included art.

In Leonardo’s drawings there is the untidy immaginativa quality in its hasty, scribbled animations. Studies for the Battle of Anghiari present a cacophony of images—drapery studies; grotesque heads; armory; horses. For each area, Leonardo’s drawing between 1503 and 1506 had reached mature stylistic development.35 Not since Leonardo’s The Adoration of the Magi in 1482 had he created a composition achieving the cohesion of gestures and inter-relationships among figures.

Nikolaus Copernicus, The Torun portrait, Anonymous, c. 1580.

Leonardo da Vinci, Adoration of the Magi, 1482, oil on wood, 246 cm × 243 cm (97 in. × 96 in.), Uffizi, Florence.

There are speculatively three panels or sections completed for the Battle of Anghiari. The most recognizable is the large central panel or section known as the Battle for the Standard. It is known by its copies by other artists. Leonardo’s central panel depicts four men, one partially hidden, riding war horses. They are engaged in the heat of combat, frozen in a frame of animated movement, for the capture of a standard during the battle. Other sections of the Battle of Anghiari—derived from Leonardo’s small preparatory sketches—depict a wild, galloping horse and a pair of belligerents on horseback. These are briefly discussed below. The most well-known copy of the central section of Leonardo’s fresco (the only section he apparently painted) is by the great artist Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640). In the collection of the Louvre, Rubens’ copy dates from 1603 and is, in fact, a copy of a copy. Rubens copies Lorenzo Zacchia’s (1524-c.1587) copy dating from 1553 which he possibly took directly from the fresco or a lost cartoon. There are three extant copies by other artists of Ruben’s copy of a copy of the possibly original artwork.36 These copies at various removes provide insight into the impact for art through the centuries. The rest of Leonardo’s composition is conjectured based on drawings.37 The left panel or section Leonardo could have intended to be horsemen charging into battle while the right panel or section could be the taking of the bridge over the Tiber on horseback which was a key action for victory. The preparatory drawing sheets have images on top and below and may be related as part of a narrative sequence that Leonardo worked to clarify and simplify as a design until he started painting the composition.38 Throughout the project Leonardo had detail and atmospherics in mind though in its piece meal condition today, a full aspect of his creative process is irretrievably lost.39

Peter Paul Rubens, Copy of Leonardo’s Battle of the Standard (from the Battle of Anghiari), 1603, Louvre.

Horses are one of Leonardo’s favorite subjects. The Battle for the Standard portrays three soldiers on three horses with swords brandished in the smoke and flame of hand-to-hand combat. A fourth soldier on horseback is partially hidden. Two more soldiers have fallen beneath the hooves of their reeling horses and attempt to cover themselves with their shields. The weight of the horses is depicted in their meaty haunches. The horses’ heads are ancient and noble. They crush, bite, and plow into the heat of battle. The screaming head of Niccolò Piccinino –the protagonist of the Battle for the Standard — and from whose hands the standard is wrested away by Florentine soldiers (the profile on his immediate right) wore a large red cap as described by Vasari.40

The overall configuration of the scene is Leonardo’s Renaissance construction of the type of dense figures discovered on ancient Greek and Roman sarcophagi. The stylistic effect of Rubens’ copy of Leonardo’s Battle of the Standard is, by virtue of its similarity, carried forward into the seventeenth century as witnessed by Rubens’ The Hippopotamus Hunt (1616) and The Lion Hunt (1621) both in the Alte Pinakoteck in Munich. The question can be posed: to what degree is Rubens’ stylistic effect, by virtue of his 1603 copy of a 1553 copy of Leonardo’s 1503 image, inferred into Leonardo’s Battle of the Standard? Yet Leonardo’s battle, seen by thousands over decades before its demise, can be said to have directly influenced battle scene depictions whose style continued into the Romantic Period in mid19th century France.41

Fall of Phaeton, Greek marble Roman sarcophagus, 62 x 220 cm, c. 150 AD, Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

Peter Paul Rubens, The Hippopotamus Hunt, 1616, Alte Pinakothek, Munich.

Peter Paul Rubens, The Lion Hunt, 1621, Alte Pinakothek, Munich.

Tintoretto, Saint George and the Dragon, oil on canvas, 157.5 x 110.3 cm, The National Gallery, London.

Eugène Delacroix, The Combat of the Giaour and Hassan, 1826, The Art Institute of Chicago.

Bronzino, Allegory of Venus and Cupid, c. 1560, The National Gallery, London. The screaming head in the background on the left side of the painting is speculatively based on the head of Leonardo’s protagonist in the Battle of the Standard.

Along with these artistic innovations and achievements by Leonardo in a long, lonely process of exploration the hallmark achievement of the Battle of Anghiari is its reckless artistic inspiration.  While historical construction of Leonardo’s drawing method requires speculation, existing studies for the work, including those specific to the Battle of Anghiari, provide insights. For instance, Leonardo deployed the pen as well as chalk in preparatory drawings for the Battle of Anghiari. This practice continued the spontaneous and dynamic plasticity of his drawing technique from the 1490s42 and contained psychophysical and temporal effects.43 Up to Leonardo, the general practice for using a pen or stylus was by way of short parallel lines. In the Battle of Anghiari Leonardo is the first Italian artist to systematically use curvilinear hatching.44 A complementary contrast to Leonardo’s inventiveness is that he valued and paid attention to his work experiences. After the early 1480s he retained his sense of form and design and continued to work through particular problems that interested him within a general trend of development.45

Leonardo da Vinci, Study of Rearing Horse, light fine red chalk and hatching with traces pen and brown ink, 153 x 142 mm, Royal Library, Windsor. The horse drawn from life shows a tense rider pivoting.

Leonardo’s drawings, including his preparatory studies, convey a sensational appearance of continuous movement. Formed into a triangle the figures of combatants in the central section of the Battle of Anghiari and elsewhere move in a swirling motion similar to the apocalyptic liquid cascades Leonardo would later draw. Facial expressions, gnarled and strained on both man and beast, add their distinctive vitality to the animated whole. The Battle of the Standard works similarly to Leonardo’s mechanical drawings in their careful construction. The “machine” operates as an expression of the physicality and emotional and psychological intensity of men fighting to the death. Leonardo, as discussed, based this key scene for the city-state commission on an episode described in historical written texts.46

Leonardo in his first draft of a drawing worked to establish this general sense of movement. In first drafts he attempts the pictorial pitch that he will develop. In the second stage (“per ripruova”) Leonardo begins to create major motifs.47 The two most important primi pensieri for the Battle of Anghiari are pen and ink drawings from the Gallerie dell’ Accademia in Venice, Italy. Scholarship’s quest to reconstruct Leonardo’s creation of the Battle of Anghiari has been identified as “quixotic,”48 yet these drawings while no larger than the size of a clenched fist give out significant clues.

Leonardo da Vinci, Battle Study, two skirmishes between horsemen and foot soldiers, c.1503, pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash, 147 x 154 mm (6 x 6 in.) Gallerie dell’ Accademia, Venice, Italy.

Leonardo da Vinci, Battle Study, Skirmish between Horsemen, Foot soldiers and Foot soldiers Wielding Long Weapons, pen and brown ink over black chalk and stylus, c.1503, 147 x 154 mm (6 x 6 in.), Gallerie dell’ Accademia, Venice, Italy.

In one of the preparatory drawings the horseman on the left is looking back over the horse’s haunches, a dramatic image among the handful of fighters in close combat that Leonardo will condense into a dominant motif in the Battle of the Standard. The artist’s steady progression belies his reputation as a slow worker though this inventive stage of drawing appealed to him most. For each stage, Leonardo’s drawing is a fully animated artistic expression of his subject matter. While the creative process of Leonardo’s drawing brings the image, as Heinrich Wöfflin observed, to the “verge of the unclear,”49 it also begins to reveal some of the inner workings of Leonardo’s brilliance. In exchange for the free and kinetic character of drawing studies taken to the brink, the later and final work becomes increasingly plastic and compact.50

Leonardo da Vinci, Fight for the Standard at the Bridge and Two Foot Soldiers, pen and brown ink, 99 x 141 mm, Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice. It is speculated that this preparatory drawing was for the right panel (or section) of the fresco. It depicted the taking of the bridge over the Tiber River that was a key historical action to military victory for the Florentines over the Milanese at the Battle of Anghiari on June 29, 1440.

Leonardo da Vinci, Study of charging horses and Soldiers, red chalk on paper, 167 x 240 mm, Royal Library, Windsor. Anticipating Degas’s racehorses 350 years in the future, this drawing of horsemen charging to battle may represent the left panel (or section) of the Battle of Anghiari that Leonardo envisioned as a three-part narrative sequence.

Copy of a horseman from the Battle of Anghiari, pen and brown ink, brush and gray wash, white gouache on paper, 267 x 237 mm, The British Museum.

In the drawings for the Battle of Anghiari he communicates in lively action and engrossing drama the close physical contact of the horses and their riders encircling and falling upon one another in the passion and violence of war.51 The fresco in the Florentine council chambers would remind leaders of war’s brutality and, though a glorification of civic heroism and pride, the wall-sized image served to show the fury of slaughter that military battles cost. The Battle of the Standard was an image that conveyed the phrase that typified the meaning of war for Leonardo: pazzia bestialissima (“beastly madness.”)52 Recalling Bertoldo’s battle scene that originally decorated the Florentine palazzo of Lorenzo de’ Medici (“the Magnificent’) and based on an ancient Roman sarcophagus, proffered to the viewer no identifiable sides. War is not a glorious narrative, but combatants falling into one another. In addition to its classical and Renaissance allusions, its plastic form appealed to Leonardo’s beliefs and attitudes about the intrinsic nature of combat that he then looked to dramatize in the Battle of Anghiari.  

Leonardo da Vinci, Study of horses for the Battle of Anghiari. Leonardo depicts horses displaying emotion.

Leonardo da Vinci, Study of group of riders in the Battle of Anghiari, c. 1503, charcoal and black chalk reworked with brush and brown wash, Royal Library, Windsor. The left-handed hatching is for a drawing taken from a clay or wax model.

Bertoldo di Giovanni (ca. 1440–1491), Battle, c. 1480–85, Bronze, 17 3/4 × 39 1/8 in. (45 × 99.5 cm), Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence.

The artistic drawings that survive which reveal Leonardo’s artistic process are an invaluable piece of a final enterprise that ultimately failed to materialize on several levels despite Leonardo believing the high-level commission was vital to his reputation as an artist.53 In the end, Leonardo was viewed by the oligarchs as not only procrastinating but having not fulfilled his contract and they sued Leonardo for breach. Yet more enduring than a legal concern was the art project involving Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti. The work accomplished by these two giants of art reverberates through the centuries to today. Theirs is a legacy of the individual artist still being sought out—though by chairmen and presidents rather than popes and princes. A legacy that says artists are no longer craftsmen or tradesmen but artistic personalities in their own right with a unique and appealing style who are thus engaged for their singular brilliance.54 In the face of what was an incomplete, sometimes failed, and ultimately abandoned project—its competitive nature notwithstanding—all the variations of Leonardo’s creative activity funnels into a tremendous example for the mission of the artist –that is, to serve first neither patron nor purse nor artistic reputation —but the glory of making one’s art.

