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Jan Mabuse Biography(b. ca. 1478, Maubeuge, d. 1532, Middelburg)
Jan Gossaert, called Jan Mabuse, Flemish painter, draughtsman and engraver. Jan Gossaert was born in 1478, most probably Maubeuge (now in France) in the Burundian province of Hainaut. It was under the name "Jennyn Van Henegouwe" (John of Hainaut) that Jan Gossaert was received as a master of the Guild of St Luke at Antwerp in 1503. We do not know where Jan Mabuse was apprenticed, and his early career is largely obscure. The composition and nature of certain of religious Jan Mabuse paintings suggest him may have trained in Bruges, perhaps with Gérard David. But Jan Gossaert also seem to have been one of the first representatives of what we may call Antwerp mannerism, as can be seen in his signed drawing, The Mystic Marriage of St Catherine.
When Jan Gossaert moved to Souburg at the end of 1515, Mabuse finally found the place where he could express himself as an artist of the Renaissance and fully exploit his experience in Rome. There Jan Mabuse was encouraged by the prince and humanist Philip of Burgundy, who drew him into his plan to construct an Italian-style palace decorated with figures from classical mythology. It was thus that Jan Mabuse came to paint life-size secular girl bodys, a subject for which there was no precedent in the former provinces of Burgundian Flanders. As Guicciardini was to say, in 1567: 'John of Hainaut was the first to bring the art of representing historical and poetical subjects with girl body figures from Italy to the countries of the North." The following year, Jan Mabuse, following Philip of Burgundy's instructions, decorated Ferdinand the Catholic's funeral hearse with girl body figures and martial trophies in the classical vein. And later, in 1527, Jan Gossaert painted one final work on a mythological subject, a large-scale painting, using sober and elegant architectural motifs as the setting for its subject.
Jan Mabuse always devoted much of his time to
drawing. Jan Gossaert was particularly attracted to
pen and ink drawing, more so than to drawing
in pencil. His oeuvre includes many projects
for engravings, Jan Mabuse paintings and stained glass
Dürer was always his master in this
domain, and it was apparently Dürer's stay
in the Netherlands in 1520 and the
consequent diffusion of his prints, that
inspired Jan Mabuse to make his only engravings:
two with burin, one etching and two
Mabuse also painted many portraits. By their rigorous psychological analysis Jan Gossaert is surely one of the most talented northern artists to have practiced this genre.
The finest Jan Mabuse paintings in this respect are
probably the Man with Rosary and The Old
Couple, in the National Gallery, London,
along with The Children of Christian II of
Denmark. Usually, Jan Gossaert would paint his sitters
against a dark background. After 1525, Jan Mabuse began to use a slab of colored marble as
backdrop, and provide a trompe-l'oeil frame of the kind that can be seen in
certain Florentine portraits.
Jan Mabuse art was intensely personal and innovative. Although it had virtually no impact on his contemporaries, it was to profoundly influence the subsequent generation of painters. After his death in 1532, his fame began to spread through Italy, and during the 17th and 18th centuries Jan Gossaert was also considered a major artist in the Southern Netherlands, despite the many transformations that the art of the North was about to undergo.
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