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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more PROPERTY OF A DISTINGUISHED AMERICAN COLLECTOR

Saint Jerome in his Study

Saint Jerome in his Study
signed 'OPUS MARINI' (center left, on the stained glass window)
oil on panel
25 1/4 x 32 1/8 in. (64.3 x 81.7 cm.)
Private collection, Madrid.
Anonymous sale; Fernando Durán, Madrid, 28 December 2015, lot 358, where acquired by the present owner.
A. Mackor, 'On Marinus van Ramerswale's St. Jerome in his Study, with special attention for the Brukenthal version', Brukenthal Acta Musei, XII, no. 2, 2017, pp. 251 f. and 256, no. 19, figs. 8-9.
A. Hart and M.P.J. Martens, 'Albrecht Dürer's Iconic Image of Saint Jerome. Making, Meaning and Reception', in S. Foister and P. van den Brink, eds., Dürer's Journeys: Travels of a Renaissance Artist, exhibition catalogue, London and Aachen, 2021, pp. 264, 265 note 68.
A. Hart and M.P.J. Martens, `Dürers berühmtes Bildnis des Heiligen Hieronymus. Entstehung, Bedeutung und Rezeption', in P. van den Brink, ed., Dürer war hier. Eine Reise wird Legende, Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum, Aachen 2021, pp. 429, 438, 454, fig. 287.
Aachen, Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum, Dürer war hier: Eine Reise wird Legende, 18 July-24 October 2021, no. 210.
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Lot Essay

Like so many painters of his age, Marinus van Reymerswale assumed his surname from the place of his birth in the county of Zeeland, now a province in the southwest of the Netherlands. The small, walled city of Reymerswale was situated on the island of Zuid-Beveland, located about 25 km down the Scheldt river from Amsterdam. Tragically, it was destroyed by floods during the artist’s lifetime (see below), and was completely abandoned in the seventeenth century. The historian Adri Mackor has vastly added to our scant biographical knowledge about this enigmatic, highly erudite artist, using previously unrecognized documents to weave together a fuller picture of the painter’s life (see A. Mackor, ‘The Life and Reputation of Marinus’, in Marinus: Painter from Reymerswale, C. Seidel, ed., exhibition catalogue, Madrid, 2021, pp. 31-41). Marinus was born in or shortly before 1489. His father may have been the painter Nicolaes van Zierikzee, who worked as a free master in Antwerp in 1475. In early 1504, he enrolled as a poor student at Leuven University, where he studied liberal arts, including Latin in the Pedagogy of the Castle, one of the three academic colleges in Leuven (ibid., p. 34). It is not known how long he stayed there, but this early education manifests itself in all of his paintings, in particular in the beautifully written, elaborate inscriptions in Middle Dutch and Latin that are nearly ubiquitous in his oeuvre. These inscriptions are confidently written in ink using a quill, reflecting a strong knowledge of Latin and firm grasp of the technical legal jargon relating to several of his subjects.

He is likely the ‘Moryn Claessone, Zeelander’ who was registered as an apprentice in the Antwerp Guild of Saint Luke to the glass painter Symon van Dale (d. 1530/33) in 1509 (see C. Siedel, ‘The Case of Marinus’, in C. Siedel, ed., op. cit., p. 16). Marinus did not register as a master in the Antwerp Guild of Saint Luke himself. Instead, he probably worked there as a journeyman with Quinten Massys (1466-1530), with whom he may have also trained. Regardless of whether Marinus was working under, or in concert with Quinten, the two artists appear to have formed a close friendship, as evidenced by an inscription in Marinus’ City Treasurer (or Tax Collectors) now in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg, which reads ‘bemyynde vrient [beloved friend] Quinten Masys' (see A. Mackor, op. cit., p. 34; and C. Seidel and A. Mackor, in C. Seidel, ed., op. cit., pp. 98-100, no. 4). Following Quinten’s death, in 1531 Marinus returned to his Zeeland hometown of Reymerswale, where he worked as a painter as well as a cartographer. He is also likely the ‘Marinus Janzoen, painter resident in Remmerswale’ who was paid, in 1531, by the treasurer Gillis van Borre for a map of the recently flooded Zuid-Beveland. On 5 November 1530, the day of St. Felix, quade saterdach (evil Saturday), the dikes broke in several places along the eastern part of the island, flooding several villages. Though numerous people perished in that and subsequent floods, Reymerswale itself was saved from total destruction by its town walls, which were converted into dikes that allowed the town to survive for another forty years. The town was burned down completely by the Geuzen on 24 June 1572, after the city council aligned itself with Phillip II of Spain. That was basically the end of Reymerswale, although some people would live in the ruins that remained until 1632, when the island was abandoned. Early in the eighteenth century, the village de facto became permanently submerged. It was in this now-abandoned town that Marinus likely produced the majority of the small group of autograph paintings that have survived. In fact, Karel van Mander in his Schilder-Boeck (1604) writes that several of Marinus’ paintings were to be found in Zeeland, though he personally had never seen them, mentioning in particular his Tax Collector, which was at that time owned by the Zeeland mint master Melchior Wijntgis in Middelburg. Marinus spent the final years of his life in Goes, the island of Zuid-Beveland’s new capital, where he moved in 1540. It was there that the artist painted this recently discovered work, shortly before his death sometime after 1546.