Leonardo, Self-Portrait, c. 1512, Royal Library of Turin, Italy.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Acidini Luchinat, Christina, Butters, Suzanne B., Chiarini, Marco, Cox-Rearick, Janet, Darr, Alan P., Feinberg, Larry J., Giusti, Annamaria, Goldthwaite, Richard A. , Meoni, Lucia, Piacenti, Kirsten Aschengreen, Pizzorusso, Claudio, Testaverde, Anna Maria, The Medici, Michelangelo, And The Art of Late Renaissance Florence, Yale University Press in association with The Detroit Institute of Arts, New Haven and London, 2002.

Ames-Lewis, Francis, Drawing in Early Renaissance Italy, Revised Edition, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, Second Edition, 2000 (originally published 1981).

Ames-Lewis, Francis, The Intellectual Life of the Early Renaissance Artist, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, 2000.

Bambach, Carmen C., editor, Leonardo da Vinci, Master Draftsman, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2003.

Berenson, Bernard, The Italian Painters of the Renaissance, Phaidon Press, London, 1959.

Braham, Allan, Italian Paintings of the Sixteenth Century, The National Gallery, London in association with William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd, London, 1985.

Braudel, Fernand, Out of Italy: 1450-1650, trans. Siân Reynolds, Flammarion, Paris, 1991.

Clark, Kenneth, Leonardo da Vinci, Penguin Books, London, 1993 (first printed 1939).

Clark, Kenneth, Selected Drawings from Windsor Castle:  Leonardo da Vinci, Phaidon Press, London, 1954.

Durant, Will, The Renaissance: A History of Civilization in Italy from 1304-1576 A.D., Simon and Schuster, New York, 1953.

Gombrich, E. H., Norm and Form: Studies in the Art of the Renaissance, Phaidon Press, London, 1966.

Hartt, Frederick, History of Italian Renaissance Art:  Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, Third Edition, 1987.

Hohenstaat, Peter, Leonardo da Vinci, Könemann, Köln, 1998.

Isaacson, Walter, Leonardo da Vinci, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2017.

Machiavelli, Niccolò, trans. William J. Connell, The Prince, Bedford/St. Martin’s, Boston and New York, Second Edition, 2016 (originally published 2005).

Meiss, Millard, The Great Age of Fresco Discoveries, Recoveries and Survivals, George Braziller, Inc. in association with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1970.

Popham, A.E., The Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, Jonathon Cape, London, 1977 (first published 1946

Saviotti, Franco, Florence, Edizione – SAFRA, Firenze, 1981.

Steinberg, Leo, Leonardo’s Incessant Last Supper, Zone Books, New York, 2001.

Turner, Jane, editor, Encyclopedia of Italian Renaissance & Mannerist Art, Volume 1 and II, Grove Dictionaries, Inc., New York, 2000.

Vasari, Giorgio, trans. George Bull, Lives of the Artists, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England, 1965.

Wöfflin, Heinrich, Classic Art: An Introduction to the Italian Renaissance, Phaidon Press Limited, London, 1994 (first published 1952).

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

FOOTNOTES: Available at link below.

https://www.academia.edu/41301480/On_the_500th_Anniversary_of_Leonardo_da_Vincis_death_a_look_at_a_masterpiece_the_Battle_of_Anghiari_and_its_Fabled_Competition_with_Michelangelo_for_the_Laurel_of_Greatest_High_Renaissance_Artist_in_Sixteenth-Century_Italy

Hans Holbein the Younger (German, 1497-1543): Humanist Portraits in England, 1526 to 1528.

Featured Image: Self-Portrait, Hans Holbein the Younger, 1542/3, black and colored chalks, 23 x 18 cm, Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi. This is the only secure self portrait in the Holbein oeuvre.

Self portrait Hans Holbein

Self-portrait Hans Holbein The Younger, Oil on paper, mounted on oak, 16.5 x 14 cm, inscribed on the left and right of the head: H H; on the left above the shoulder: AN [N] O. 1554 / ETATIS SVE/45, Kunstmuseum Basel, donated by Prof. J.J. Bachofen-Burckhardt Foundation in 2015. While Lüdin was probably working from a graphic reproduction, the unknown painter of this picture, if not Holbein’s own drawing, surely had one of the copies made shortly after his death in the narrow workshop environment. This is one more Hans Holbein self-portrait based on the secure Florentine drawing.

Self portrait Holbein

Self-Portrait Hans Holbein, copy by Johannes Lüdin, c. 1647-1667, Oil on canvas, 61.5 x 47.5 cm, Kunstmuseum Basel. In fall 1526 twenty-nine-year-old Hans Holbein crossed the channel from Antwerp to England where the German immigrant’s first concerns were to find work, useful friends, and a place to stay. While Lüdin’s painting was given as a gift to a major art collector in Basel and probably based on a graphic model whose type proliferated after 1600, it is the drawing in the Uffizi (see Featured Image) that remains the only secure self-portrait image according to current Holbein scholarship.

Introduction by John P. Walsh

Hans Holbein the Younger was born in Augsburg, Germany, in 1497. After 1515, he lived and trained in Basel, Switzerland. Over two visits, one starting in 1526 and another in 1532, Holbein spent a total of thirteen years in Henry VIII’s England until the artist’s death in 1543. The focus for this post is Holbein’s first visit to England which lasted two years – specifically, from around September 1526 to mid-August 1528. His second, more permanent, visit to England started in 1532 (Holbein likely arrived in the spring) and lasting to his death, almost certainly from plague, in late 1543. It was during that second, longer visit in England that Holbein became the most important court artist in the time of Henry VIII. His first visit is characterized by the activity of a young immigrant German artist – Holbein was about 29 years in 1526 – getting established in a foreign land and developing a mastery of his craft.

Holbein arrived in England in late 1526 with a letter of introduction from Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) addressed to Sir Thomas More (1478-1535). This was not the first time Erasmus wrote to More asking him to temporarily lodge a friend.1 More would be appointed Lord Chancellor in 1529, but in 1526 Sir Thomas was the Speaker of the House of Commons and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. By 1526, Erasmus and More had been friends for more than a quarter century. They met during Erasmus’s first high-spirited stay in England in summer 1499. In that year, Erasmus was 33 years old and More twelve years his junior. Other major protagonists in this story – namely, Hans Holbein the Younger and the future King Henry VIII – were just children in 1499.2 While Erasmus began writing seriously on theological topics during his first English stay he also reveled in the gentle and happy personality of More. Part of More’s reception to Holbein in 1526 by way of Erasmus’s request may go back to the two old friends’ first meeting in England in 1499. After Erasmus had been encouraged by More to bring his money into England which More assured the relatively poor scholar would be safe, most of it was confiscated by English customs at Erasmus’ departure. This unpleasant shock not only left Erasmus with keen anger towards England for months afterwards—he never, however, blamed More (and one other English friend) for the misinformation—but left him lacking for money in Paris and elsewhere for several years thereafter.3 Similar to Holbein’s effort in 1526, Erasmus returned to England in 1505 to improve his fortunes by staying with his new friends, including Thomas More, and working to establish a network of influential English contacts. Erasmus emigrated in large part to access various English scholars as well as to counteract friends in the Netherlands who were mostly ignoring his work. It was by way of a new English contact that Erasmus in June 1506 ventured to Italy where he stayed for three years.4 Back in England on his third visit in 1509, Erasmus wrote his Praise of Folly, probably his most enduringly famous work, while living in the house of Thomas More. But writing and lecturing (at Cambridge) brought Erasmus little profit.5 It was only when the Archbishop of Canterbury, another English friend, gave him a stipend in 1512 that Erasmus was relieved of practical destitution. But the favored scholar would remain chronically in need of money and wrote more books to help fill the need. A scholar’s life in cold Britain, however, following three years in Italy’s southern climes, proved tiresome for Erasmus. He found his many months of writing and teaching at Cambridge to be like “a snail’s life, staying at home and plodding.”6 Erasmus was lonely; the plague was frequently about; and, for whatever his labors, he was making literally no money. Further, a state of war between England and France commenced in June 1513 which alarmed and depressed Erasmus, prompting him to publish his first anti-war writings and resolved to leave the island as soon as he could. He sailed for Antwerp in the summer of 1514.7

In 1526 when Erasmus wrote to More asking him to welcome German artist Han Holbein the Younger, both old friends had achieved literary fame in Europe. Thomas More’s Utopia appeared in Latin in 1516, edited by Erasmus and published in Louvain. During the first years of the Reformation, Erasmus remained More’s link to the Continent as they continued their amiable correspondence following Erasmus’ settling in Basel, Switzerland, in 1521. That city would be Erasmus’s dwelling place for the next eight years. Erasmus relied on More’s friendship in the 1520’s as the disputes of the Reformation intensified.8 In 1523 when Hans Holbein the Younger painted two portraits of Erasmus, the young German artist and the older Dutch humanist had been acquainted for some years. Before Holbein joined the workshop of Hans Herbst (c. 1470-1552) in 1516 or had been taken into the Basel painters’ guild in 1519, the teenage Holbein provided a pen and ink drawing for the Basel edition of Erasmus’s Praise of Folly in 1515 which apparently pleased the humanist. From 1519 to 1526 before his first visit to England, Holbein, now in his 20’s, was a whirlwind of artistic activity in Basel. His expressive drawings and paintings were a leading feature, but he demonstrated talent and skill in the many topical arts of his time, including printmaking, metal engraving, frescoes, and altarpieces.9

By 1523 Holbein desired to focus his talent on portrait painting.10 Basel’s most famous resident of Basel was certainly Erasmus. Before his relocation to the Swiss city, the writer and theologian had been famously embroiled in controversies swirling around German reformer Martin Luther (1482-1546). Erasmus came to Basel from Louvain to escape these difficulties and live in relative tranquility.11 In 1523 in Basel Holbein painted three portraits of Erasmus of Rotterdam. One exists today in Basel (in the Öffentliche Kunstsammlung), in Paris (Louvre) and in London (on loan from the Longford Castle collection to the National Gallery). The Reformation was, for the foreseeable future, taking its toll in terms of the visual and plastic arts. Erasmus described to More the state of the arts on the Continent, citing Basel in particular: “Here the arts freeze.”12

Historian David Starkey has called Holbein’s three-quarter profile portrait of Erasmus which was sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury William Warham (c.1450-1532) as a gift in 1524 as “the most important portrait in England”13 Starkey claims the painting is the beginning of portraiture itself when so-called “realism” was introduced into art. By way of Erasmus’s portrait to Warham, Thomas More learned of Holbein’s artwork up to two years prior to the young artist’s arrival in England. It is probable that like Erasmus before him, Holbein lodged in More’s house during his first English visit. Such accommodation provided practical hospitality to a friend’s friend on many levels including the fact that immigrant artists in England were disallowed from dwelling  within the city gates of London (More’s house was in nearby Chelsea). Further, More, as a rising political figure in England, became Holbein’s first patron and in that way could secure Holbein’s modern art portraiture for himself. Indeed, the major work of Holbein’s first stay in England between 1526 and 1528 is the portrait of the household of Thomas More as well as the famous portrait of Sir Thomas painted around the same time. In this first two-year period in England Holbein also set to work on a variety of artistic projects, but the portraits highlighted the stay.

