Sunday, October 26, 2014

Quentin Matsys

The Moneylender and his Wife
oil on panel
71 x 68 cm
Musee du Louvre, Paris, France

Quentin Matsys (also spelled Massys, Metsys, or Messys) (1466–c.1530), born in Leuven, Brabant (now in Belgium), is a Flemish artist who is the first important painter of the Antwerp school. He was part of a Flemish family of artists, son of a Leuven blacksmith. His father was known to have executed commissions for the new Leuven Stadhuis, one of the most ornate town halls in the Netherlands, as well as other work for the Leuven authorities, and to have been superintendent of the chapel belonging to the Leuven metalsmiths- Guild of St Eligius.

The roots of his training are unknown. According to the legend he only became a painter because his sweetheart would not marry a smith. When he settled at Antwerp at the age of twenty-five, his own style contributed importantly to reviving Flemish art along the lines of van Eyck and van der Weyden. He most likely met Holbein more than once on his way to England, and Durer is believed to have visited his house at Antwerp in 1520.

He is best known for his razor sharp wit and his skill at capturing the absurdity of society. His paintings, even after five hundred years, are bitingly clever. He infused his art with a strong sense of moralizing overtones, comedy and satire. He absorbed the Netherlandish artistic traditions and influence, reinterpreting them in original and often outrageous ways. He painted a range of subjects, excelling in humorous portraiture and social satire. He had considerable skill as a portrait painter. His portraiture exhibits highly personal and individual emotional characteristics that reflect his adherence to realism as a technique.

He died at Antwerp in c.1530. In spite of his religious devotion, several of his relatives died as a result of their faith. His sister and her husband suffered at Leuven in 1543 for what was then the capital offence of reading the Bible: he being decapitated, she allegedly buried alive in the square before the church.