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Aertgen van Leyden (Leiden 1498-1564)
Aertgen van Leyden (Leiden 1498-1564)

The Resurrection

Details
Aertgen van Leyden (Leiden 1498-1564) The Resurrection with indistinct inscription in red chalk 'Naelden [...]' (verso) pen and point of the brush, brown and black ink, the upper left and extreme lower right corners made up, partial brown ink framing lines 11 ¼ x 8 ¼ in. (28.7 x 21 cm.)
Provenance
Francis Abbott (1801-1893), Edinburgh (L. 970).
Victor Koch (1919-1946), London.
with Nicolaas Beets (1878-1963), Amsterdam, in 1927 (according to Wescher, 1934, op. cit.).
Frits Lugt (1884-1970), in 1968 (according to Wescher, 1968, op. cit.).
Literature
P. Wescher, 'Holländische Holzschnitte zur Zeit des Lukas van Leiden I', Oud Holland, LI, 1934, p. 60, note 1 (as 'Meister der Apostelwunder').
I.Q. van Regteren Altena, 'Aertgen van Leyden: IV', Oud Holland, LVI, 1939, p. 233, no. 109.
P. Wescher, ‘Aertgen van Leyden: Some Additions’, Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch, XXX, 1968, p. 216, fig. 153.
Exhibited
Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Paris, Fondation Custodia, and Brussels, Bibliothèque Albert 1er, Le Cabinet d’un Amateur: Dessins flamands et hollandais des XVIe et XVIIe siècles d’une collection privée d’Amsterdam, 1976-77, no. 84, pl. 13 (catalogue by J. Giltaij).

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Lot Essay

In 1934 Wescher (op. cit.) linked this sheet to a group of works he had attributed to a Leiden artist whom he had named the Meister der Apostelwunder. Based on stylistic comparisons to his work in other media, this group was subsequently given to Aertgen by I.Q. van Regteren Altena (op. cit.): an attribution which is now generally accepted, albeit with a measure of caution due to the lack of documentary evidence or links with signed paintings. The present drawing is characteristic of the group, with its heavily-built figures and marked use of the brush, both in the parallel hatching used to show the roundness of the figures' limbs and in the outlines, particularly visible in the figure of Christ. Its technique is very close to that of two drawings from Wescher's original Apostelwunder group: Saint Peter healing the Cripple in the Temple in the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin, and Sapphira before the Apostles in the Louvre (Lucas van Leyden en de renaissance, exhib. cat., Leiden, Museum De Lakenhal, and Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, 2011, no. 127; and F. Lugt, Inventaire Général des Dessins des Ecoles du Nord: Maîtres des Anciens Pays-Bas nés avant 1550, Paris, 1968, no. 100). Both the Saint Peter and the Sapphira were probably designs for stained glass and it is very likely that the present composition was executed for the same purpose. Wescher suggested, however, that it may also have inspired the central panel of The Resurrection of Christ with Donors in the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City (Wescher 1968, op. cit., fig. 154), which he considered to be by Aertgen himself, but is now thought to have been painted by an artist in Aertgen’s circle. The iconography is most unusual, merging the familiar iconography of Christ Triumphant, in which Christ rises from the tomb with the flag of victory, with an allegorical aspect showing Christ overcoming not only Death – who is represented by the decaying corpse at lower right – but also the spiritual and temporary powers of the Pope and the Emperor. On the basis of comparison with the drawings in this core group, Jan Piet Filedt Kok has suggested a date for the present drawing of circa 1530, although he emphasises the continuing debate over Aertgen's draughtsmanship, which accounts for the fact that the Aertgen drawings included in the 2011 exhibition were all catalogued as 'attributed to'.

Karel van Mander (1548-1606) included a biography of Aertgen van Leyden in his Schilderboeck, describing him as an artist who had little confidence in his own talents and so never received the degree of public admiration that he deserved. The son of a fuller, he had worked with his father until the age of eighteen, at which point he had joined the workshop of the painter Cornelis Engelbrechtsz. (circa 1462-1527). Absorbing stylistic influences from Jan van Scorel (1495-1562) and Maerten van Heemskerck (1498-1574), he was primarily a painter of Biblical scenes, with little interest in history or allegorical painting. According to van Mander he was shy but convivial, and enjoyed socialising and debating with his pupils, often meeting his patrons at the inn to discuss commissions. He had few ambitions beyond his modest life in Leiden: van Mander reports that when the celebrated painter Frans Floris (1517-1570) paid him a visit and invited him to come to Antwerp, Aertgen declined in embarrassment, insisting that he was content. He died in a tragic accident when, having lost his footing on his way home from meeting a patron, he slipped into a canal and drowned.

The drawing was formerly in the collection of Francis Abbott (1801-1893), about whom little has been known to date. He was in fact the son of the artist John White Abbott (1763-1851) and his wife Elizabeth, and was born in Exeter. As a young man he moved to Edinburgh, where he became Secretary to the General Post Office for Scotland, settling at 25 Moray Place. His first wife Thomasina died in 1857; thereafter he married Frances, daughter of Sir William Parker, 1st Baronet of Shenstone and Admiral of the Fleet (1781-1866). Abbott was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and a benefactor of the British Museum, to whom he donated seven of his father's watercolours in 1880. His collection was sold at Galerie Fievez in Brussels on 22-23 November 1922, although the present drawing does not appear to have been included in the sale.

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