Like his famed classicist sponsor Erasmus before him, Holbein came to England to improve his fortunes as an artist. Holbein had visited France in 1524 with the hope for a royal commission but was ignored.14 While English guild artists required Holbein’s exclusion from London proper, the time restriction on his stay was owed to the city of Basel. At the cost of losing his citizenship, Holbein was allowed no more than two-year’s absence from the Swiss city. On August 29, 1528, Holbein returned to Basel.15 This marked the end of Holbein’s first visit to England, but not before he had developed many new influential contacts and established his mastery of craft within the orbit of one of Europe’s most dynamic royal courts. Little more than three years later, in spring 1532, with his old friend Thomas More in the last throes of service as Lord Chancellor (More would almost immediately resign that year as dangerous political storms grew), Holbein returned to England. The Continent’s political and religious revolution was creeping across the channel for England’s own idiosyncratic reasons such that the English world Holbein visited in the 1520’s was rapidly declining. A revolutionary zeal was emerging, especially under Thomas Cromwell between 1535 and 1539, which would inspire new challenges for artistic accomplishment which Hans Holbein the Younger met and engaged throughout his second rewarding visit in England from 1532 to 1543.16

Holbein the Younger Erasmus 1523 Louvre
Hans Holbein the Younger: Portrait of Erasmus, 1523, oil on wood, 42 x 32 cm, Louvre, Paris.

Holbein Erasmus Hands 1523 Louvre
One of Holbein’s study drawings of Erasmus’s hands for the profile portraits, silverpoint and chalks, 1523. Louvre.

Holbein erasmus
Hans Holbein the Younger: Portrait of Erasmus, 1523, oil on wood, 73.6 x 51.4 cm, London, National Gallery. Erasmus gifted this portrait to the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1524. The humanist is shown in three-quarter profile wearing a fur collar overcoat seated behind a table with his hands on an inscribed book. Behind the classicist and theologian are painted symbolic elements of the sitter’s profession and achievements: a Renaissance pilaster, green curtain and shelf of books with glass bottle. David Starkey of the National Gallery called this portrait “arguably the most important portrait in England” where “portraiture actually begins.”

Holbein Erasmus 1523 Basel
Hans Holbein the Younger: Portrait of Erasmus, 1523, paper mounted on wood, 36.8 x 30.5 cm, Öffentliche Kunstsammlung, Basel. Closely related to the Louvre portrait, it is lightly smaller but offers the same strict profile of the sitter. The profile derives from an ancient classical pose signifying political or intellectual power. In this painting Erasmus’s writing can be discerned: it is the opening of a commentary on the gospel of St. Mark dedicated to the king of France. (Wolf, p. 39)

Hans Holbein the Younger in England, 1526 to 1528.

Holbein the Younger, Thomas More, 1527

Hans Holbein the Younger: Thomas More (1477-1535), 1527, oil on oak panel, 29.5 in x 23.7 in. (74.9 cm x 60.3 cm), Frick Collection, New York. More became Lord Chancellor in 1529 where thereafter the great humanist scholar, author, and statesman, who resigned in 1532, defied the Act of Supremacy of 1534 that made Henry VIII head of the Church in England and was beheaded on July 6, 1535 for high treason. The “S-S” chain of office More wears in Holbein’s painting is an emblem of service to the King. (Frick, p. 48) More’s execution, coming in quick succession to John Fisher’s two weeks earlier, grieved Erasmus in Basel. Later, Erasmus in a letter lamented More’s involvement in “that dangerous business” which should have been left to “the theologians,” and ignored More’s plea on behalf of his conscience. (Huizinga, p. 183).

Thomas More_Frick_1527_head

Thomas More, 1526/27

Hans Holbein the Younger: Thomas More, 1526/1527, black and colored chalks, 9.8 x 29.9 cm sheet of paper, outlines pricked for transfer. The inscription is a later addition (18th century). Royal Collection Windsor.

Thomas More 1526/27

Hans Holbein the Younger: Thomas More, black and colored chalks, and brown wash on paper, 37.6 x 25.5 cm. Royal Collection Windsor. More’s career included study at Oxford and becoming a lawyer. He became a MP in 1504, King’s Councillor in 1518, was knighted in 1521, and became Speaker of the House of Commons in 1523. More became Lord Chancellor of England in 1529, but practical politics proved outside More’s forte. He resigned the office in 1532 and was beheaded for high treason in 1535. Thomas More was Holbein’s first patron in England, the German artist to enjoy a happier fate as the preeminent painter in the court of Henry VIII starting in the 1530’s. (Ganz, pp. 231-232)

The Living Room of the Frick Collection. Thomas More against Olver Cromwell with El Greco's Saint Jerome in the middle.

Frick Collection, New York City. Holbein the Younger’s Thomas More (1527) and Thomas Cromwell (1533) with El Greco’s Saint Jerome (1610) above the fireplace.

Anne Lovell, 1528

Hans Holbein the Younger: Portrait of a Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling (Anne Lovell), 1528, oil on oak, 56 x 38.8 cm, National Gallery, London. Recent scholarship has produced interesting speculations as to the identity of this unknown woman who, in any case, was in Thomas More’s circle (Foister, p. 30; Ganz, p. 232).

Lady Alice More, 1527.

Hans Holbein the Younger: Alice Middleton, Lady More, 1527, Corsham Court (private collection) near Bath, England, oil and tempera on oak, 14 1/2 x 10 5/8 in. This is a color study for the large family picture. The color chalk study is missing. Alice was Thomas More’s second wife.

Preparatory drawing More Family 1526/27

Hans Holbein the Younger: Portrait of Thomas More with his family, 1527, pen and black ink on paper,  Öffentliche Kunstsammlung, Basel. This is the preparatory drawing for a group portrait of the family of Sir Thomas More that was the major work of Holbein’s first period in England. The finished painting, whether on canvas or wood or a mural, is missing and was probably destroyed. It is the first nondevotional or ceremonial group portrait made north of the Alps (Ganz, p. 276). This is the household into which Holbein had taken up residence during his first visit to England. Thomas More lived outside London in a country house with his second wife Alice, his father John, his son John and bride to be Anne, three married daughters, eleven grandchildren and a live-in relative (Margaret Giggs). From left is Elizabeth Dauncy, More’s second daughter; Margaret Giggs; More’s father; Thomas More’s future daughter-in-law, Anne Cresacre; Sir Thomas More; More’s son; court entertainer Henry Patenson; More’s youngest daughter, Cecily Heron; eldest daughter, Margaret Roper; and More’s second wife, Alice. The Latin inscriptions in brown ink of the sitters’ names and ages were added a by astronomer-in-residence Nikolaus Kratzer (whose portrait was painted by Holbein).

Elizabeth Dauncey 1526/27

Holbein’s preparatory drawing of Elizabeth Dauncey, middle daughter of Thomas More. In 1525 she married Sir William Dauncey who served Henry VIII and was a member of parliament. This drawing’s later inscription (not by Nikolaus Kratzer) is inaccurate in its identification. (see – https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/400046/sir-henry-guildford-1489-1532)

Margaret Giggs by Hans Holbein the Younger.jpg
Margaret Giggs Clement was Thomas More’s foster daughter. In 1526 she married John Clement, a court physician. Margaret eventually had eleven children and died in exile in the Netherlands in 1570. While the extant More family group drawing by Holbein shows Margaret leaning towards John More, this drawing may actually have served as the now-lost or destroyed painting’s final study. The exact meaning of the inscription “Mother Iak” is unknown. Royal Collection, Windsor.

Anne Cresacre , 1526/27.

Hans Holbein the Younger: Anne Cresacre (c.1511-1577), for the More family portrait. Royal Collection, Windsor.

Cecily Heron 1526/27

Hans Holbein the Younger: Cecily Heron (b, 1506 or 1507), youngest daughter of Sir Thomas More. She was married to Giles Heron, a Member of Parliament who was hanged for treason in 1540. Royal Collection, Windsor.

john more 1526

Hans Holbein the Younger: Sir John More (c.1451 – 1530), black and colored chalks, 35.1 x 27.3 cm. Thomas More’s father was a respected judge and described by a biographer as “very virtuous” and “merry.” Royal Collection, Windsor.

(Below) Hans Holbein the Younger: John More, black and colored chalks, 38.1 x 28.1 cm. Thomas More’s son. Royal Collection, Windsor.

john more son 1527

Sir Henry Guildford, 1527.

Hans Holbein the Younger: Sir Henry Guildford (1478-1532), Controller of the Royal Household, inscribed and dated, 1527, oil and tempera on wood, 32 1/8 x 26 in. (82.6 x 66.4 cm), Royal Collection, Windsor. Wearing the collar of the garter for his military service – which was the occasion for the portrait – Guildford, a physical giant of a man, holds the wand of office as Comptroller of the King’s Household. Sir Henry stands against a deep blue background, decorated with the twisting vine found in several Holbein portraits. Above the sitter’s head is a curtain rail, from which hangs a rich green curtain. This detail has lost context in the separation of the portrait from its companion, that of Guildford’s wife Mary.

Sir Henry Guildford (1489-1532)

Sir Henry Guildford, Black and colored chalks, and pen and ink on paper, 38.3 x 29.4 cm. The drawing is a study for the painted portrait. Sir Henry was one of Henry VIII’s closest friends and an early patron of Holbein.

Royal Collection, Windsor.

Mary Wotton, Lady Guildford 1527

Hans Holbein the Younger: Mary Wotton, Lady Guildford, inscribed and dated, 1527, tempera and oil on oak, 34 1/4 x 27 13/16 in.( 87 × 70.6 cm), St. Louis Art Museum. Mary was Sir Henry Guildford’s second wife. They married in 1525. She holds a devotional book.

Mary,_Lady_Guildford,_drawing_by_Hans_Holbein_the_Younger
Mary Wotton, Lady Guildford, 1527, black and colored chalk on paper, 55.2 x 38.5 cm, Kunstmuseum Basel, Kupferstichkabinett. A study from life for the painted portrait. In the portrait Holbein muted the sitter’s overall playful expression and smile. Mary outlived Sir Henry to marry again.

William Warham, 1527

Hans Holbein the Younger: William Warham (1456-1532), Archbishop of Canterbury (first version), 1527, Oil and tempera on wood, 30 in x 25.75 in., Lambeth Palace, London.

William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1527

Hans Holbein the Younger: William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury (second version)1527, Tempera on wood, 32.3 in x 26.4 in. (82 cm x 67 cm), Musée du Louvre, Paris. Both versions include the episcopal crucifix of gold and jewels with Warham’s coat-of-arms and his motto, prayer books and the Archbishop’s jeweled miter. Warham had this “original replica” painted to reciprocate for a portrait of Erasmus he received. The color is richer in the replica. The brown curtain is replaced with a green one. A later copy of this painting resides in the National Portrait Gallery in London.

William Warham Archbishop Canterbury drawing by Hans Holbein the Younger

Hans Holbein the Younger: William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1527.  Colored chalk on paper, 40.1 x 31 cm, The Royal Collection, Windsor.  This is the preparatory drawing for the Louvre portrait. The sitter had been in his position since 1504 and remained there until his death in 1532. The similarities between the Holbein portrait of Erasmus (1523) and that of Warham (1527) are striking for their compositional elements and the conveyance of each sitter’s function by way of iconographical symbols so that these forms are a portrait template.

Holbein erasmus
  
William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1527
Nikolaus Kratzer, 1528
Hans Holbein the Younger: Portrait of Nikolaus Kratzer (1487-1550), 1528, Tempera on oak, 83 x 67 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris. The sitter was born in Munich and studied in Cologne and Wittenberg. With an appointment as professor to Corpus Christi College in Oxford, Kratzer relocated to England. As a humanist, he became friends with Thomas More and his family and, starting in 1519, served as an astronomer to Henry VIII’s court. The painting, created during Holbein’s first stay in England, continues to exemplify Holbein’s lively style of illustrating a sitter’s career. Kratzer was a maker of mathematical and geometrical instruments and is shown in practical involvement with these tools. Compared with the Guildford portraits of the year before, Holbein expresses a new subtlety of lighting and refined range of tones.

