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Contributions to the study of the Triptych with the miracles of Christ: The marriage of Cana


The study of the minor Flemish masters of the end of the 15th century has progressed considerably in recent years. New hypotheses have been formulated and at the same time the development in scientific investigation of the paintings has provided researchers with new facts for comparison. 

The Triptych with the miracles of Christ in Melbourne (fig. 1) has given rise to a great number of publications between 1922 and 1972 devoted in particular to the problems of attribution and the identification of the people represented.1 Ursula Hoff & Martin Davies, The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (Les Primitifs flamands, I. Corpus de la peinture des anciens Pays-Bas méridionaux au quinzième siècle, 12), Centre National de Recherche, ‘Primitifs flamands’, Brussels, 1971. See the bibliographical history to 1971, pp. 25–6. See also J. Bruyn, ‘U. Hoff & M. Davies, the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Brussels, 1971’ (Corpus des Primitifs flamands) book reviews, Oud Holland, vol. 89, no. 1,1975, pp. 67–70.

In 1922, on the occasion of the acquisition of the triptych by the National Gallery of Victoria, Martin Conway rightly noted the obvious differences in style and execution between the panels which compose the triptych and tried to explain them by a division of labour within one and the same studio at the time. The central panel would, according to him, have been painted first,2 Martin Conway & Seymour de Ricci, ‘A Flemish Triptych for Melbourne’, The Burlington Magazine, 1922, vol. XL, p. 164. an argument taken up again later, correctly it seems to me, by Max Friedländer and Jean Rivière.3 M.J. Friedländer, Die Altniederländische Malerei, vol. IV, 1926, p. 106; Early Netherlandish Painting, vol. IV, Hugo van der Goes, Leyde-Brussels, 1965, p. 59; and vol. XII, 1975, pp. 14–15; Jean Rivière in his thesis, ‘La Peinture à la cour des Pays-Bas 1490–1530’, Sorbonne, Paris, 1987, calls attention to three stages of execution in the central panel, each commissioned by a new owner: the Multiplication of the loaves and fishes in 1477, The marriage at Cana panel in 1485–86, and the remainder between 1495 and 1505. 

Since then, the altarpiece has been unanimously recognised as a production of the Brussels workshops, but some controversies relating to the authors of the different paintings remain, and the dating of the triptych is also still uncertain. 

In the light of current knowledge of the Brussels painters who succeeded Roger van der Weyden, it is my intention to try to supplement (in a series of two articles) the questions presented in the Corpus Melbourne by Ursula Hoff and Martin Davies.4 Hoff & Davies, pp. 1–28.

My particular focus will be the attributions, but I will also examine the notion of a collective work executed, if not in the same studio, then in the same Brussels workshops – inheritors of the tradition of the great master revealing, despite an eclecticism of inspiration, a unity of appearance. 

As the attribution of the entire central panel to the Master of the Legend of Saint Catherine is commonly admitted and appears satisfactory,5 See discussion in Hoff & Davies, pp. 16, 20 and in Cat. des Primitifs flamands anonymes, Groeningemuseum, Bruges, 1969, pp. 239–40. I will only examine the underdrawing. This allows us to characterise the master’s style at this stage of the work and better understand the genesis of the composition. For this central panel I do not accept the most recent hypothesis, put forward by Jean Rivière,6 Rivière, vol. I, pp. 217–18. of a collaboration between the Master of the Legend of Saint Catherine and the Master of the Princely Portraits, who would have painted the portraits in the composition. On examination, the style and technique of the two painters prove to be too different. This is confirmed by the radiographic image of the faces in the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes compared with those of the independent portraits painted by the Master of the Princely Portraits and those of the panel of The marriage at Cana, which I attribute to him. 

The modellings of the Master of the Legend of Saint Catherine contain a greater quantity of lead white than those produced by the Master of the Princely Portraits who worked more in glazes, and they are marked by modelling effects totally absent in the smooth flesh tints peculiar to the latter. Moreover, one does not find with the Master of the Legend of Saint Catherine the construction of the region of the eyes described previously and so typical of the Master of the Princely Portraits. 

The attribution of the panel of The marriage at Cana to the Master of the Princely Portraits, on the other hand, needs to be discussed on the basis of new comparative examinations carried out because it has so often been questioned. Finally, the attributions of The raising of Lazarus, of Saint Peter on the reverse side of the right panel, and of the Virgin and Child on the reverse side of the left panel, must be entirely reviewed and discussed.7 I am still awaiting a series of laboratory documents promised by the institutions where the relevant paintings are kept. For this reason I cannot yet finalise the essay. In this first article, I will principally examine the panel of The marriage at Cana (fig. 2). 

