Gerson Digital : Italy


1.2 Mannerists from the Netherlands in Italy

Mannerist artists took it upon themselves to travel to Italy, thus continuing the tradition established by their Romanist predecessors.1 Some of them made their way from Italy to Fontainebleau near Paris (among them Joachim Wtewael [1566-1638]) while others, especially those who specialised in altarpieces and landscapes, such as Simon Wobreck (active 1557-1587), Ernst van Schack III (before 1567-in or after 1631) and Jan Soens (1547/8-1611), received sufficient commissions to make a living in Italy. Among the arch-Mannerists were Hendrick Goltzius and his pupil, the engraver Jacob Matham (1571-1631), who etched his name in the Catacombs of Domitilla in 1593.2 Frans Badens (1571-1618), a native of Antwerp who had settled in Amsterdam, accompanied Matham on his journey but returned home four years later, whereas Matham remained in Rome until 1600.3

Hendrik Goltzius (1558-1617) toyed with the idea of going to Italy in the company of two young apprentices as early as 1584, but it was not until 1590 that his trip finally materialised. Without stopping anywhere for long en route he reached Rome in early 1591. Using the alias of Heinrich von Bracht he kept his identity secret from his Italian fellow artists for eight months so that he could devote himself undisturbed to his studies of antiquity and the great masters. He enjoyed an excellent reputation and regularly delighted in dressing in disguise so as to hear the unadorned views of foreign artists on his engravings that were on display in Rome and elsewhere.4 In some of their works Italian engravers such as Giovanni Battista Coriolano (1579-1649) and Francesco Bernardino Bergonci (active c. 1590) [1] reveal a Mannerist style incorporating a Netherlandish element reminiscent of Goltzius.5 It is quite clear from his Adoration of the Shepherds (B. 17; H. 11) [2] that Goltzius had studied the works of the Bassano family.6

Francesco Bernardino Bergonci after Aegidius Sadeler (II) after Hans von Aachen
The Adoration of the Shepherds, between 1590-1600
paper, etching (printing process) 170 x 230 mm
lower left : Francesco Bernardino Begonci f.
London (England), British Museum, inv./ Nn,7.22.1

Hendrick Goltzius after Jacopo Bassano
The adoration of the shepherds, 1594 (dated)
paper, engraving (printing process) 470 x 355 mm
lower left : HG./ Ao. 1594
London (England), British Museum, inv./ F,3.128

Orazio Brunetti after Abraham Bloemaert
The Golden Age, between 1610-1630
paper, etching (printing process) 335 x 513 mm
Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, inv./ OBrunetti AB 2.1

Leandro Bassano after Jan Harmensz. Muller after Abraham Bloemaert
The raising of Lazarus (John 11), between 1595-1500
canvas, oil paint 65.5 x 86 cm
im Kinsky (Vienna (city)) 2016-10-18 - 2016-10-19, nr. 836

Jan Harmensz. Muller after Abraham Bloemaert published by Harmen Jansz. Müller (ca.1540-1617)
The raising of Lazarus (John 11), c. 1593 or 1598-1602
paper, engraving (printing process) 369 x 485 mm
lower left : Abrahamus Blommaert/inuentor
Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet, inv./ RP-P-OB-32.142

Antonio Tempesta after Otto van Veen
Julius Civilis arrested and his brother Paulus beheaded, 1611-1612
paper, etching (printing process) 167 x 210 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./ RP-P-OB-77.911

Antonio Tempesta after Otto van Veen
The negotiations between Julius Civilis and Cerialis on the broken bridge, 1611-1612
paper, etching (printing process) 167 x 211 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./ RP-P-OB-77.943

In all likelihood Abraham Bloemaert (1566-1651) and Jacques de Gheyn II (1565-1629) never set foot in Italy and the same is true of Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem (1562-1638).7 Their influence in Italy is tangible, nonetheless.8 Orazio Brunetti (active 1609-c. 1640) produced occasional engravings in the Bloemaert manner [3], while Francesco Curti (1610-1690) tended to follow de Gheyn. Paintings after Bloemaert compositions, which were mostly disseminated in the form of engravings, can also be found in Italy [4-5].9 However, due account must always be taken in works by Mannerist artists of the complex interaction between north and south. Antonio Tempesta (1555-1630), whose etchings were very well known and frequently used in Holland, did not consider himself above a series of etchings of the Revolt of the Batavi after designs by Otto van Veen (1556-1629) [6-7].10 These few examples are designed to show that by this time the north was no longer a mere recipient, although it must be conceded that Italy had established a lead of which contemporaries were undoubtedly well aware. One need only recall the words of Karel van Mander cited at the beginning.