Sir Thomas Godsalve and His Son
Hans Holbein the Younger: Double Portrait of Sir Thomas Godsalve and His Son John, 1528, Resin tempera on oak, 35 x 36 cm, Gemäldegalerie, Dresden. Thomas Godsalve (1481-1542) was a notary from Norfolk.  Holbein cleverly shows him writing his name and age on a sheet of paper. By 1528, the Godsalves were among London’s most wealthy and politically influential men. (Wolf, p. 51) His son John (1510-1556) later had a double portrait of himself and his wife painted by Holbein.

Sir Henry Wyatt, c, 1528

Hans Holbein the Younger: Sir Henry Wyatt of Allington Castle, c. 1528?, oil on oak, 15.4 × 12.2 in. (39 × 31 cm), Musée du Louvre, Paris. Sir Henry Wyatt served in the court of Henry VII and Henry VIII and a member of the latter’s Privy Council. Sir Henry was part of the circle of Thomas More. N.B. This portrait, once thought to have been painted during Holbein’s first visit to England from 1526 to 1528, is today believed to have been painted towards the end of Sir Henry’s life.

Sir Brian Tuke c. 1527/1528 or c. 1532/1534

Hans Holbein the Younger: Sir Bryan Tuke, c. 1527/1528 or c. 1532/1534, oil on wood, 49 x 39 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. The sitter is about 57 years old. The date of the painting is unknown and its conjecture is based on its style although that leads to at least two possibilities. The physical mass of the body and the sitter’s expression suggest Holbein’s last year in England (mid 1528) although the painting’s other features (notably its horizontal lines of text) suggest the painting was made after Holbein’s return to London in 1532.  There are further later additions after that. The subject, Bryan Tuke (1470-1545), was, starting in 1509, Clerk of the Signet and then Cardinal Wolsey’s secretary. By 1528 Sir Bryan was Treasurer of the Royal Household and secretary to the king for French affairs, a post he held until his death in 1545. There exist several versions of this portrait.

St. Thomas 1527
Hans Holbein the Younger: St. Thomas, 1527, Pen and black ink, brush and gray wash, heightened with white gouache, 8 1/16 x 4 1/8 in. (20.4 x 10.5 cm). Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.  Holbein produced a diversity of art in England, including design and decorative works (at Greenwich), book illuminations, and sacred art.  St. Thomas is part of a series of apostles of which nine are known. The ultimate application of these drawings is not known and even may have reached their final form in these studies. (Foister, p. 128)

noli me tangere

Hans Holbein the Younger: Noli Me Tangere, 1526-1528?, Oil on oak panel, 76.7 x 95.8 cm, Royal Collection Windsor. Holbein paints the gospel narrative of Mary Magdalen meeting Jesus Christ at his resurrection, with angels illuminating the tomb and night breaking for dawn. Between the major figures, a rushing Peter and John in the background are discussing matters.  Royal Collection, Windsor.

Sir Nicholas Carew

Hans Holbein the Younger: Sir Nicholas Carew, 1527, black and colored chalk sheet: 54.8 x 38.5 cm, Kunstmuseum Basel, Kupferstichkabinett, Amerbach-Cabinet. Sir Nicholas was Henry VIII’s Master of the Horse until he was implicated in one of the various popular uprisings against the same king’s religious policies in the mid-1530’s, and summarily executed in 1539. (Foister, p.121)
Portrait of an Unknown Englishman 1527
Hans Holbein the Younger: Portrait of an Unknown Englishman, 1527, black and colored chalk and leadpoint on prepared paper; outlines traced blind, 38.9 x 27.7 cm,  Kunstmuseum Basel, Kupferstichkabinett.

Portrait of an Unknown Englishwoman 1527
Hans Holbein the Younger: Portrait of an Unknown Englishwoman, 1527, black and colored chalk and leadpoint on prepared paper; outlines traced blind, 38.9 x 27.7 cm,  Kunstmuseum Basel, Kupferstichkabinett. These two drawings were prepared for transfer to panels for painting portraits, neither of which survive.

FOOTNOTES (Introduction).

  1. Erasmus and the Age of Reformation, Johan Huizinga, Harper & Brothers, New York, reprint 1957, p. 223.
  2. Huizinga, p. 29.
  3. Huizinga, pp. 35-36.
  4. Huizinga, p. 58.
  5. Huizinga, pp. 79-81.
  6. Huizinga, p. 83.
  7. Huizinga, p. 85.
  8. Huizinga, p. 87.
  9. Hans Holbein The Younger: The German Raphael, Norbert Wolf, Taschen, Cologne, Germany, 2006, p. 28.
  10. Wolf, p. 38.
  11. Huizinga, p. 161.
  12. Wolf, p. 45.
  13. See podcast – https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/hans-holbein-the-younger-erasmus.
  14. Wolf, p. 39.
  15. Holbein in England, Susan Foister, Tate Publishing, London, 2006, p. 13.
  16.  An Advanced History of Great Britain: From the Earliest Times To the Death of Edward VII, T.F. Tout, M.A., Longmans, Green, and Co, New York, London, Bombay and Calcutta, 1913, p.342.

SOURCES:
An Advanced History of Great Britain: From the Earliest Times To the Death of Edward VII, T.F. Tout, M.A., Longmans, Green, and Co, New York, London, Bombay and Calcutta, 1913.
Erasmus and the Age of Reformation, Johan Huizinga, Harper & Brothers, New York, reprint 1957.
Five centuries of British painting: from Holbein to Hodgkin, Andrew Wilton, London: Thames & Hudson, 2001.
Holbein in England, Susan Foister, Tate Publishing, London, 2006.
Hans Holbein The Younger: The German Raphael, Norbert Wolf, Taschen, Cologne, Germany, 2006.
The Frick Collection /A Tour, Edgar Munhall, et.al, The Frick Collection, New York, 1999.
The Paintings of Hans Holbein: First Complete Edition, Paul Ganz, Phaidon, London, 1950.

LINKS:
https://www.flickr.com/groups/536163@N24/ – retrieved February 26, 2018

Hans Holbein the Younger: ‘A man very excellent in taking of physionamies’ (sic) – Dr Susan Foister – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UnbWlZnYv4 – retrieved February 26, 2018.

http://sammlungonline.kunstmuseumbasel.ch/eMuseumPlus – retrieved February 26, 2018.

Complete signed, dated, documented and inscribed artworks (33 paintings) of Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger (c. 1562-1636). Featuring his Captain Thomas Lee in Irish Dress, oil on canvas, 1594, in Tate Britain.

Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Captain Thomas Lee in Irish Dress, oil on canvas, 1594 (purchased 1980), Tate Britain.

Captain Thomas Lee (c.1551-1601) had his portrait painted by 33-year-old Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger (Bruges, 1561-1636) in London in 1594. Captain Lee was 43 years old and had worked as a military adventurer for English colonization in Ireland since the early 1570’s.

The young artist was the son of Gheeraerts the Elder(c. 1520–c. 1590), a painter and printmaker associated with the Tudor court in the late 1560’s and 1570’s. Fleeing religious persecution in Flanders, Gheeraerts the Elder arrived into England with his 7-year-old son Marcus in 1568. In 1577, Gheeraerts the Elder had likely returned to Flanders.

By 1594, when the portrait of Captain Lee was made, Gheeraerts the Younger was a rising young contemporary artist working in Elizabeth I’s Tudor court.  Sir Roy Strong, the English art historian who served as director of the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London is unequivocal about Gheeraerts the Younger’s artistic importance to English art history. Strong wrote that Gheeraerts is “the most important artist of quality to work in England in large-scale between (Hans) Eworth (c. 1520 – 1574) and (Anthony) van Dyck (1599-1641).”1 

In addition to a discussion of the early painting of Captain Lee, a complete collection of Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger’s 33 art works– including signed and dated works, documented and dated works, inscribed and dated works, and inscribed and undated works– is included in this post following this introduction.

Social contract: Marriages of court artists in late-16th-century Tudor England.

At 22 years old in 1583, Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger’s world in and around London was ideally enclosed by marriage to the sister of talented Tudor court painter John De Critz (c.1555-c.1641). De Critz, like his new brother-in-law Gheeraerts the Younger, was a child expatriate from Flanders to England in 1568.2 

In 1571 Gheeraerts the Elder had married his son’s future wife’s sister, making father and son Gheeraerts also eventually brothers-in law.3 

Over two decades later, in 1602, Gheeraerts the Younger’s sister married the court artist Isaac Oliver (c.1565-1617).4 

This was typical social behavior at the Tudor court where many active artists were connected by ties of marriage, family, and artistic training as well as shared European origin.

In Gheeraerts the Younger’s circle, for instance, John De Critz was apprenticed to the wealthy portrait painter Lucas de Heere (1534-1584) who may also have helped train Gheeraerts the Younger. De Heere – like Gheeraerts the Younger and De Critz – was a religious refugee to England from Flanders.

Isaac Oliver, Gheeraerts the Younger’s other brother-in-law, studied under leading Tudor portrait miniaturist and goldsmith Nicholas Hilliard (c.1547-1619). 5 Roy Strong as Director of the National Portrait Gallery in London links Hilliard to Gheeraerts by way of the supreme artistic quality found in both of these contrasting artists’ masterpieces.6 

One remarkable technical innovation that the young artist applied in his portraits was the use of stretched canvas in place of wood panel that allowed for larger and lighter surface areas on which to paint and more easily transport pictures of the grand gentlemen and ladies of the time.

By way of marriage to an Irish Catholic woman, Captain Thomas Lee became a man of considerable property in Ireland. Captain Lee had separated from his wife by the time of his portrait. The next year -– in 1595 –- Lee married an Englishwoman. Over the decades, Captain Lee’s military reputation became one of an enfant terrible in Ireland which did not mellow over time. Powerful friends looked to explain Thomas’s frequent reckless political and military behavior. It was justified as the occupational hazard of a longtime English soldier in Ireland.

Planning and posing of Captain Lee’s portrait.

Lee posed for Gheeraerts when the captain was straight off the battlefield from Ulster chieftain Aodh Mag Uidhir (Hugh Maguire, d. 1600) and in London for delicate negotiations.

To presumably express Thomas’s faithful service to the Crown, the portrait includes a Latin inscription in the tree that refers to Mucius Scaevola (c. 500 BC), an ancient perhaps mythical Roman fighter who remained loyal to Rome even after he was captured by mortal enemies.  

Captain Thomas Lee was related to Sir Henry Lee as paternal half cousins. Sir Henry was Queen Elizabeth I’s Champion for almost 25 years until his retirement in 1590. In that capacity, Henry was the creator of the stunning imagery for her publicly-popular Accession Day festivals that he annually planned. Along with Gheerearts the Younger’s Elizabethan allegorical portrait Lady in Fancy Dress (The Persian Lady) (#30 below) and the Ditchley portrait of Queen Elizabeth I (#31 below)both painted in the early 1590s — Henry, who remained active and influential in political affairs, may have helped devise the symbolism in Captain Lee’s portrait. The portrait also came from Ditchley, Sir Henry Lee’s timber-framed family house set in the wooded farmsland of north Oxfordshire.

While the painting’s landscape where Captain Lee stands is likely a representation of Ireland’s wild landscape, Henry Lee’s symbolism may provide other subtle and humorous features. 

Troublesome Thomas, for example, stands under an oak, which may refer to Sir Henry’s political protection but also that these trees are prone to dangerous lightning strikes. 