The marriage takes place in a spacious and richly decorated room seen through an opening surmounted by a brick wall. Nine members of the court of Burgundy, among them the bride sitting under a canopy, are seated on one side of a long, set table arranged in a L shape to the right of the composition. They are facing the group of six apostles surrounding Christ and the Virgin who watch the servant filling the water jars. Three full-length figures, identified as Engelbert of Nassau, Adolph of Cleves and his son Philip, occupy the foreground of the scene. According to the Gospel of Saint John (II: 9), Adolph of Cleves is in the position of the ‘master of ceremonies’, who receives wine from Engelbert of Nassau acting as ‘cup bearer’, while Philip of Cleves represents the young ‘bridegroom’ wearing the initials I.M. embroidered on his purse, which is tied with an ornamental knot.8 For the meaning of the initials see Hoff & Davies, p. 15. Behind him a little dog gnaws a bone;9 I refer to the detailed description of the composition and its iconography in Hoff & Davies, pp. 5–6. It is fitting to draw attention to the double meaning of the scene which is repeated in the central panel: profane in the representation of the portraits and sacred in the illustration of the Miracles of Christ. An identical juxtaposition in The marriage at Cana and the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes within a contemporary Brussels work is found in the Strängnäs Tryptich of the Passion of Christ, painted by Colyn de Coter and his workshop between 1485 and 1493. See C. Périer-D’Ieteren, Les volets peints des retables bruxellois conserves en Suède et le rayonnement de Colyn de Coter, Academié Royale d’Histoire et d’Antiquités, Stockholm, 1984, pp. 29–32. this dog, although less graphic in execution, recalls other dogs painted by the Master of the Legend of Saint Catherine. 

Ursula Hoff questions the attribution of the panel of The marriage at Cana to either the Master of the Legend of the Magdalen or the Master of the Princely Portraits but does not suggest another hand. Nicole Reynaud and Michel Foucart attribute it to the Master of the Magdalen and not to the Master of the Princely Portraits, recognising in this panel neither the characteristics of execution, nor the postures that they consider to be consistent with his style.10 N. Reynaud & M. Foucart, ‘Exposition des Primitifs flamands anonymes’, Revue de l’Art, vol. VIII, Paris, 1970, p. 69. They also deny the presence of the young hand of the Master of the Magdalen in the group of portraits widely attributed to the Master of the Princely Portraits.

I, on the contrary, judging from all the available evidence, believe this panel to be a work of the Master of the Princely Portraits. Its autographic character is confirmed by the stylistic and technical analogies that the composition shares with the group of four portraits acknowledged to be by his hand and studied in the 1986 edition of Annales d’Histoire de l’Art et d’Archéologie.11 C. Périer-D’Ieteren, ‘Une oeuvre retrouvée du Maître des Portraits Princiers’, AHAA, vol. VII, 1986, pp. 43–58.

Without reiterating the details of the argument I have already advanced on these portraits, I would like to put forward some additional evidence. In particular I wish to compare the portrait of Philip the Fair appearing in the panel of The marriage at Cana (fig. 3) with the independent portrait of the same figure in the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature in Paris (fig. 4), a painting attributed by Max Friedländer to the Master of the Magdalen but which has not yet been the subject of an in-depth examination.12 Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting, vol. XII, 1975, p. 15, pl. 22. In the addendum no. 31, the portrait is attributed to the Master of the Magdalen and dated to around 1490.

 

From a general point of view, the faces of Adolph of Cleves, his acolytes in the foreground of the composition, and Philip the Fair – seated with the other members of the lineage of the Dukes of Burgundy – present the morphology and dreamy expression typical of the works of the master. Moreover, the proportions of the figures, as well as their bearing, the position of their arms, the style of the clothes, and the sketchy treatment of the hands are also similar. 

As I emphasised in 1986, the innovative aspect of the portraits of the master lies in the realism of their representation; it is this that distinguishes them from the stylised portraits of van der Weyden. The same attention is given to the individual rendering of the expressions, but within a classic outline of the face. The face is constructed according to planes marked by a long, heavy nose, a wide mouth with a fleshy lower lip, and big eyes with round, dark pupils. The bearing of the head, slightly bent on a massive neck with dark skin tones, underlines the contrast between the face with realistic features and the chest with its lack of depth and essentially decorative role.      

The modelling of the faces, despite their carefully prepared appearance on the surface, is schematised in structure and corresponds to those already described. The master handles the shadows and the highlights, laden with lead white, identically from one portrait to the other. The X-ray examination of the face of Philip the Fair confirms this observation; the dark and light areas which shape the surrounds of the eyes and the arches of the eyebrows alternate with bands sharply defined – like those in the portraits of the acknowledged attributions of Engelbert of Nassau, the Portrait of a young man of the Fonseca family and the Portrait of Jean Bossaert.13 Perier-D’Ieteren, AHAA, p. 52. The addition of white lead to the modelling of the face of Philip the Fair is noticeably more important in the portrait of The marriage at Cana than in the Paris portrait. This is due to the fact that the triptych panel was painted on both sides, thus enhancing its opacity to X-rays. The same is true for the Portrait of Jean Bossaert, as his coat of arms is painted on the verso. 