Marinus portrays here Saint Jerome, the fourth-century saint and doctor of the Church. Recognized as a man of great learning, Jerome translated the Bible into the Latin Vulgate before moving to the wilderness to study Hebrew and lead an ascetic life. It appears that Marinus painted Saint Jerome more frequently than any other subject, and it is certainly for this composition that the artist is best known, alongside his popular depictions of treasurers, tax collectors and merchants, collectively known under the probably erroneous title The Money Changers (fig. 1). In the present painting, Marinus portrays the saint as a wizened old man reading from a lectern in his study, surrounded by his books and writing instruments. The learned Church father and the ever-prominent crucifix are caught by the light streaming in through the window at left, which also illuminates the meticulously rendered human skull in the lower right foreground. Marinus gradually developed this iconography over the course of a decade, creating several distinct compositions of which he produced multiple versions, always with slight variations to the details. The earliest of these happens to be his earliest signed and dated painting, the 1533 Saint Jerome in his study in the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid (fig. 2). In this initial version, the saint’s lectern is rotated toward the viewer, displaying an illumination of the Last Judgment (reproducing a woodcut from Dürer’s Small Passion series of 1511), accompanied by a related passage describing the event from the Gospel of Luke. Without a doubt, these paintings can be understood as homages to Dürer's engraving of Saint Jerome in his study from 1514, which similarly places great emphasis on Jerome’s scholarly activities and intellectual nature (fig. 3). Yet a more important model was surely Quentin Massys’ Saint Jerome in his study, which Larry Silver has argued was likely created around 1517 (L. Silver, The paintings of Quinten Massys with catalogue raisonné, Montclair, NJ, 1984, p. 219, no. 28). Though the original is lost, Massys’ composition survives in the form of workshop copies, including the painting in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, of after 1521 (fig. 4). Indeed, in Massys’ painting, we find many of the elements that distinguish Marinus’ composition from Dürer’s print: the horizontal format, the close-up presentation of the saint, with the lectern at left and prominent skull at right, the piles of books stacked on shelves along the wall behind him and, perhaps most importantly, the very specific, almost diagonal placement of Jerome in his tiny study. A final source was Dürer’s Saint Jerome of 1521 (Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon), painted for the Portuguese trader Rodrigo Fernandes de Almada, and presented to him as a gift around the middle of March 1521. Dürer’s painting radically transformed the traditional representation of Saint Jerome, which emphasized his role as translator of the Bible and doctor of the Church, in favor of a more humanistic interpretation informed by the ideas of Desiderius Erasmus, stressing the saint’s ascetic piety and the importance of self-knowledge and continuous repentance. Dürer’s Jerome is thus a frailer, more pensive old man who points to the skull, forcing the viewer to confront his own mortality. Dürer’s painting remained in Antwerp until 1548 and was copied there by Joos van Cleve in 1528 (see the versions in the Princeton University Art Museum and the Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge). Joos’ translations of Dürer’s original then served as models for subsequent copies and variants by Pieter Coecke van Aelst, Jan Sanders van Hemessen and Marinus van Reymerswale himself. As all evidence suggests that Marinus was a staunch Roman Catholic, he was unlikely to have agreed with the underlying humanist ideology of Dürer’s Saint Jerome, yet he nonetheless seems to have found it acceptable to adopt some of the German artist’s innovative imagery in this case.

The present lot was completely unknown to scholars prior to its sale at auction in Spain in 2015. Since then, it has been recognized as perhaps the artist’s final treatment of the subject. Compositionally, it may be grouped with two other autograph versions in the Brukenthal National Museum, Sibiu (fig. 5), and the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin (see A. Mackor 2017, loc. cit.). Remarkably, the artist signed this painting in a completely original, delightfully self-referential way. In addition to its historiated border, the stained glass window at left includes a larger, central scene of the Virgin Mary enthroned beneath a canopy, receiving from a man a shield bearing the coat of arms of the town of Reymerswale. Running across the canopy’s top are the words ‘OPUS MARINI’ (fig. 6). In this way, Marinus van Reymerswale was able to bring his artistic career full circle, recalling his early apprenticeship under the glass painter, Symon van Dale.

Peter van den Brink

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