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Crispijn van den Broeck

(1524 Mecheln – 1591 Antwerp)

The Mocking of Christ; Christ Nailed to the Cross. Two drawings in pen and greyish-brown ink, grey wash, the contours partly traced. Each circa 17 x 11.7 cm.

Crispijn van den Broeck, who distinguished himself as a painter, draughtsman, illustrator and engraver, is among the outstand­ing representatives of Flemish Mannerism. A student of Frans Floris in Antwerp, he was admitted to the local Guild of St. Luke in 1555. He travelled to Italy in 1559 and is known to have worked in Venice in 1566. After his return, Crispijn was active mainly in Antwerp and occasionally in Middelburg. He played a key role in the cultural and intellectual life of Ant­werp and moved in educated circles. The themes  he chose for his paintings – altar pictures and religious and mythological compositions – reflect the broad scope of his theological and humanist education. It is against this background that Crispijn’s symbiotic cooperation with the famous Antwerp publisher, Christopher Plantin, must be seen, for whom Crispijn produced many models for engravings.

Both the present preliminary drawings, which Ursula Mielke has dated to around 1581-82, are characteristic and artistically significant examples of this genre. They have been executed in careful and refined penwork. The use of different coloured inks gives the scenes of the Passion a subtle harmony and vividness, while the soft, precise washes generate a mild chiaroscuro effect. Although conceived as models for engravers – the fine traces of the stylus indicate such a purpose – the drawings are by no means stiff or methodically inflexible. On the contrary, they are conspicuous for their free and fluent style. Crispijn evidently assumed a considerable degree of intuitive artistic understanding on the part of the engravers he employed and worked with the best of their guild. The Mocking of Christ, for example, served as the model for an engraving in Plantin’s Biblia Sacra, which Hans Mielke has attributed to Johannes Sadeler I. Individual impressions are to be found in Brussels and Wolfegg. Christ Nailed to the Cross is known only as a single sheet. Johannes Wierix produced a precise and technically brilliant engraving using this model, although it lacks the pathos and vitality of the original (The New Hollstein, Vol. LXXI, The Wierix Family / Book Illustrations Part II, 411). From the collection “JN with the staff of Aesculapius“ (Lugt 1921).

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