2 More
Property from a Private Collection (Lots 2 & 3)

The Temptation of Saint Anthony

The Temptation of Saint Anthony
indistinctly dated '1553' (upper right, on the baldachin)
oil on panel, laid down on board
21 1⁄4 x 27 1⁄2 in. (54.1 x 69.7 cm.)
Private collection, Rome, as 'Pieter Huys'.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 11 December 1991, lot 191, as 'Follower of Jan Mandijn', when acquired by the father of the present owners.
D. van Heesch, 'Hieronymus Bosch, the Antwerp Sketchbook, and the Transfer of Images from Pen to Print', Master Drawings, 57:3, 2019, pp. 299, 391 and 311, note 23, fig. 18, as 'Follower of Hieronymus Bosch'.

Brought to you by

Clementine Sinclair
Clementine Sinclair Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Check the condition report or get in touch for additional information about this

If you wish to view the condition report of this lot, please sign in to your account.

Sign in
View condition report

Lot Essay

Hieronymus Bosch’s diabolic landscapes created an artistic phenomenon so revered in his lifetime and beyond that they gained a life of their own. From the early-sixteenth century onward, Bosch’s devilish poetics were disseminated by draughtsmen, painters and printmakers through an intense exchange of models. The impact was particularly acute in the artistic hub of Antwerp, where artists like Jan Mandijn reinterpreted Boschian themes through motifs derived from drawings, often assembled in sketchbooks and modelbooks.
While such modelbooks are now lost or dismembered, the rare album of the so-called Antwerp Sketchbook (fig. 1; Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett), an exceptional survival of a sixteenth-century Musterbuch, demonstrates how such an invaluable workshop tool helped artists to build up a visual repertoire as a means of developing compositions. Said to have originated in the 1530s and ‘40s in the workshop of the elusive Herri met de Bles (op. cit., pp. 291), the stock of visual tropes appears to have been adapted and reused by artists working in Antwerp at the time. A group of nine drawings found at the back of the sketchbook form the basis of the present painting and that of a work attributed to Jan Mandijn in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (fig. 2).
Deriving from a composition of The Temptation of Saint Anthony, the chimeric motifs appear to have been copied on to this panel directly from the drawings with great exactitude, with infrared reflectoraphy (available upon request) showing their complete underdrawing and squared guidelines to assist with their transfer. These were interwoven with more spontaneously executed elements, such as the landscape, distant staffage and Saint Anthony himself, who appears to have been originally underdrawn before the artist replaced him with a more freely rendered figure in paint. While there are other extant works that combine the motifs of the Antwerp Sketchbook, such as an anonymous drawing in the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, no other composition combines nearly all of the pictorial elements found in the present picture, with the painting in Vienna coming a close second, dated to circa 1550. The present panel was clearly conceived at around the same time, since it is inscribed with the date ‘1553’, discreetly located on the distant baldachin, just beneath the seated bagpipe player, a date corroborated by dendrochronological examination, which dates the panel to circa 1545-56 (Ian Tyers, May 2019, available upon request).
Although it is surprising that so little is known of Jan Mandijn, given his apparent relative prominence during his lifetime, much of the cause of this may be attributed to his status as one of the most talented followers of Hieronymus Bosch. The difficulty of attribution within this field is well known, so dominant is the latter's stylistic and iconographic legacy, and much reliance has necessarily been placed on the few known signed works that establish each artist's corpus. In the case of Mandijn, however, there is only one such example, the Temptation of Saint Anthony in the Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, the signature of which in turn has been questioned. Yet the evident quality of the present painting, with its compositional and stylistic links, and similar date of execution to the Vienna Saint Anthony, justifiably places it within Mandijn’s workshop, seemingly after the artist’s return from Zichem, where he completed the Triptych with scenes from the life of Saint Eustace in 1552.
Depicting one of the epicentral subjects of the work of Bosch and his followers, many of the motifs found here emanated from Bosch’s triptych of the Temptation of St. Anthony (Lisbon, Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga), such as the tree woman cradling the baby, the oversized decaying fruit of sin, the burning village, the flying fish and the variety of surrounding beasts and anthropomorphs. Deriving in particular from Jacobus de Voragine's Golden Legend, which recounted with some fascination the fantastic demons that tormented the anchorite in his visions, it represented for Bosch (along with the lives of the other principle hermit saints) an important source of his vision. For his followers, it represented a crucial opportunity to depict the extraordinary grotesques that were to fascinate and horrify their contemporaries, and that retain today their enduring force.

More from Old Masters Evening Sale

View All
View All