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The Master of the Female Half-Lengths (active Antwerp?, 1st half of the 16th Century)
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The Master of the Female Half-Lengths (active Antwerp?, 1st half of the 16th Century)

The Magdalene playing the lute

The Master of the Female Half-Lengths (active Antwerp?, 1st half of the 16th Century)
The Magdalene playing the lute
oil on panel
10 5/8 x 8 in. (27.6 x 20.3 cm.)
Provinzialmuseum, Hanover, no. 302.
B. Hausmann, Hanover, no. 299, as Barent van Orley (label on reverse).
J.C.H. Heldring, Oosterbeek.
A. de Witte, Courtrai.
M.J. Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting, XII, Leiden, 1975, p. 99, no. 99, fig. 44.
Dordrecht, Dordrechts Museum, Mens en Muziek, 1957, no. 63.
Arnhem, Gemeentemuseum, 6 April-1 June, 1958, no. 38/17.
Laren, Singer Museum, Nederlandse Primitieven, 1 July-10 September, 1961, no. 83.
Bourge-en-Bresse, Musée de l'Ain, B. Van Orley et les artistes de la cour de Maguerite d'Autriche, 1981, no. 34.
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Please note the additional information:

Bernard Hausmann (1784-1873), Hanover, no. 299, with whose collection acquired in 1857 by
H.M. George V, King of Hanover and Duke of Cumberland (1819-1878; reg. 1851-1866), Herrenhausen, Hanover.
with Robert Finck, Brussels, 1963.

Utrecht, Centraal Museum, 1960, no. 21.
Brussels, Musée Royal des Beaux-Arts, Le Siècle de Bruegel, 1963, no. 245, S. Bergmans, ed., p. 171.

J.B. Hausmann, Eingang durch die Cumberland Galerie in Hannover.
D. Hannema, Catalogue raisonné des tableaux de la Coll. J.C.H. Heldring, Amsterdam, 1955, pp. 30-1.
J.A. Parkinson, in Music and Letters, 39, 2 April 1958.
L. van Puyvelde, La Peinture flamande au siècle de Bosch et Breughel, Paris, 1962, p. 363.
Bergmanns (op. cit.) has noted that the word 'Jouissance', legible on the lower sheet of music, is the opening word of a poem by Marot (see the catalogue note) that was set to music by various composers, in particular Claudin de Sermisy (1490-1562), who seems to have been the author of the score depicted in this painting which recurs in the Harrach Three Woman Musicians.

Lot Essay

The group of works traditionally given to the Master of the Female Half-Lengths are now perceived to be in large part the product of a workshop, specializing particularly in small-scale panels of aristocratic young ladies in half-length and devotional scenes. They are shown reading, writing or playing musical instruments, usually in a wood-panelled interior or against a neutral background; some of the women, including in the present picture, are represented with an ointment jar, the attribute of Mary Magdalene. The workshop also produced a group of landscapes that clearly show the influence of Joachim Patinir, with whose work they were for a long time confused. The present work may confidently be regarded as by the same hand as that generally perceived to be the Master's chef-d'oeuvre and the epicentral painting of the group, the Three Woman Musicians in the Graf Harrasche Gemäldegalerie, Schloss Rohrau (see M.J. Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting, XII, Leiden, 1975, no. 106, fig. 45).

The place and period of the Master's activity have been widely disputed: suggestions have ranged from Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent and Mechelen to the French court, with dates from the early- to the late-sixteenth century. Friedländer and Koch both placed the workshop in Antwerp and Mechelen in the 1520s and 1530s, owing to the closeness of the landscapes to those of Joachim Patinir and the similarity of the female types to those of Barent van Orley. Koch believed that the artist may have been trained in Patinir's shop in Antwerp in circa 1520. This proposal has since been accepted by a number of writers, who have tried to identify the Master's hand in the background landscapes of paintings by Antwerp artists such as Quinten Metsys (e.g. the Virgin and Child in a Landscape, in the National Museum, Poznan). At least one instance is known where the Master painted the landscape background for Jan Gossaert, in a Madonna and Child in the Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio, which is dated 1532, representing the latest secure date for the group.

In a few cases, including the present picture, the notes written on the scores from which the ladies are playing music are decipherable as being French songs. Wickhoff actually identified a poem by the early French poet Clément Marot (Jahrbuch der Kunsthistorischen Sammlungen des Allerhöchsten Kaiserhauses, Vienna, 22, 1901, pp. 221ff.). From this, he inferred a French origin and location for the workshop; however, as Friedländer noted (op. cit., p. 19), Netherlandish composers of the period are known to have set French poetry - which was seen at the time as highly fashionable - to music.

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