The final seven years of Captain Thomas Lee’s life iterated a legendary standard: at times negotiating with or killing Irish enemies he also served time in prison in Ireland on a charge of treason. Ultimately, Sir Henry could not save his familial junior– in 1601 Thomas faced execution in England for treason against Elizabeth I.

English colonial rule tightens in 17th century Ireland.

English power became increasingly absolute in 17th century Ireland.  

In the 1590’s, the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland believed turning their backs on the mostly Catholic natives was the most effective governing strategy. While an oath of allegiance to the Crown remained law to divest Irish rebels of their property to English rule, it was not vigorously applied until the arrival in 1604 into Ireland of Lord Deputy Arthur Chichester (1563-1625). 

The 1590’s continued to implement England’s new plantation system in Ireland which amounted to confiscating Irish property for English and Scottish settlers. While this provided quick and lucrative rewards for the conquerors, the political situation was not free of ambiguity. English laws were attacked by Irish chiefs seeking protection under older common law.

Protestant settlers had their own uneasy relationship with the English Crown who, in turn, fought a tug of war with an English Parliament.

About half of settlers in Ulster were Presbyterians who were dissenters from the English church which itself was at war with Anglo- and Gaelic Irish Catholics. Moreover, London viewed new Protestant landowners in Ireland –- such as Captain Thomas Lee –- with no less suspicion as despoiled Catholics. The Crown believed that the new Protestant vanguard in Ireland had power to usurp the island’s treasure more readily than pillaged Catholics who could, ironically perhaps, be better disposed to the idea of royal governance.7

While Thomas Lee’s special status is expressed in the painting’s lace embroidery on his rolled-up shirt and inlaid pistol and Northern Italian-made helmet, the Captain is dressed as a common foot-soldier who traveled through Ireland lightly armed. Captain Lee is also, both seriously and humorously, barelegged.

Sir Henry Lee must have been one of Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger’s earliest patrons, as the Ditchley collection had several portraits which can be ascribed to the artist.8

FOOTNOTES:

  1. Strong, Roy, The English Icon: Elizabethan & Jacobean Portraiture, The Paul Mellon Foundation for British Art London Routledge and Kegan Paul Limited New Haven Yale University Press, 1969, p.22.
  2. Ibid. p.259.
  3. Hearn, Karen, Marcus Gheeraerts II: Elizabethan Artist, In Focus (Tate Publishing), 2003, p. 11ff.
  4. Strong, p.269.
  5. Hearn, p.130.
  6. Strong, p.23.
  7. See Roger Chauviré, A Short History of Ireland, New American Library, 1965; T.W. Moody & F.X. Martin, editors, The Course of Irish History, Mercier Press, Cork, 1978; http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/gheeraerts-portrait-of-captain-thomas-lee-t03028 – retrieved May 28, 2017.
  8. The Captain Thomas Lee portrait was first recorded at Ditchley by Vertue in 1725 who noted there a portrait of ‘Lee in Highlanders Habit leggs naked a target & head piece on his left hand his right a spear or pike. Ætatis suae.43.ano.Dni 1594’.

1. SIGNED AND DATED WORKS (8 works):

Louis Frederick, Duke of Württemberg, 1608.

1 – Marcus Gheeraerts The Younger, Louis Frederick, Duke of Württemberg, 1608, oil on canvas, 225.1 x 113.1 cm, St James Palace. Probably painted for James I though first recorded in Charles II’s collection. (Strong 255, The English Icon).

Gheeraerts II painted portraits of several foreign dignitaries on their visits to the English court. Louis Frederick, Duke of Württemberg visited James I in London for three months in the latter part of 1608 and likely the artist produced this work at that time.

Gheeraerts the Younger Wm Camden 1609

2 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, William Camden, 1609, oil of panel,, 76.2.x 58.5 cm, Bodleian Library, Oxford. Given to the Schools by Camden Professor (1622-1647) Degory Whear. (Strong 256).

Gheeraerts the Younger, Lucy Davis. 1623. Private collection.

3 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Lucy Davis, Countess of Huntingdon, 1623, oil on panel, 76.8 x 62.3 cm, Private Collection. (Strong 257).

Marcus_Gheeraerts_the_Younger_William_Pope,_1st_Earl_of_Downe, 1624

4 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, William Pope, 1st Earl of Downe, 1624, oil on panel, 62.3.x 47.1 cm, Trinity College, University of Oxford. It was presented to Trinity College in 1813 by Henry Kett. (Strong 258).

Gheeraerts the Younger, Elizabeth Cherry, Lady Russell, 1625.

5 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Elizabeth Cherry, Lady Russell, 1625, oil on canvas, 194.5 x 105.6 cm, The Duke of Bedford. This painting has been at Woburn Abbey since 1625. (Strong 259).

Gheeraerts the Younger Sir William Russell, 1625

6 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Sir William Russell, 1625, oil on canvas, 195.6 x 111.8 cm, The Duke of Bedford. Always at Woburn Abbey. (Strong 260).

Gheeraerts the Younger, Richard Tomlins, 1628.

7 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Richard Tomlins, 1628, oil on panel, 111.8 x 83.9 cm. The Bodleian Library, Oxford. It was in the Library in 1759. (Strong 261).

Gheeraerts_Anne_Hale_Mrs_Hoskins

8 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Anne Hale, Mrs. Hoskins, 1629, oil on panel, 111.8 x 82.7 cm. Jack Hoskins Master, Esq. The painting remains in the family. (Strong 262). With detail.

2. DOCUMENTED AND DATED WORKS (3 works):

Gheeraerts_Barbara_Gamage_with_Six_Children 1596

9 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Barbara Gamage, Countess of Leicester, and her children, 1596, oil on canvas, 203.2 x 260.3 cm, The Viscount De L’Isle. Always at Penshurst Place near Tonbridge, Kent, 32 miles southeast of London; first recorded 1623. (Strong 263).

Marcus_Gheeraerts_the_Younger_William_2nd_Lord_Petre

10 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, William, 2nd Lord Petre, 1599, oil on panel. 111.8 x 90.2.cm. The Lord Petre; custody of the Essex County Record Office. (Strong 264).

Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Katherine Somerset, Lady Petre, 1599.

11 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Katherine Somerset, Lady Petre, 1599, oil on panel, 111.8 x 90.2 cm. The Lord Petre. Always at Ingatestone Hall, the 16th century manor of the Barons Petre in Essex, England. Queen Elizabeth I spent several nights there in 1561. (Strong 265).

3. INSCRIBED AND DATED WORKS (18 works):

# 12 800px-Marcus_Gheeraerts_II_-_Portrait_of_Mary_Rogers,_Lady_Harington_-_Google_Art_Project
Unknown Lady (Mary Rogers, Lady Harington), 1593

12 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Unknown Lady (Mary Rogers, Lady Harington), 1593, oil on panel, 114.3 x 94 cm, Tate (purchased 1974). The identity for the sitter is speculative, although her age (23 years old) is inscribed. It is one of the earliest known portraits by Gheeraerts. (Strong 266).

Detail, Unknown Lady (Mary Rogers, Lady Harington), 1593. The sitter is identified in part by the clothes she wears: the distinctive black and white pattern on her dress heralds the Harington coat of arms. The sitter is 23 years old and her portrait may have been painted in connection with a visit to Kelston (The Harington homestead) in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth. The Latin inscription in the painting reads, “I may neither make nor break” a dramatic phrase whose meaning is no longer clear.

Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Captain Thomas Lee in Irish Dress, 1594.
Captain Thomas Lee in Irish Dress, 1594.

13 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Captain Thomas Lee in Irish Dress, oil on canvas, 1594 (purchased 1980), Tate Britain. (Strong 267). With detail.

si francis drake 001 FIXED

14 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Sir Francis Drake, oil on canvas, 1594. Versions at National Maritime Museum, Greenwich and Lt.- Col. Sir geirge Tapps-Gervis-Meyrick.

Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Unknown Man, 1599.

15 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Unknown Man (Called the Earl of Southampton), 1599, location unknown. (Strong 269).

Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Unknown Lady, 1600.

16 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Unknown Lady, 1600, oil on panel, The Lord Talbot de Malhide. (Strong 270).

Sir Henry Lee by Marcus Gheeraerts Tate Britain, 1600

17 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Sir Henry Lee, oil on canvas, 1600, private collection on loan since 2008 to Tate Britain.

Sir Henry Lee (1533–1611), a Tudor Court favorite under Elizabeth I, was appointed as Queen’s Champion and Master of the Armoury. In that capacity, Sir Henry organised the annual public Accession Day festivals in honor of the queen. He commissioned the famous Ditchley portrait of Elizabeth I by Gheeraerts for his house at Ditchley in Oxfordshire. In 1597 he was made a Knight of the Garter and in Gheeraerts‘s portrait wears that order’s gold chain and bejeweled medal of St George slaying the dragon. (Strong 271).

Sir Henry Lee in Garter Robes, 1602.
Sir Henry Lee in Garter Robes, 1602 (detail).

18 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Sir Henry Lee in Garter Robes, 1602, oil on canvas, 216.2 x 137.2 cm. Always at Ditchley until 1933. Today at The Armourers & Brasiers’ Company of the City of London. Founded in 1322, the livery company was awarded its first Royal Charter in 1453 from King Henry VI. In 1708 the Armourers joined with the Brasiers and received its current charter from Queen Anne. (Strong 272).

Detail, Sir Henry Lee in Garter Robes, 1602. One of Gheeraerts II’s finest portraits, Sir Henry Lee is a former man of action, whose old head is remarkably shrewd.

Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Christophe de Harlay, Comte de Beaumont, 1605.

19 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Christophe de Harlay, Comte de Beaumont, 1605, oil on canvas, The Marquess of Salibury.

The Comte de Beaumont was the French ambassador to England at a time when the Kings of England and France were looking in their own ways for a diplomatic solution to the religious controversies in Europe. The painting was made for Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, a politician who had won James I’s trust. (Strong 273).

Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Alexander Seton 1st Earl of Dunfermline, 1606.

20 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Alexander Seton 1st Earl of Dunfermline, 1606.

Alexander Seton, 1st Earl of Dunfermline (1555–1622), a Scot, was regarded as one of the finest legal minds of his time. Seton served as Lord President of the Court of Session (top judge) from 1593 to 1604, Lord Chancellor of Scotland (top presiding officer of state) from 1604 to 1622 and Lord High Commissioner to the Scottish Parliament. (Strong 274).

Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Anne of Denmark, 1614

21 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Anne of Denmark, 1614, oil on panel, 109.4 x 87.3 cm, Windsor Castle.

At 15 years old, Anne married the future James I of England in 1589. The Queen consort bore James three children who survived infancy, including the future Charles I (reigned 1625-1649).

Once fascinated with his bride, observers regularly noted incidents of marital discord between the dour and ambitious James and his independent and self-indulgent wife.

Before she died in 1619 the royal couple led mainly separate lives. (Strong 275).

Gheeraerts the Younger, Ulrik, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, 1614.

22 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Ulrik, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, 1614, oil on canvas, 211.2 x 114.3 cm, The Duke of Bedford.

Prince Ulrik of Denmark, (1578–1624) was the second son of King Frederick II of Denmark and his consort, Sophie of Mecklenburg-Güstrow.

As second-born Ulrick bore the merely titular rank of Duke of Holstein and Schleswig although he later became Administrator of Schwerin.

After his sister Anne became Queen of England, Ulrik was godfather to Princess Mary. (Strong 276).

Gheeraerts the Younger, Sir John Kennedy, 1614.