The portrait of Philip the Fair in the panel of The marriage at Cana (see fig. 3), while corresponding in construction of the modelling to the characteristic execution of the master, is less tight in its style than the portrait of Adolph of Cleves (fig. 5). The treatment of the face of the latter is, by contrast, of a quality totally comparable with that of the individual portrait of Philip the Fair in Paris. We can observe the same subtle devices with pink transparent glazes for the lips, the same outline (light brown), narrow and modulated in execution, and the same fluidity of transition in the grey shadows, from very light to the more heavy highlights in lead white. We should note also the identical manner of increasing the volume of the hair with graphic white accents which change into black strokes to underline the eyebrows. 

The Master of the Princely Portraits executes the three portraits differently. The more pronounced schematisation of the portrait of Philip the Fair in The marriage at Cana and the more sensitive effects of technique certainly impute the status of portrait on a group of figures situated in the middle ground of the composition which is itself part of an altarpiece seen as a whole. By contrast, the privileged position of Adolph of Cleves and his function as sponsor of the work prompts the Master of Princely Portraits to treat him in the same way as in an individual portrait. Their small format, peculiar to the works of the master,14 The autographic paintings measure 22.5 x 14 cm (Bossaert), 33.5 x 24 cm (Engelbert of Nassau), 29.7 x 21.8 cm (Fonseca), and 27 x 17.5 cm (Paris portrait of Philip the Fair). and their quality as isolated portraits, take the viewer’s attention from the formal and technical details. The care brought to the rendering of the portrait in Paris is without doubt still a reflection of the rank of the personage and of the fact that it has probably been financed to celebrate Philip the Fair’s accession to the throne in 1493. It will be noted in the same connection that the faces of the companions of Adolph of Cleves – Philip of Cleves, his son, and Engelbert of Nassau (fig. 6), identified by comparison with the portrait in Amsterdam (fig. 7) – present a more contrasted modelling, with the forms clearly defined by a dark heavy line. 

 

Variations in style linked to the function of the work, the hierarchical placement of the characters in the composition and their social rank are too rarely taken into consideration by art historians when debating the attribution of a work. It is, however, a treatment that is frequently revealed in the Brabantian masters who work on a collective painting in a workshop but who simultaneously develop personal productions.

Let us come back now to a detailed comparison of the two portraits of Philip the Fair, the identification of the figure based on the acknowledged iconography of the sovereign and in particular on the portrait which figures in the celebrated Recueil d’Arras.15 Recueil d’Arras, MS 266 in the Arras Municipal Library. See L. Campbell, ‘The Authorship of the Recueil d’Arras’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, vol. XL, 1977, pp. 301–13.

In the panel of The marriage at Cana, Philip the Fair, who appears a little younger than in the painting in Paris, is shown sitting at the end of the table. He is dressed in a purple-red cloak with moiré effects which opens with a large ermine collar over a brocade dress with pomegranate motifs. He is wearing a black beret decorated with a jewel in the form of a clover from which is suspended a white-grey pearl. He is holding a biscuit between his thumb and the index finger of his right hand, and his left hand is laid on a small loaf of bread. 

In the portrait in Paris,16 Oak, 27 x 17.5 cm, Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, Paris (borrowed from the Louvre Museum, Inv. RF 1969–18). Painting attributed by M. J. Friedländer to the Master of the Magdalen and mentioned as such in the auction catalogue of the Tudor Wilkinson Collection: Paintings of Ancient Masters, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, July 1969, no. 76. Philip the Fair, adolescent, is shown according to the strict tradition of the founders of Flemish painting of the 15th century and of Roger van der Weyden: half-length and three-quarter view set in front of a neutral background, here a blue-green colour. He is wearing clothes similar in detail to those described above; his hair-cut and the stringy appearance of his hair are the same. A hooded falcon is perched on his left hand, while he holds a stick in his right.17 This painting, contrary to what I wrote in AHAA, p. 46, n. 5, was not part of the Montferrand collection. The portrait in this collection, erroneously attributed to the Master of the Magdalen by J. Maquet-Tombu, ‘Le Maître de la légende de Marie Madeleine’, La Gazette des Beaux-Arts, vol. II, 1929, p. 281; by Ρ Wescher, ‘Das höfische Bildnis von Philipp dem Guten bis zu Karl V’, Pantheon, vol. XXVIII, no. 2, 1941, p. 275; and Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting, vol. XII, p. 15, is a free, mediocre copy of the beautiful painting in the Musée de la Chasse which has not been taken into consideration by the above-mentioned authors.

Besides these similarities in clothing, the two works also show stylistic resemblances which link them closely and which they share with the group of individual portraits attributed to the master. The size of the faces and their features, the massiveness of the heads in relation to the slenderness of the bodies, the little interest given to rendering anatomy, the ‘broken’ position of the arms and hands with fingers awkwardly depicted, are as much common features, the implicit signature of this painter, and immediately recall the Portrait of a young man of the Fonseca family. As for the falcon and the collar of the Golden Fleece in the portrait in Paris, they are found identically in the portrait of Engelbert of Nassau.   