We have no way of assessing the effect Italy had on a number of young portraitists. Everard van der Maes (1577-1656) [8], the little-known Johan Dircksz. van Nes (†1650), David Bailly (1584-1657) and David Baudringien (c. 1582- 1650) were all in the south in the early part of the 17th century, to say nothing of other lesser known artists. Their portraits are completely un-Italian. Is it conceivable that some of their Mannerist figure compositions have survived undetected like those by Michiel van Mierevelt (1566-1641), who was not in Italy, and by Paulus Moreelse (1571-1638), who most definitely was?11

Evert van der Maes
Saint Jerome in his Vault, 1609 (dated)
canvas, oil paint 103 x 97 cm
Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, inv./ 1480


1 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] The term ‘Romanists’ was introduced by Hoogewerff in 1912 to designate 16th-century artists from the Low Countries who travelled to Italy and assimilated Roman models (Hoogewerff 1912; Hoogewerff 1934). For methodological reasons the term is no longer in use among scholars (Dacos 1980; Wouk 2018, p. 31).

2 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] Hensen 1916, p. 419, 420-422; Hoogewerff 1936, p. 100. It is unlikely, however, that Matham left his signature in the Catacombs of Domitilla as early as 1593, since it is now supposed that the artist spent approximately two years in Venice (1593-1594) before arriving in Rome around 1595 (Widerkehr 2007, vol. 1, p. xxx-xxxiii).

3 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] Matham returned from Italy at the end of the spring of 1597, as is evidenced by the number of prints he engraved in Haarlem between 1597 and 1598 (Widerkehr 2007, vol. 1, p. xxxiv). That fits perfectly with Van Mander’s account of a sojourn that lasted four years. As to Frans Badens’s stay in Rome: he too seems to have left his name in the Catacombs of Domitilla (Hoogewerff 1936, p. 100). Furthermore, we know of at least two drawings by Badens that were made in Rome between 1595 and 1596 (Dacos/Meijer 1995, p. 70-73).

4 [Gerson 1942/1983] Van Mander/Floerke 1906, vol. 2, p. 230-238.

5 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] Several early 17th-century frescoes and paintings bear witness to the favourable reception of prints by and after Goltzius in Italy. Apart from a painted frieze in Palazzo Lucchini in Bologna (Boschloo 1993) one can find frescoes inspired by Goltzius’s inventions in places such as Frascati (Villa Sora; Guerrieri Borsoi 2000, p. 39 ff.) and Vescovana (Villa Pisani; unpublished).

6 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] Meijer 1991B, p. 106.

7 [Gerson 1942/1983] A Mannerist work in the style of Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem by Abraham van der Houven (1576-1621), who did visit Italy, has become known (Stechow 1925-1926). [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] RKDimages 68424 .

8 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] The Neapolitan collector Matteo di Capua (ca. 1568-1607) presumably owned two mythological paintings by Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem. Together with prints after designs by Cornelis Cornelisz. they may have served as sources of inspiration for Louis Finson’s spectacular painting of The Four Elements, painted in Naples in 1611 (Porzio in Van der Sman 2016A, p. 190).

9 [Gerson 1942/1983] For example a Raising of Lazarus attributed to Leandro Bassano, formerly in Bonn (catalogue 1927, no. 26) after Abraham Bloemaert (engraving by Jan Muller, B. 27, who did go to Italy). [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] For other examples: Fontana Amoretti 1998/Plomp, p. 71, cat.nos. 12 and 13.

10 [Gerson 1942/1983] Van de Waal 1937.

11 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] The only painting by Everard van der Maes that shows the impact of his stay in Italy is his Saint Jerome, monogrammed and dated 1609 (fig. 8), but the composition is not overtly Mannerist in style.

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