23 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Sir John Kennedy, oil on canvas, 1614, The Duke of Bedford. Upon James I’s accession, Elizabeth Brydges — Maid of Honour of Queen Elizabeth I — married Sir John Kennedy, one of the king’s Scotch attendants. This occured at Sudeley Manor in Gloucestershire.

Chandos appears to have opposed the match, and it was rumored in early 1604 that Sir John Kennedy had a wife living in Scotland. James I wrote to Chandos (February 19, 1603 or 1604) entreating him to overlook Sir John’s errors because of his own love for his attendant.

Elizabeth Brydges apparently left her husband and desired to have the matter legally examined. As late as 1609 the legality of the marriage had yet to be decided.

Lord Chandos declined to aid his cousin, and Sir John Kennedy’s wife died deserted and in poverty in 1617. (Strong 277).

Gheeraerts the Younger, Catherine Killigrew Lady Jermyn, 1614.

24 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Catherine Killigrew, Lady Jermyn, 1614, oil on panel, 73.7 x 57.2 cm, Yale Center for British Art. (Strong 278). 

Catherine Killigrew was 35 years old when she sat for this portrait. The wife of an MP as well as the mother of three children, Catherine was the daughter of Sir William Killigrew (d. 1622) who was a courtier to Queen Elizabeth I and to King James I. Her father, Sir William, served as Groom of the Privy Chamber. (Strong 278).

Gheeraerts the Younger, Probably Mary (née Throckmorton), Lady Scudamore, oil on panel, 1615.

25 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, probably Mary (née Throckmorton), Lady Scudamore, oil on panel, 1615, 45 in. x 32 1/2 in. (1143 mm x 826 mm), National Portrait Gallery, London, purchased 1859.

The sitter, once wrongly identified as the Countess of Pembroke, is likely Lady Scudamore though about whom little is known. The portrait is likely for the occasion of her son’s marriage (John, later Viscount Scudamore) to Elizabeth Porter of Dauntsey, Wiltshire.

The wreath of flower and inscribed motto ‘No Spring Till now,’ suggest the hope that this marriage must have represented within the family. (Strong 279).

Gheeraerts the Younger, Sir Henry Savile, 1621.

26 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Sir Henry Savile, 1621, 216.2 x 127 cm, Bodleian Library, Oxford. Gift from the sitter’s widow, 1622.

Sir Henry Savile (1549-1622) was an enterprising Bible scholar. When his qualifications did not meet the standards for the role of Provost of Eton, he had Queen Elizabeth I waive the college’s rules for him.

As Warden of Merton — a post secured with the help of influential friends — he was unpopular with faculty and students though the college itself flourished.

Sir Henry’s brother was a powerful lawyer who helped guide his brother’s career which included knighthood in 1604. (Strong 280).

Gheeraerts the Younger, Sir Henry Savile, 1621.

27 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Sir Henry Savile, 1621, oil on canvas, 1621, 203.7 x 122 cm, Eton College. A second smaller copy of the Bible scholar and college administrator. (Strong 281).

Gheeraerts the Younger, William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, 1628.

28 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, 1628, oil on panel, 68.5 x 48.2 cm, Philip Yorke.

Under James I, William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke (1580 –1630), founded Pembroke College, Oxford, in 1624. In 1623 the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays had been dedicated to him and his brother Philip Herbert, Earl of Montgomery (the later 4th Earl of Pembroke).

A bookish man, the 3rd Earl of Pembroke was engaged to be married twice–in 1595 to Elizabeth Carey, the granddaughter of the Lord Chamberlain who ran Shakespeare’s company and in 1597 to Bridget de Vere. The first William refused to marry and the second William found her dowry arrangements to be dragged out and unacceptable.

In 1600 he impregnated a mistress at court who he then refused to marry. The child born died soon after. William and the mistress (Mary Fitton) were eventually barred from the court. William married Mary Talbot in 1604 though their two children died in infancy. At the same time, William was having an extra-marital affair with a cousin (Lady Mary Wroth) which produced two illegitimate children.

A patron of the arts, William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke died suddenly at 50 years old in 1630 and was buried in Salisbury Cathedral in the family vault at the foot of the altar. (Strong 282)

Gheeraerts the Younger, Charles Hoskins, 1629.

29 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Charles Hoskins, 1629, oil on panel, 66.1 x 52.7 cm, Jack Hoskins Master. Esq. (Strong 283).

Gheeraerts the Younger, Lady in Fancy dress (the Persian Lady), 1590.

30 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Lady in Fancy Dress (The Persian Lady), 1590s, oil on panel, 216.5 x 135.3 cm, Hampton Court.

First recorded in the collection of Queen Anne but believed to be part of the Royal Collection before that time, in the cartouche the sonnet reads: “The restless swallow fits my restless minde, Instill revivinge still renewinge wronges; her Just complaintes of cruelty unkinde, are all the Musique, that my life prolonges. With pensive thoughtes my weeping Stagg I crowne whose Melancholy teares my cares Expresse; hes Teares in sylence, and my sighes unknowne are all the physicke that my harmes redresse. My only hope was in this goodly tree, which I did plant in love bringe up in care: but all in vaine, for now to late I see the shales be mine, the kernels others are. My Musique may be plaintes, my physique teares If this be all the fruite my love tree beares.

Lady in Fancy Dress is a good example of Elizabethan allegorical portraiture. Importantly, the painting may be related to the Ditchley portrait of Elizabeth I (Strong 285) as well as the portrait of Captain Thomas Lee (Strong 267 ). These three portraits may be connected in some way to the entertainment given by Sir Henry Lee, the Queen’s Master of the Armouries and Champion of the Tilt, when the Queen visited Ditchley in 1592. (Strong 284).

ditchley a-elizdetail-1g

Queen Elizabeth I is standing on a map of England. Detail from The Ditchley Portrait of Elizabeth I by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger in 1592.

ditchley detail fan

Detail of a bejeweled fan in Queen Elizabeth I’s right hand from The Ditchley Portrait of 1592 by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger. In the decade before The Ditchley Portrait Gheeraerts the Elder, Marcus II’s father, had painted a full- length oil on panel portrait of Elizabeth I. In the ensuing handful of years, practical technical innovation in art is in evidence in the Elizabethan court — the the son’s oil portrait of the same royal personage was able to be produced on canvas on a much larger scale.   

ditchley.detail
ditchley

Detail of the beautiful garment and accessories.

ditchley 800px-queen_elizabeth_i_the_ditchley_portrait_by_marcus_gheeraerts_the_younger

Detail, Queen Elizabeth I. Ditchley portrait. Three fragmentary Latin inscriptions in the painting have been interpreted as: “She gives and does not expect”; “She can, but does not take revenge”; and, “In giving back, she increases.”

An inscribed sonnet, whose author is not known, takes the sun as its subject. At some later date the canvas was cut more than 7 centimeters fragmenting the final words of the each line. 

NPG 2561; Queen Elizabeth I ('The Ditchley portrait') by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger

31 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Queen Elizabeth I (“The Ditchley Portrait”), oil on canvas, 1592, 95 in. x 60 in. (2413 mm x 1524 mm). National Portrait Gallery, London. Bequeathed by Harold Lee-Dillon, 17th Viscount Dillon, 1932.

Queen Elizabeth was nearly 60 years old when this portrait was made. It is traditionally understood to have been painted on the Queen’s visit to Ditchley, the timber-framed family house in north Oxfordshire of Sir Henry Lee (1533-1611).

Like John II Walshe (d.1546/7) of Little Sodbury, Gloucestershire, who was the King’s Champion to Elizabeth’s father Henry VIII, Henry Lee served at that standard for Queen Elizabeth from 1570 until his retirement about two years before this painting was made. 

Ditchley once provided lodging and access to the royal hunting ground of Wychwood Forest.  (Strong 285). 

Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Sir Henry Lee, 1590s.

32 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Sir Henry Lee, 1590s, oil on canvas, 117 x 86.4 cm, The Ditchley Foundation. Always at Ditchley. The painting and inscribed verses memoralize an incident where Bevis – Lee’s dog – saved his master’s life. “More faithfull then favoured…” (Strong 286).

Michael Dormer, mid 1590s.

33 – Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Michael Dormer, mid 1590s, oil on canvas, 122 x 91.5 cm, J.C. H. Dunlop, Esq. There are Latin inscriptions which surround and are written across the globe and shield. (Strong 287).

The social and cultural world of Sir Henry Lee once again influences the young artist’s portrait of Michael Dormer, who was an Oxfordshire neighbor to Sir Henry. In Dormer’s three-quarter-length portrait, the right hand is posed similarly to Thomas Lee’s portrait. As Captain lee’s portrait is the centerpiece of this post’s explorations,it may be said with Michael Dormer’s this post has traveled full circle around Marcus Gheeraerts II’s verifiable portraiture in Elizabethan and Jacobean England.


Here then concludes the complete collection of Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger’s signed and dated works (Strong 255-262); inscribed and dated works (Strong 266-283); and, inscribed and undated works (Strong 284-287). Not included here are works dated and attributed to the artist (Strong 288-294) and attributed and undated (Strong 295-313). The last group includes several well-known portraits including William Cecil, Lord Burghley, c. 1595, in the National Portrait Gallery (Strong 295) and Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, c. 1596, in collection of the Duke of Bedford. (Strong 300).

CAPTION NOTES:

Strong 255 – Hearn, Karen, Marcus Gheeraerts II, Elizabethan Artist (In Focus series), Tate Publishing, 2002, p. 29.

Strong 264 and 265 – http://www.ingatestonehall.com/

Strong 266- http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/gheeraerts-portrait-of-mary-rogers-lady-harington-t01872

Strong 271- http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/gheeraerts-sir-henry-lee-l02883

Strong 272- http://www.armourershall.co.uk/armourers-hall

Strong 277 – http://www.tudorplace.com.ar/BRYDGES.htm#Catherine BRYDGES (C. Bedford)

Strong 278- http://collections.britishart.yale.edu/vufind/Record/1669266

Strong 279 – http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw05683/Probably-Mary-ne-Throckmorton-Lady-Scudamore#sitter

Strong 280 – https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/sir-henry-savile-15491622-228559/search/actor:gheeraerts-the-younger-marcus-1561156216351636/view_as/list/page/2;  White, Henry Julian (1906). Merton College, Oxford. pp. 93–94; http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1558-1603/member/savile-henry-ii-1549-1622; https://www.oxforduniversityimages.com/results.asp?image=BOD000038-01; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Savile_(Bible_translator)

Strong 282 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Herbert,_3rd_Earl_of_Pembroke

Strong 284 – https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/406024/portrait-of-an-unknown-woman; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artists_of_the_Tudor_court; http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/gheeraerts-portrait-of-captain-thomas-lee-t03028; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Lee_(army_captain)https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:PKM/icon4

STRONG 285 – John II Walshe (d.1546/7) of Little Sodbury, Gloucestershire, was King’s Champion at the coronation of Henry VIII in 1509 and was a great favorite of the young king’s. Transactions of the Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, Vol.13, 188/9, pp. 1–5, Little Sodbury”. Bgas.org.uk. Archived from the original on March 16, 2012. Retrieved 2012-03-19; Sir H Lee – Butler, Katherine (2015). Music in Elizabethan Court Politics. Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer. pp. 129–42. ISBN 9781843839811.; Ditchley once provided lodging and access to the royal hunting ground of Wychwood Forest. – timber-framed family house in classic north Oxfordshire wooded farmland, – https://web.archive.org/web/20070404233018/http://www.ditchley.co.uk/page/37/ditchley-park.htm; Inscriptions – http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw02079/Queen-Elizabeth-I-The-Ditchley-portrait#description; http://npg.si.edu/exhibit/britons/briton1.htm; Hearn, Karen, Marcus Gheeraerts II, Elizabethan Artist (In Focus series), Tate Publishing, 2002, p. 31.