To all these stylistic characteristics are added the distinctive features of execution, those of the brocades and those revealed by comparative examination of the X-rays and infra-red photography. 

The schematic execution of the brocades and the imitation of the moiré of the fabrics by the device of saturating the glazes – which creates dark stains marked by the movement of the brush – are also distinctive in showing the master’s search for decorative surface effects. 

For the brocades he uses a technique which was highly developed in the works of the Brabantian painters at the end of the 15th century: the superimposition of the motifs in flat tint and the gold threads on an opaque background where light and dark areas are juxtaposed. Nevertheless, his style is easily distinguished from that of his contemporaries such as the Master of the Legend of the Magdalen and the Master of the Legend of Saint Catherine. A thin precise line indicates the outlines of the motifs which are then sprinkled with little graphic touches of pink or yellow colour, velvety in appearance and in varying depths. The care brought to the execution varies from one figure to another, as does the modelling of the faces. Thus the same gap is evident between the very tight rendering of Philip the Fair’s dress in the portrait in Paris and the more rapid execution in the panel of The marriage at Cana, while the coat of Adolph of Cleves (see fig. 5) is more rigorously handled than the clothes of his companions. 

The X-ray image of the two portraits of Philip the Fair (figs 8a, b) described above is similar to that of the other portraits recognised as being by the master (fig. 8c).  

The infra-red photograph (fig. 9a) shows a simple drawing detailing the outlines, executed with a brush with a wide, heavy stroke which delineates the forms of the face, clothes and hands. In the Paris portrait the drawing is very obvious to the naked eye where the paint layer has become translucent with age. This drawing is not carried out, as one would have thought, by mechanical means of reproduction (tracing or pouncing) but is freehand. At the same time it shows a painstaking treatment which suggests recourse to a model. This latter is in no way the portrait figuring in the Recueil d’Arras,18 In C. Périer-D’Ieteren, ‘Dessin au poncif et dessin perforé – leur utilisation dans les anciens Pays-Bas au XVe siecle’, Bull. IRPA, vol. XIX, 1982–83, pp. 89–90, I put forward the hypothesis that the copies of the drawings of the portraits made in the years 1565–74 by the heraldist J. De Boucq and forming the Recueil d’Arras (see n. 15), would have been executed with the help of pre-existing perforated drawings (probably used in several Flemish workshops of the 15th and 16th centuries) before being used to form the collection of pounced drawings of this work. As a matter of fact, besides the homogeneous treatment peculiar to De Boucq, at least four different styles of drawings are recognisable, among them some portraits of the 15th century and others from the end of that century, which so directly evoke the painting of the great Primitives and minor Flemish masters that they seem quite obviously executed from autographic, perforated drawings kept as models in the workshops. Among these, the portraits of Adolph of Cleves (fol. 86) and Philip the Fair (fol. 57) are very close to the portraits painted by the Master of the Princely Portraits. for not only the measurements are different but also several details in the relative proportions of the figure and its appearance.

Similar linear drawing appears in the clothes, for example in the dress of the bride and in the red cloak of the person to the right of Adolph of Cleves and identified as his son Philip of Cleves.19 Rivière, vol. I, p. 119–20. It is completed with some parallel hatching which places the shadows but does not specify the modelling. The style is related directly to that of the Portrait of Jean Bossaert (fig. 9b).20 See Périer-D’Ieteren, ΑΗΑΑ, p. 50. Moreover, a pentimento is observed in the hand, the position of one finger having been changed, a type of modification of detail frequently found in the narrative painting of the period. Finally, the X-ray reveals an incised drawing of the outlines of the table and the tile floor. 

From a more general point of view, we can see the precision brought to the details of the forms and textures and their careful execution – revealed also by the clarity of the X-ray image – as well as the care for decorative detail which are characteristics of the style of the master and show, in my opinion, his dual training as a painter and an illuminator. Moreover, the idea of closing the scene in the upper part of the panel with an architectural form – decorated with niches, a medallion and sculptured consoles laden with symbolical allusions21 For details of the iconographic scenes, see Hoff & Davies, p. 6. – evokes the taste of the painter for a richly ‘framed’ composition; the frame, gilded and decorated with varied motifs, is an integral part of his individual portraits.22 Périer-D’Ieteren, AHAA, p. 54. 

Finally, the supporters of a collaboration between the Masters of the Legend of Saint Catherine and of the Princely Portraits not only for the central panel but also for the panel of The marriage at Cana 23 Rivière, vol. I, p. 218, suggests that only the faces of the portraits would have been painted by the Master of the Princely Portraits.recognise, among other things, the hand of the former in the group of apostles surrounding Christ and the Virgin (fig. 10a). For me the varied morphology of the faces and their features – small, well-drawn eyes, noses with thick tips, ears rarely shown – recall nothing of the stereotyped faces with eyes lengthened into an almond shape, long straight noses and big, highly placed ears so characteristic of this successor of van der Weyden (fig. 10b). On the contrary, they recall the style of the faces painted by the Master of the Princely Portraits. 

