Our Flemish Mannerist painting was published in 1966 by Georges Marlier in his standard work on Pieter Coecke van Aelst and his workshop. Our anonymous Master of the Woman taken in Adultery from Ghent, takes his name form a painting in the Fine Arts Museum of Ghent.
As happened so often, the wings of the triptych have been separated from our central panel.
About Pieter I Coecke van Aelst
Aalst 1502 – 1550 Brussels
Versatile Renaissance artist, active as painter, designer of tapestries, stained glass and engravings, sculptor, architect and writer.
Pupil of two important masters:
- of Bernard van Orley (Brussels before 1490 – 1542 Brussels) in Brussels until 1522;
- of the so-called Master of 1518 (= Jan van Dornicke, circa 1470 – 1527) in Antwerp between 1522 and 1527.
Pieter I married in 1526 in Antwerp his second master’s daughter and continued his workshop at his death in 1527. That same year he joined the local Painter’s Guild of Saint Luc. Pieter the Elder lost his wife before 1529, the couple had two children. After her death he had at least two more children, without getting married.
He travelled to Istanbul in 1533/34 and on his return he is thought to have visited Rome. He settled in Antwerp. Circa 1538/39 he married for the second time, the couple had three children. Circa 1544 he either moved to Brussels or opened a studio there, close to its tapestry studios.
Pieter Brueghel I (1526/30 – 1569) was his pupil between 1545 and 1550; he married Pieter’s daughter. It is thought that at Brueghel’s death Pieter Coecke’s second wife, Mayken Verhulst, became the teacher of his children: Pieter II and Jan I Brueghel.
About the Master of the Woman taken in Adultery from Ghent
Georges Marlier in his standard book about Pieter I Coecke van Aelst (1966) discusses paintings made by the master himself, by his workshop and by painters influenced by him.
He considers the Master of Sint-Anna Hofje in Leyden and our Master of the Woman taken in Adultery from Ghent as workshop assistant of Pieter I. Both anonymous painters show close affinities with their master, Pieter I, and actually with each other. This is certainly the case in the fragment of the same composition as ours, from the Fine Arts Museum of Ghent.
About our painting
Epiphany (January 6th) commemorates the visit of the Magi to the Christ child: three wise men (“kings”) from the East followed a rising star that lead them to Bethlehem, to the new-born King of the Jews, Jesus. Their (Persian) names are Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar. They brought precious gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Our Adoration of the Magi is the central panel of a triptych, from which the wings, as so often, were separated in the past. Just as on the triptych of the Sint-Anna Hofje in Leyden, Balthazar must have been painted on one of the wings: in Leyden on the left wing, in our composition on the right wing.
Following Pieter I Coecke van Aelst’s Mannerist example our central panel fuses traditional Flemish naturalism with exotically dressed figures, exuberant decorative details and capricious Italian architectural elements.
The subject of the Adoration of the Magi was the most popular one in Antwerp during the first half of the 16th century: its merchant traders could identify themselves with the Magi, travelers bringing precious gifts from distant countries.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it is an attractive Antwerp Mannerist painting, which has been published in a standard work.