STRONG 287 – Hearn, Karen, Marcus Gheeraerts II, Elizabethan Artist (In Focus series), Tate Publishing, 2002, p. 24.

The Art of Connoisseurship, or How The Art Institute of Chicago’s Titian Painting was Discovered to be a Work by an “Imitator.”

By John P. Walsh

“Allegory of Venus and Cupid,” c. 1600, Imitator of Titian (Tiziano Vecellio, Italian, c. 1485/90-1576), oil on canvas, 51 1/8 x 61 1/8 in. (129.9 x 155.3 cm).
Charles H. and Mary F.S. Worcester Collection, 1943.90.

This pleasant if heavily-restored late 16th century allegorical painting in the collection of The Art Institute of Chicago is now called “Allegory of Venus and Cupid” and dated to around 1600. Attributed to an “imitator” of Titian it remains today in museum storage (“Not on Display”). When this same painting was “rediscovered” around 1930 it was hailed as a Titian masterpiece and over the next 15 years was talked of that way in the general press and in some quarters of the art press. It delighted crowds who came to see it hang on the walls of The Art Institute of Chicago and The Cleveland Museum of Art. Called then “The Education of Cupid” and dated to the 1550s, it was compared favorably with Titian’s famous allegorical subject paintings in Paris’s Louvre and in Rome’s Galleria Borghese. The painting, through the Great Depression and World War II, was labeled “Titian,” but among expert connoisseurs there existed a longstanding dismissal of that high attribution ever since its first known “resurfacing” in the mid1830s in Scotland at Gosford House.

In Italian his name is Tiziano Vecellio, but he is famously known in English as Titian (1485-1576). He was part of a family of artists who, previously in the 13th and 14th centuries in Italy, had been civic leaders such as mayors, magistrates, and notaries. Offspring of two Vecellio brothers in the 15th century became artists. One of those brothers was ambassador to Venice and his grandsons became Venetian-trained painters (the family had a timber trade there). The younger grandson was the great Titian. Titian became the leading painter in Venice and an influential artist throughout 16th century Italy. His cousin Cesare Vecellio trained in Titian’s workshop and in spite of the fact that other Vecellio cousins and their sons became artists and were allowed to use the appellation “di Tiziano” which turned some heads – they, along with later followers of Titian, are now considered artistic mediocrities.

Titian: Self portrait, c. 1550, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.
Titian: Self portrait, c. 1550, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.

Today the painter of the Art Institute of Chicago’s allegory entitled “Allegory of Venus and Cupid” is only identified as an “imitator” of Titian. Its allegorical motifs share similarities with Titian’s and this is perhaps partly why this Old Master by an unknown follower of Titian was mistaken for the master himself when it resurfaced on the art market in 1927. Called then “The Education of Cupid” and dated to the 1550s, it traded back and forth to the dealer for almost a decade until it was bought in 1936 by a well-connected Chicago couple who collected 16th century Venetian paintings. The “Wemyss ‘Allegory’” (named for its former British owner, Lord Wemyss) came to Chicago out of what amounted to be a Scottish attic. It gained ready acclaim as a rediscovered Titian and since its subject was reminiscent of Titian’s “Allegory of Marriage” (1533) in the Louvre and a Titian subject allegory in the Galleria Borghese, the Wemyss “Allegory” in Chicago was hailed as completing a triumvirate of Titian’s greatest allegorical compositions. The problem was that the Chicago Titian was not a Titian at all – although it took about 10 years for that fact to gain modern acceptance. After the purchase, the new owners immediately lent their Titian to The Art Institute to mount on its gallery walls next to the collector couple’s Tintoretto, Veronese, and G.-B. Moroni. The museum eventually acquired the Wemyss “Allegory” in 1943, but not before it toured The Cleveland Museum of Art during their “Twentieth Anniversary Exhibition” in 1936 and was viewed with enthusiasm as a Titian.  The collector purchase and subsequent loan to the Art Institute was front page news in Chicago. The director of the museum at the time, Robert Harshe, compared the work in importance to only two others in the Art Institute at that time – El Greco’s “Assumption of the Virgin” (1577-79) and Rembrandt’s “Girl at the Open Half Door” (1645).

Soon after its acquisition by The Art Institute the Titian attribution was loudly critiqued in print and eventually dropped. The subject of the painting is of a girl who appears before Venus to be initiated into the mysteries of Love. At the girl’s right are Venus and the boy Cupid with an arrow. In the background one satyr raises a basket with two doves and another satyr raises a bundle of fruit. Allegories were popular in Italian Renaissance art to convey various social, political, economic and religious messages using historical and mythological figures. However, this painting’s figures appear to be derivative of specific Titian works. Further, it possesses little of the technical brilliance or psychological revelations found in Titian’s work such as in “Triple Mask or Allegory of Prudence” (c. 1570, London, National Gallery).  For instance, Titian’s imitator gives the figure of the girl the same dramatic hand gesture found in Titian’s “Venus with a Mirror” (c. 1555, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. ) or, even earlier, “The Penitent Magdalene” (1531-33, Florence, Palazzo Pitti) insofar as the girl’s skyward gaze and flowing hair. What most connoisseurs recognized by 1945 – in addition to the painting’s derivative character of well-known Titian works – was what they called its “very modern” execution – precisely, its sharp color contrasts and figurative forms that only developed after Titian’s time. Connoisseurs further noted that Titian always differentiated sharply between hair and ornament and that his female figures’ hair is neatly braided – whereas in the Wemyss “Allegory” the hair is “in a mass.”  Characteristics such as these pointed to the picture being less related to authentic Titians in Paris and Rome and more to ones attributed dubiously, even spuriously, to Titian in Munich and at the Durazzo Palace in Genoa. Yet this inauthenticity of Chicago’s Wemyss “Allegory” could have been questioned right at the start of its Chicago appearance in 1936 if the museum adhered more closely to the historical connoisseurship.

Sir Joseph Archer Crowe by Louis Kolitz (German, 1845-1914), London, National Portrait Gallery.
Sir Joseph Archer Crowe by Louis Kolitz (German, 1845-1914), London, National Portrait Gallery.
Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle, 19th century.
Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle, 19th century.

Sir Joseph Archer Crowe (British, 1825-1896) and Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle (Italian, 1819-1897) had seen all three of the spuriously attributed Titians in Munich, Genoa, and, at the time, Gosford House which was now in Chicago. It was well known the pair excluded all three from their Titian catalog except to note that they were imitations which had been notably damaged and restored. Chicago museum research in the late 1930s was also aware of Crowe and Cavalcaselle’s attributive work for they cited them in official publications on the Wemyss “Allegory,” but they overlooked their conclusions. With the museum’s acquisition of the Wemyss “Allegory” in 1943 Crowe and Cavalcaselle’s negative attribution for it was no longer ignored or denied.  About its reworking in England one tempting and likely wishful speculation was that the Wemyss “Allegory” was restored by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) but that claim is unsubstantiated. Further facts contextualized in the deft historical hands of modern connoisseurship left the Wemyss “Allegory” out in the Titianesque cold as an imitator. In the case of the Chicago painting it was by historical comparison with compositional arrangements in known Titians that the compositional arrangements in the Munich and Chicago paintings were deemed by Crowe and Cavalcaselle to be done by imitators. Historically for Titian it would be nonsensical or “unique” for Titian to have manipulated the figures in that way at that time. By the mid1940s the Chicago painting was searching for a new name attribution, although Crowe and Cavalcaselle did not give it one. The notion that it was done by Damiano Mazza, an obscure 16th century artist and student of Titian, was proposed but later dismissed.

Chatsworth, Duke of Devonshire: Van Dyck, Sketchbook.
Chatsworth, Duke of Devonshire: Van Dyck, Sketchbook.
Rome, Galleria Borghese: Venus and Cupid with Satyr Carrying a Basket with Fruit,” attributed to Paolo Veronese.
Rome, Galleria Borghese: Venus and Cupid with Satyr Carrying a Basket with Fruit, attributed to Paolo Veronese.

Some of the confusion over the attribution to Titian of the Wemyss “Allegory” is based on erring connections made using erring extant evidence. For example, the conjecture of Vienna School-trained art historian of Venetian art Hans Tietze (Czech, 1880-1954) that a sketch by Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) which Tietze wrongly believed was made at Chatsworth House of a painting once attributed to Titian was a sketch that shared similar motifs with the Wemyss “Allegory” is his thin thread for possible attribution to Titian. It can be argued that the Wemyss “Allegory” shares very little with the Van Dyck sketch except for the satyr lifting a basket and, further, the painting in question which Van Dyck sketched is no longer attributed to Titian and remains in the Galleria Borghese as a minor “Venus and Cupid with Satyr Carrying a Basket with Fruit” attributed to Paolo Veronese. It is in Rome where Van Dyck must have made his sketch, not England, and it was there he mislabeled it as Titian – and this misleading evidence became the key to prompt a connoisseur’s train of thought.

Paris, Louvre: “Allegory of Marriage”, Titian, 1533. It has found repetition for centuries.
Paris, Louvre: “Allegory of Marriage”, Titian, 1533.
It has found repetition for centuries.

One persuasive conclusion on attribution today for the Wemyss “Allegory” was offered by Hans Tietze’s wife, the historian of renaissance and baroque art, Erika Tietze-Conrat (1883-1958). She believed that the Art Institute painting resides in a pool of works done by assistants and imitators who combined varied elements of Titian’s allegories as found in the Louvre’s “Allegory of d’Avalos” (the aforementioned “Allegory of Marriage”) and the Borghese’s “Education of Cupid.” Those known Titians were purported by Erwin Panofsky (German, 1892-1968) to be nuptial paintings – and Tietze-Conrat postulates that numerous reproductions were made by these followers so to create nuptial paintings for their patrons to suit their needs. The derivative works shared the intimacy of a private format with a recognizable cast of 16th century depictions of mythological actors and the evocation of a Titianesque mood. Today the Art Institute of Chicago has renamed their Wemyss “Allegory” as “Allegory of Venus and Cupid,” dated it to “around 1600,” and removed Titian and every other named attribution. Attribution has been returned to the term that connoisseurs Crowe and Cavalcaselle gave the painting in 1881 – that is, “imitator.” “The execution here is very modern,” the pair wrote in their Life and Times of Titian that year, “It is greatly injured, but was apparently executed by some imitator of Titian.”

“Allegory of Venus and Cupid,” c. 1600, Imitator of Titian (Tiziano Vecellio, Italian, c. 1485/90-1576), oil on canvas, 51 1/8 x 61 1/8 in. (129.9 x 155.3 cm). Charles H. and Mary F.S. Worcester Collection, 1943.90.

NOTES –

“first known “resurfacing” in the mid1830s in Scotland at Gosford House” – http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/46314?search_no=6&index=4 ,retrieved Dec 29, 2014.

On Titian and Vecellio family – Encyclopedia of Italian Renaissance & Mannerist Art, Volume II, edited by Jane Turner, Macmillan Reference Limited, 2000, p. 1695.

For provenance since 1835 – see http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/46314?search_no=6&index=4 ,retrieved Dec 29, 2014.