Some identification of several court dignitaries or famous people represented in the altarpiece were proposed by Max Friedländer in 1926,24 Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting, vol. XII, n. 3. Seymour de Ricci in 1971’25 Conway & de Ricci, n. 2. and Jean Rivière in 1987.26 Rivière, vol. I, n. 3. Among them is Adolph of Cleves, featuring in the foreground of The marriage at Cana, whom Friedländer sees as the donor of the triptych and who died in 1492. This permits him to date the work to before 1492. Ursula Hoff rejects this thesis.27 Hoff & Davies, p. 22, n. 1. She considers the attitude of Adolph of Cleves as not conforming to that generally commensurate with a donor. She questions why, although he occupies a key hierarchical position, the Prince is not wearing the collar of the Golden Fleece that he received in 1456 but a simple substitute in the form of a chain. She therefore does not rely on the year of Adolph of Cleves’ death to date the altarpiece and instead places it towards 1500 for iconographical and stylistic reasons and also for reasons of fashion and the shape of the frame.28 See Hoff & Davies, pp. 12, 22. According to the information kindly provided by Mr John Payne (letter dated 19 June 1990), the left panel has been altered. The curve has been reshaped at the upper left and through the right half. This explains the difference in the width of the borders. 

It is not my intention to discuss here all the suggested identifications but only to look at those of Philip the Fair, Adolph of Cleves and Engelbert of Nassau to see if the historical context can help to date the panel of The marriage at Cana more precisely.

Philip the Fair was born in 1478 and became sovereign of The Netherlands in 1482. He was elected Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece in 1481 at Bois le Duc and became head of the Order in 1491 on the occasion of the 15th Chapter of the Order which met at Malines. He was then thirteen years old, an age which his features in the panel seem to confirm, as Seymour de Ricci has already emphasised. In 1495 he became engaged to Jane of Aragon. She does not appear at his side in the scene of The marriage at Cana. These biographical facts allow the execution of the panel to date from between 1482 and 1495 and, more precisely, from between 1491 – if one accepts the age given to Philip the Fair – and 1492, the year of the death of Adolph of Cleves. The wide chronological margin corresponds to that which I proposed for the three basic portraits and it is reinforced even more by the date 1487, given to the individual portrait of Engelbert of Nassau who seems to be much the same age as in The marriage at Cana (see figs 6 and 7).

Finally one could ask, following previous authors, whether this panel is contemporary with the central panel or painted later. I opt for the second solution on the basis of the opinion of Jean Rivière, who maintains that the work was passed from the elder branch of the Cleves family to the younger, who had it completed. He thus dates the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes to around 1477 and the production of The marriage at Cana to around 1485–86, a little too early in my opinion in view of the portrait of Philip the Fair.29 To consider, as Rivière, vol. II, p. 120, suggests, that the panel of The marriage at Cana was painted at this date, before Philip of Cleves rebelled against Maximilian and Engelbert of Nassau, does not seem possible, given the apparent age of Philip the Fair, who would have been only six years old in 1486! 

Adolph of Cleves was directly related to the Burgundy family through his mother, Mary of Burgundy, the youngest daughter of John the Fearless. Great Prince of the Empire and Governor of The Netherlands, he was also guardian of the young Duke from 1485. These two reasons are sufficient for him to have been the one who commissioned a work representing in the same composition four successive generations of the House of Burgundy:30 Rivière, vol. II, p. 120, also identifies Adolph of Cleves as having commissioned the panel. More specifically, he sees the Prince represented as the ‘master of ceremonies’ at the desired marriage of his son to Françoise of Luxemburg. that of Philip the Good, Charles the Bold, Maximilian of Austria and Philip the Fair. The latter, seated at the end of the table, is the nearest to Adolph of Cleves who seems to want to be identified since he is wearing a cap with the initial A of his Christian name in gold and since in the middle ground the servant pouring the water into jars is wearing, on the hem of his tunic, an inscription which calls to mind the name of the Ravenstein family (AIVERSTEN.S–RIVERZEN.S–).31 See Hoff & Davies, p. 15. The same initial A. appears on the cloak of Adolph of Cleves in the independent portrait in Berlin. See R. Grooshans, Zwei Bildnisse Adolfs von Cleve und der Mark, Herrn zu Ravenstein und Wynnendael (1425–1492), Berliner Museum, Berlin, 1972, p. 9, NF XXII. Moreover, his companions Philip of Cleves and Engelbert of Nassau belong to the Flemish aristocracy governing The Netherlands, something which the donor perhaps wanted to underline with their prominent position in the composition. 

