The Adoration of the Magi
This intentionally claustrophobic composition is characteristic of the Antwerp Mannerist style of the first half of the sixteenth century. The scene is viewed up close, with half-length, gesticulating figures separated from the viewer by a fictive ledge. Finely wrought goldsmith work—such as was actually produced for the opulent taste of the cosmopolitan community in Antwerp—abounds. The caricature-like features of the Magi and their retinue reveal the artist’s interest in the extreme physiognomic types popularized by Leonardo da Vinci and made available through prints. It was this interest in the psychology of physiognomy that made Metsys a gifted portraitist.
Quentin Metsys (Netherlandish, Leuven 1466–1530 Kiel)
The Dutch School painters can be dated as Early Netherlandish (1400–1500), Dutch Renaissance (1500–1584), and, later, Dutch Golden Age painting in the United Provinces. The detailed realism of Early Netherlandish painting, led by Robert Campin and Jan van Eyck in the 1420s and 1430s, is today generally considered to be the beginning of the early Northern Renaissance in painting. This style was greatly respected in Italy, but there was little reciprocal influence on the North until nearly the end of the 15th century. Despite frequent cultural and artistic exchange, the Antwerp Mannerists (1500–1530) were unrelated to Italian Mannerism. Among notable northern painters were highly individualistic artists such as Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder who developed styles that were imitated by many subsequent generations. In the 16th century northern painters increasingly traveled to Italy, so the art of Michelangelo and Raphael and the late Renaissance Mannerism had a great impact on their work. Hieronymus Bosch and Geertgen tot Sint Jans are well-known examples of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Dutch painters. In the northern Netherlands, the Reformation brought religious painting almost completely to an end. Portrait painting was slow to spread from the elite to new riches. By the end of the 16th century, artists such as Karel van Mander and Hendrik Goltzius collected in Haarlem in a brief but intense phase of Northern Mannerism that also spread to Flanders. Between 1605 and 1635 over 100,000 paintings were produced in Haarlem. Rembrandt van Rijn, Frans Hals, Johannes Vermeer, Jacob van Ruisdael, and Jan Steen are just a few names form the seventeenth century.