“ready acclaim as a rediscovered Titian…”; “lent their Titian to The Art Institute to mount……”; “Cleveland… ‘Twentieth Anniversary Exhibition’ in 1936…” –A Great Titian,” Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago (1907-1951) Vol. 31, No. 1 (Jan., 1937), p. 8; “Famed Titian Work Acquired by Chicagoans,” Chicago Tribune, October 20, 1936, p. 28; “The Mr. and Mrs. Charles H. Worcester Gift,” Daniel Catton Rich, Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago, Vol. 24, No. 3 (Mar., 1930), pp. 29-31 and 40.  The Chicago collectors were Mr. and Mrs. Charles H. Worcester, a museum Vice-President and lumber and paper manufacturer.

“…director of the museum… compared the work in importance to El Greco’s ‘Assumption of the Virgin’ and Rembrandt’s ‘Girl at the Open Half Door’” – “Famed Titian Work Acquired by Chicagoans,” Chicago Tribune, October 20, 1936, p. 28.

“….Allegories were popular in Italian Renaissance art…”-  http://www.iub.edu/~iuam/online_modules/iowc/b_003.html,retrieved December 29, 2014.

little of the technical brilliance or psychological revelations found in…Triple Mask…”H. E. Wethey, The Paintings of Titian: Complete Edition, vol. 2, The Portraits, Phaidon, New York, p. 50.

“its ‘very modern’ execution”; “in a mass” – The Wemyss Allegory in the Art Institute of Chicago, E. Tietze-Conrat. The Art Bulletin Vol. 27, No. 4 (Dec., 1945), p. 269.

“It was widely known the pair excluded all three from their Titian catalog…” – “A Great Titian Goes to Chicago,” Art News 35, 5 (1936), p.15 (ill.).

“Chicago museum research in the late 1930s was aware of Crowe and Cavalcaselle’s attributive work… overlooked their conclusions…” – Footnote #4, The Wemyss Allegory in the Art Institute of Chicago, E. Tietze-Conrat. The Art Bulletin Vol. 27, No. 4 (Dec., 1945), p. 269.

“…restored by Sir Joshua Reynolds…” – The Wemyss Allegory in the Art Institute of Chicago, E. Tietze-Conrat. The Art Bulletin Vol. 27, No. 4 (Dec., 1945), p. 269.

 “done by Damiano Mazza…” Ibid., p. 270.

Conjecture of Hans Tietze; Erika Tietze-Conrat’s postulation –  Ibid., p. 271.

“the execution here is very modern… It is greatly injured, but was apparently executed by some imitator of Titian.” – Crowe and Cavalcaselle, Life and Times of Titian, London, 1881,
II, p. 468.

https://www.academia.edu/13331765/THE_ART_OF_CONNOISSEURSHIP_OR_HOW_THE_ART_INSTITUTE_OF_CHICAGO_DISCOVERED_THEIR_TITIAN_PAINTING_WAS_A_WORK_BY_AN_IMITATOR._

Battle of Flodden Field (September 9, 1513)—a young Scottish king who walked the world stage is killed.

The Flodden Window (detail) in the Parish Church of St. Leonard in Middleton near Manchester in England. Completed in 1524 by Sir Richard Assheton of an illustrious military and religious family, St. Leonard was built on previous Norman and Saxon buildings and intended to celebrate Sir Richard’s knighthood by King Henry VIII for his part in the Battle of Flodden Field in 1513. The stained-glass window memorializes archers from Middleton who joined the battle on the side of the English. The battle itself took place about 200 miles to the north from Middleton and about 4 miles from the Scottish border inside of England near Branxton.

By John P. Walsh

The reign of charismatic Scottish King James IV (born March 17, 1473) came to an abrupt halt on September 9, 1513 when he was instantly killed in battle against an English army in northernmost England. It was Continental politics and entangling alliances that put Scotland in armed conflict against its neighbor. In 1502 a treaty was signed pledging everlasting peace between the kingdoms of Scotland and England which was sealed in marriage of religious and ambitious James IV to Margaret Tudor (1489-1541), sister of future English King Henry VIII (1491-1547). The Scots also had a treaty with their old ally, France. When the Pope in Italy excluded France from political gain in Italy—and England endorsed the pope’s action—France called on Scotland for help. In the summer of 1513, James invaded England.1

James IV of Scotland (1473-1513). Published by Peter Stent, line engraving, c.1643-1667. 6 7/8 in. x 4 3/4 in. (176 mm x 122 mm) paper size Given to the National Portrait Gallery, London, by Sir Herbert Henry Raphael, 1st Bt, 1916.

James IV of Scotland (1473-1513). Published by Peter Stent, line engraving, c.1643-1667. 6 7/8 in. x 4 3/4 in. (17.6 mm x 12.2 cm) paper size. Given to the National Portrait Gallery, London, by Sir Herbert Henry Raphael, 1st Bt, 1916.

42071fixed

Portrait of James IV, after 1578, artist unknown, 41.2 x 33 cm, National Galleries Scotland. When James III was killed on June 11, 1488 at The Battle of Sauchieburn in Scotland, his 15-year-old son James IV succeeded him. He had been the rebels’ assumed figurehead, and for his indirect role in his father’s death James decided to wear a heavy iron belt for the rest of his life. A highly intelligent man, James IV proved an effective ruler. He spoke several languages and took an interest in literature, science, and law. Determined to establish strong central leadership he suppressed The Lord of the Isles and created a powerful navy. In 1503 he married the English king’s daughter, Margaret Tudor, in an attempt to create peace between the two countries. When England invaded France, James felt obliged to assist his old Continental ally. In 1513 he confronted the English army but was killed in the disastrous Battle of Flodden Field.

89182fixed

James IV, 1473 – 1513. King of Scots, 17th century, artist unknown, work on paper, 13.33 x 10.16 cm, Scottish National Portrait Gallery (Print Room).

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James IV married Margaret Tudor (1489-1541), the sister of future English King Henry VIII (1491-1547).
The Battle of Flodden Field was fought in the county of Northumberland in northern England on September 9, 1513, between an invading Scots army under King James IV and an English army commanded by the Earl of Surrey.

The Battle of Flodden Field was fought in the county of Northumberland in northern England on September 9, 1513. The battle was between the invading Scots army under King James IV and the English army commanded by the Earl of Surrey.

Battle strength and casualties are disputed but the Scots likely numbered more than 30,000 men and, after some delay, engaged an English force of around 20,000 men under Lieutenant-General Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, Earl of Surrey (1443-1524) who would be the grandfather of future queens Anne Boleyn (1501-1536) and Catherine Howard (1521-1542).² On September 9, 1513 the two armies clashed at Flodden Field in the far north of England. The battle proved a disaster for the Scots. Scotland’s inspiring king was quickly killed in action with a third of his army, including many officers. English losses were but a small fraction of their total.³


Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, Earl of Surrey (1443-1524).
The battlefield today. The battle started with an artillery duel. The Scots brought heavy guns and had difficulty aiming at the English army at close range and below them. Lighter English guns experienced none of this problem and picked off the Scots' guns. In response, the Scottish left wing advanced down the hill and wreaked havoc on the English right wing. Then the rest of the Scottish army advanced but the valley floor was too marshy and the army got bogged down. Scottish pikemen became easy targets for English infantry and it was here that a third of the Scottish army was destroyed.

The battlefield today (above).

The battle started with an artillery duel. The Scots brought heavy guns and had difficulty aiming at the English army at close range below them. Lighter English guns were able to target and pick off the Scots’ guns. In response, the Scottish left wing advanced downhill and wreaked havoc on the English right wing. The rest of the Scottish army then advanced. But a marshy valley floor bogged the army down. The Scottish pikemen became easy targets for the English infantry. The end result was that a third of the Scottish army was destroyed.

One immediate consequence of The Battle of Flodden Field was to put James V on the Scottish throne–born in April 1512 he wasn’t even two years old.

The Scots were made to wait a generation for kingly leadership in very trying times. Thirty years later, in 1542, James V would die prematurely and was succeeded on the throne by his only legitimate daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots, who was only six days old.

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James V, 1512 – 1542, artist unknown, c. 1579, 41.30 x 33.00 cm, National Galleries Scotland. James V (reigned 1513 – 1542), father of Mary, Queen of Scots, became king at one-year old when his father, James IV, was killed at Flodden, fighting the English. Ignoring the advice of English King Henry VIII, his uncle, to become a Protestant, James V strengthened Scotland’s alliance with its traditional ally, France. He married the French king, Francis I ‘s daughter, Madeleine of Valois (1520 –1537). When she died, he married Mary of Guise (1515-1560), another high-born Catholic French woman. James V died at Falkland Palace, soon after his army’s defeat by the English at Solway Moss, on November 24, 1542. His six-day-old daughter Mary succeeded to his throne.

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Madeleine of Valois (1520 –1537), Corneille de Lyon (1500/1510–1575), Musée des Beaux-arts de Blois. First wife of James V of Scotland. They married on New Year’s Day 1537 at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Of delicate health from birth, Madeleine died in July 1537 at 17 years old.

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Portrait of Mary of Guise (1515 – 1560), Corneille de Lyon, c. 1579, 41.3 x 33 cm, Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Queen of James V of Scotland and mother of Mary, Queen of Scots. The daughter of a French duke, Mary of Guise had just been widowed when she married James V to strengthen the alliance between France and Scotland. Their two sons died in infancy and James died a few days after their daughter, Mary, was born in 1542. Mary of Guise chose to stay in Scotland, ruling as Regent to protect her daughter’s interests. Courageous and determined, her effort to keep Scotland in the French Roman Catholic sphere was unsuccessful in the rising tide of Protestantism on the British Isles.

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Mary, Queen of Scots, 1542 – 1587, artist unknown (after Francois Clouet, c. 1510 – 1572), 32.90 x 27.40 cm, National Galleries Scotland. This is probably a 19th century replica after an image made around 1561. Within eighteen months Mary, Queen of Scots, lost three members of her closest family — her father-in-law (Henry II of France), mother (Mary of Guise) and, on December 5, 1560, her husband, Francois II of France. Mary is depicted here in mourning, wearing a white hood and veil. According to the Venetian Ambassador to the French court, Mary was inconsolable. Her “tears and lamentations inspired a great pity” in everyone, the diplomat observed. Eight months later, having lost her position as Queen of France, Mary landed at Leith to take up her duties as Queen of Scotland.

In a subsequent era Scottish poet Jane (or Jean) Elliot (1727-1805) wrote to an ancient Scottish tune a poetic lamentation for Flodden’s martial calamity. Published in 1776, it is called The Flowers of The Forest and is Elliot’s only surviving work.

Dule and wae for the order sent our lads to the Border;
The English for ance, by guile wan the day;
The Flowers of the Forest, that foucht aye the foremost,
The prime o’ our land are cauld in the clay.

We’ll hear nae mair lilting at our yowe-milking,
Women and bairns are heartless and wae;
Sighing and moaning on ilka green loaning:
‘The Flowers of the Forest are a’ wede away.4

NOTES:

1 Trevor Royle, Precipitous City: The Story of Literary Edinburgh, Mainstream Publishing, Edinburgh, 1980. pp. 16-17.

Stanford E. Lehmberg, “The Life of Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey and Second Duke of Norfolk, 1443-1524 by Melvin J. Tucker,” The American Historical Review, Vol. 71, No. 1 (Oct., 1965), p. 158.

“The Flodden Death-Roll,” The Scottish Antiquary, or, Northern Notes and Queries, Vol. 13, No. 51 (Jan., 1899), Edinburgh University Press, p. 102.

4Royle, Precipitous City, p.17.