An anomaly which has attracted the attention of all the art historians deserves to be emphasised.32 See Hoff & Davies, p. 22. Philip the Fair, Adolph of Cleves and Engelbert of Nassau are painted with a simple gold chain without the Fleece even though they were elected Knights of the Order in 1461, 1456 and 1473 respectively and even though the Master of the Princely Portraits is perfectly capable of making an accurate representation of the Order with hanging fleece33 See the description of the different parts of the chain as it appears in the catalogue of the exhibition: The Golden Fleece, Bruges, 1962, pp. 24–5. such as he painted in the individual portraits of Philip the Fair and Engelbert of Nassau (see figs 4 and 7). According to the information kindly provided by the Baroness Françoise de Gruben,34 Letter dated 5 May 1990. such a situation was inconceivable, the statutes of the Order stipulating that a Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece should always wear his chain. 

Close examination of Philip the Fair under X-ray brings a new element to the debate. The Fleece did originally hang from the chain worn by Philip the Fair; one can clearly see its rounded shape and the link of chain on which it hung, visible because they were modelled in lead white. The Fleece was therefore obliterated at a later stage.35 There are unfortunately no X-ray examinations of the three characters in the foreground, something which would help us verify if originally the artists had painted the chain with the Golden Fleece on their chests too. The overpainting is in a looser style than the original. However it shows an intact network of ageing craquelures, identical to that present on the rest of the painting; this proves intervention on the painting at the time of its execution. The X- ray reveals that, unlike the other portraits, no loss alters the image of the personage himself. The joint has only loosened up a little, thus causing a minor collapse of painting on the left side of the face. Would it not be logical, therefore, to see in this modification and in the absence of the chain for the donor and his companions a political or symbolic motivation which would justify this deliberate departure from the statute of the Order? 

Let me here suggest a hypothesis. In 1491, at the Chapter of Malines, his peers proposed excluding Adolph of Cleves from the Order of the Golden Fleece, suspecting him of maintaining relations with the Flemish opponents of the Emperor Maximilian of Austria. Could it be that following this threat the donor decided no longer to display the Golden Fleece? This would be an implicit way for the governors of The Netherlands and high officials of the Court of Burgundy to stress their autonomy, especially towards a sovereign who was a resented foreigner. 

And if Philip the Fair appears as the only representative of the dynasty of the Dukes of Burgundy not to wear the chain could it not also be a symbolic way of associating him with this movement of nationalistic views? We should note, moreover, that he is seated exactly on the axis of Adolph of Cleves and looking in his direction, unlike Maximilian who is the only one among the guests staring at the group surrounding Christ. 

I will leave this discovery to the perspicacity of the historians and art historians, a new objective fact which should lead to a review of the theses put forward to date.

In conclusion, the panel of The marriage at Cana, judging from its style and technique and also from the identity of the personages compared with accepted individual portraits, may be added in its entirety and without further hesitation to the catalogue of autographic works of the Master of the Princely Portraits. Engelbert of Nassau, Adolph of Cleves and Philip the Fair included here in the scene of the miracle of Christ at Cana were also portrayed singly by the same artist, which shows the importance accorded to the genre of the court portrait at the end of the 15th century. 

The similarities between the portrait of Philip the Fair, the four autographic portraits and that of Philip the Fair in Paris, allow us to attribute this very beautiful work firmly to the Master of the Princely Portraits and to date it to around 1493. Its excellent state of conservation, better than that of the Portrait of Jean Bossaert, make it a new indispensable reference for all future attributions.36 Périer-D’Ieteren, AHAA, p. 56. 

At present we are still not in a position to suggest a certain identity for the Master. The last hypothesis put forward tends to recognise Jan van Coninxloo as this portrait painter of the aristocracy.37 Jean Rivière, ‘Réévaluation du mécénat de Philippe le Beau et de Marguerite d’Autriche en matière de peinture’, in Activités et pouvoirs dans les Etats des dues de Bourgogne et des Habsbourg et les régions voisines, Centre européen d’études bourguignonnes – 14th–15th centuries, 1985, p. 114, n. 25. But if this question remains open through inadequate archival proof, the controversies concerning the attributions of works to the Master of the Magdalen or to the Master of the Princely Portraits must come to an end. The style of the first, marked by its heaviness and more opaque modelling and by the distinct morphology of the figures, can be clearly differentiated from the more refined style of the Master of the Princely Portraits with its careful modelling.

Due to the diversity of the painters, the Melbourne Triptych with the miracles of Christ constitutes one of the most representative examples of the stylistic tendencies which emerged in the Brussels school of painting at the end of the 15th century. 

Today we see in the recto of the altarpiece the work of three Brussels painters who had worked in Roger van der Weyden’s workshop and continued its activity after his death:38 The presence of historical portraits in the panel of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes and in the panel of The marriage at Cana shows that the painters used models. As several of these recall portraits attributed to van der Weyden, it is possible that the painters had access to the contents of his workshop, taken over on his death by his son Pierre, alias the Master of the Legend of Saint Catherine. they are the Master of the Princely Portraits, the Master of the Legend of Saint Catherine and the Master of the Legend of Saint Barbara, to whom I attribute the panel of The raising of Lazarus,39 C. Périer-D’leteren, ‘Le Retable du Martyre des Saints Crépin et Crépinien et le Maître de la légende de Sainte Barbe’, Bulletin des Musées royaux des Beaux Arts de Belgique (in press). an issue which will be analysed in the next Art Bulletin of Victoria

Catheline Périer-D’Ieteren, Université Libre de Bruxelles, (1990). 

Acknowledgements 

I would like to express my thanks to Mrs Illic-Pergolizzi and Mrs Elsbeth Payne for the English translation of this article. 

 

Notes 

1     Ursula Hoff & Martin Davies, The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (Les Primitifs flamands, I. Corpus de la peinture des anciens Pays-Bas méridionaux au quinzième siècle, 12), Centre National de Recherche, ‘Primitifs flamands’, Brussels, 1971. See the bibliographical history to 1971, pp. 25–6. See also J. Bruyn, ‘U. Hoff & M. Davies, the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Brussels, 1971’ (Corpus des Primitifs flamands) book reviews, Oud Holland, vol. 89, no. 1,1975, pp. 67–70. 

2     Martin Conway & Seymour de Ricci, ‘A Flemish Triptych for Melbourne’, The Burlington Magazine, 1922, vol. XL, p. 164. 

3     M.J. Friedländer, Die Altniederländische Malerei, vol. IV, 1926, p. 106; Early Netherlandish Painting, vol. IV, Hugo van der Goes, Leyde-Brussels, 1965, p. 59; and vol. XII, 1975, pp. 14–15; Jean Rivière in his thesis, ‘La Peinture à la cour des Pays-Bas 1490–1530’, Sorbonne, Paris, 1987, calls attention to three stages of execution in the central panel, each commissioned by a new owner: the Multiplication of the loaves and fishes in 1477, The marriage at Cana panel in 1485–86, and the remainder between 1495 and 1505. 

4     Hoff & Davies, pp. 1–28. 

5     See discussion in Hoff & Davies, pp. 16, 20 and in Cat. des Primitifs flamands anonymes, Groeningemuseum, Bruges, 1969, pp. 239–40. 

6     Rivière, vol. I, pp. 217–18. 

7     I am still awaiting a series of laboratory documents promised by the institutions where the relevant paintings are kept. For this reason I cannot yet finalise the essay. 

8     For the meaning of the initials see Hoff & Davies, p. 15. 

9     I refer to the detailed description of the composition and its iconography in Hoff & Davies, pp. 5–6. It is fitting to draw attention to the double meaning of the scene which is repeated in the central panel: profane in the representation of the portraits and sacred in the illustration of the Miracles of Christ. An identical juxtaposition in The marriage at Cana and the Multiplication of the loaves and fishes within a contemporary Brussels work is found in the Strängnäs Tryptich of the Passion of Christ, painted by Colyn de Coter and his workshop between 1485 and 1493. See C. Périer-D’Ieteren, Les volets peints des retables bruxellois conserves en Suède et le rayonnement de Colyn de Coter, Academié Royale d’Histoire et d’Antiquités, Stockholm, 1984, pp. 29–32. 

10     N. Reynaud & M. Foucart, ‘Exposition des Primitifs flamands anonymes’, Revue de l’Art, vol. VIII, Paris, 1970, p. 69. They also deny the presence of the young hand of the Master of the Magdalen in the group of portraits widely attributed to the Master of the Princely Portraits. 

11     C. Périer-D’Ieteren, ‘Une oeuvre retrouvée du Maître des Portraits Princiers’, AHAA, vol. VII, 1986, pp. 43–58. 

12     Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting, vol. XII, 1975, p. 15, pl. 22. In the addendum no. 31, the portrait is attributed to the Master of the Magdalen and dated to around 1490. 

13     Perier-D’Ieteren, AHAA, p. 52. The addition of white lead to the modelling of the face of Philip the Fair is noticeably more important in the portrait of The marriage at Cana than in the Paris portrait. This is due to the fact that the triptych panel was painted on both sides, thus enhancing its opacity to X-rays. The same is true for the Portrait of Jean Bossaert, as his coat of arms is painted on the verso. 

14     The autographic paintings measure 22.5 x 14 cm (Bossaert), 33.5 x 24 cm (Engelbert of Nassau), 29.7 x 21.8 cm (Fonseca), and 27 x 17.5 cm (Paris portrait of Philip the Fair). 

15     Recueil d’Arras, MS 266 in the Arras Municipal Library. See L. Campbell, ‘The Authorship of the Recueil d’Arras’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, vol. XL, 1977, pp. 301–13. 

16     Oak, 27 x 17.5 cm, Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, Paris (borrowed from the Louvre Museum, Inv. RF 1969–18). Painting attributed by M. J. Friedländer to the Master of the Magdalen and mentioned as such in the auction catalogue of the Tudor Wilkinson Collection: Paintings of Ancient Masters, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, July 1969, no. 76. 

17     This painting, contrary to what I wrote in AHAA, p. 46, n. 5, was not part of the Montferrand collection. The portrait in this collection, erroneously attributed to the Master of the Magdalen by J. Maquet-Tombu, ‘Le Maître de la légende de Marie Madeleine’, La Gazette des Beaux-Arts, vol. II, 1929, p. 281; by Ρ Wescher, ‘Das höfische Bildnis von Philipp dem Guten bis zu Karl V’, Pantheon, vol. XXVIII, no. 2, 1941, p. 275; and Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting, vol. XII, p. 15, is a free, mediocre copy of the beautiful painting in the Musée de la Chasse which has not been taken into consideration by the above-mentioned authors. 

18     In C. Périer-D’Ieteren, ‘Dessin au poncif et dessin perforé – leur utilisation dans les anciens Pays-Bas au XVe siecle’, Bull. IRPA, vol. XIX, 1982–83, pp. 89–90, I put forward the hypothesis that the copies of the drawings of the portraits made in the years 1565–74 by the heraldist J. De Boucq and forming the Recueil d’Arras (see n. 15), would have been executed with the help of pre-existing perforated drawings (probably used in several Flemish workshops of the 15th and 16th centuries) before being used to form the collection of pounced drawings of this work. As a matter of fact, besides the homogeneous treatment peculiar to De Boucq, at least four different styles of drawings are recognisable, among them some portraits of the 15th century and others from the end of that century, which so directly evoke the painting of the great Primitives and minor Flemish masters that they seem quite obviously executed from autographic, perforated drawings kept as models in the workshops. Among these, the portraits of Adolph of Cleves (fol. 86) and Philip the Fair (fol. 57) are very close to the portraits painted by the Master of the Princely Portraits. 

19     Rivière, vol. I, p. 119–20. 

20     See Périer-D’Ieteren, ΑΗΑΑ, p. 50. 

21     For details of the iconographic scenes, see Hoff & Davies, p. 6. 

22     Périer-D’Ieteren, AHAA, p. 54. 

23     Rivière, vol. I, p. 218, suggests that only the faces of the portraits would have been painted by the Master of the Princely Portraits. 

24     Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting, vol. XII, n. 3. 

25     Conway & de Ricci, n. 2. 

26     Rivière, vol. I, n. 3. 

27     Hoff & Davies, p. 22, n. 1.

28     See Hoff & Davies, pp. 12, 22. According to the information kindly provided by Mr John Payne (letter dated 19 June 1990), the left panel has been altered. The curve has been reshaped at the upper left and through the right half. This explains the difference in the width of the borders. 

29     To consider, as Rivière, vol. II, p. 120, suggests, that the panel of The marriage at Cana was painted at this date, before Philip of Cleves rebelled against Maximilian and Engelbert of Nassau, does not seem possible, given the apparent age of Philip the Fair, who would have been only six years old in 1486!

30     Rivière, vol. II, p. 120, also identifies Adolph of Cleves as having commissioned the panel. More specifically, he sees the Prince represented as the ‘master of ceremonies’ at the desired marriage of his son to Françoise of Luxemburg. 

31     See Hoff & Davies, p. 15. The same initial A. appears on the cloak of Adolph of Cleves in the independent portrait in Berlin. See R. Grooshans, Zwei Bildnisse Adolfs von Cleve und der Mark, Herrn zu Ravenstein und Wynnendael (1425–1492), Berliner Museum, Berlin, 1972, p. 9, NF XXII. 

32     See Hoff & Davies, p. 22. 

33     See the description of the different parts of the chain as it appears in the catalogue of the exhibition: The Golden Fleece, Bruges, 1962, pp. 24–5. 

34     Letter dated 5 May 1990. 

35     There are unfortunately no X-ray examinations of the three characters in the foreground, something which would help us verify if originally the artists had painted the chain with the Golden Fleece on their chests too. The overpainting is in a looser style than the original. However it shows an intact network of ageing craquelures, identical to that present on the rest of the painting; this proves intervention on the painting at the time of its execution. The X- ray reveals that, unlike the other portraits, no loss alters the image of the personage himself. The joint has only loosened up a little, thus causing a minor collapse of painting on the left side of the face. 

36     Périer-D’Ieteren, AHAA, p. 56. 

37     Jean Rivière, ‘Réévaluation du mécénat de Philippe le Beau et de Marguerite d’Autriche en matière de peinture’, in Activités et pouvoirs dans les Etats des dues de Bourgogne et des Habsbourg et les régions voisines, Centre européen d’études bourguignonnes – 14th–15th centuries, 1985, p. 114, n. 25. 

38     The presence of historical portraits in the panel of the Multiplication of the loaves and fishes and in the panel of The marriage at Cana shows that the painters used models. As several of these recall portraits attributed to van der Weyden, it is possible that the painters had access to the contents of his workshop, taken over on his death by his son Pierre, alias the Master of the Legend of Saint Catherine. 

39     C. Périer-D’leteren, ‘Le Retable du Martyre des Saints Crépin et Crépinien et le Maître de la légende de Sainte Barbe’, Bulletin des Musées royaux des Beaux Arts de Belgique (in press).