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 Ysenbrandt, Adrien (Flemish painter, ca. 1500-before 1551) , The Nativity

Core Record

Title The Nativity
Collection Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Artist Ysenbrandt, Adrien (Flemish painter, ca. 1500-before 1551)
Date Earliest about 1510
Date Latest about 1512
Description

The triptych, of which this panel is the left wing, would have been placed upon a small side altar as an aid to piety and a source of instruction. For most of the year, it would have been shown open displaying the Nativity, Adoration of the Magi and Presentation which correspond to the three feasts of Christ's infancy in the church year, Christmas, Epiphany and Candlemas. During Lent, however, the wings would have been closed to shown the Annunciation in grisaille (monochrome) on the exterior.

In this scene of the Nativity Mary kneels in adoration at the manger which is shown in the form of an altar. She is accompanied by the ox and ass in fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah 1.3, 'the ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib.' In the background is a ruined archway, seen again in the centre panel, representing the law of the synagogue or Old Testament giving way to the New. In the foreground, the dandelion, the 'bitter herb' of Christ's suffering, sprouts from the ruins. It has been suggested that the Shepherd Boy could represent a donor.

Ysenbrandt spent his working life in Bruges, at that time an important artistic centre. He continued the tradition of the great Bruges painters, Hans Memling (1430/5-94) and Gerard David (d. 1523). Little is known about his life and he left no known signed works, but a number of paintings, including this piece, have been attributed to him on the basis of style alone.

Current Accession Number 1928P554a
Former Accession Number P.554'28
Subject religion (Nativity)
Measurements 28.5 x 90.3 cm cm (estimate)
Material oil on panel (hardwood {oak})
Acquisition Details Given by the John Sumner Trust 1928.
Provenance Durlacher, Collection, 1903; C. Fairfax Murray sale, Christie's, 14 December 1917, lot 50 bought by Willis (bt in); bought by Agnew's from C. Fairfax Murray, 1918; bought by John Sumner Trust, 1928.
Principal Exhibitions Düsseldorf, Stadtischen, 1904, cat. no. 154; Kunsthistorische Ausstellung, Musée Communal, Bruges, 1949, cat. no. 24; L'Exposition Gerard Dou, Wildenstein, London, 1949, cat. no. 21; Gerard Dou and his Followers, Royal Academy, London, 1953, cat. no. 100; Pictures from Birmingham, Agnew's, London, 1957, cat. no. 27; , Old Masters from Birmingham, Wildenstein, London, 1970, cat. no. 6;
Publications Friedländer, M. J., 'Hugo van der Goes, Eine Nachlese, Jahrbuch der Königlich Preussischen, 1904, pp. 114-18 as Bruges Master, about 1510; Von Bodenhausen, E., Gerard Dou und Seine Schule, 1905, p. 94; Conway, W. M., The Van Eykes and Their Followers, 1921, pp. 229, 309-400; Kaines-Smith, S. C., 'An Isembrant for Birmingham', Burlington Magazine, vol. 53, 1928, pp. 238-243; Friedländer, M. J., Die Altniederländische Malerei, 1934, p. XI, no.126; Catalogue of Paintings in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 1930; Catalogue of Paintings in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery; Foreign Paintings in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, A Summary Catalogue, 1983, no. 83, ill.
Notes Contrary to previously held beliefs, the frame is not original since the edge of the centre frame is at least 3 mm from the edge of the painted surface at each side, and there is a narrow fillet added on to the left to hold the panel in the frame.

Kaines-Smith attributed this to Isenbrant in 1928 and Friedländer in 1934, dating it to 1510 - 1512.

Friedländer (1904) compared this painting with the triptych The Offering in the Temple in St. Saviour's, Bruges, which can be dated to the first decade of the 16th century, and he associated them both with the group of works by the master then temporarily identified as the Pseudo-Mostaert (now identified as Isenbant). He also pointed out that the composition of the Presentation is copied almost directly from the right wing of Memling's Adoration of the Magi triptych in the Prado, Madrid, which in turn was derived from the St. Columba altarpiece by Rogier van der Weyden. In his view the upper half of the kneeling Magus resembles the kneeling Magus in The Adoration of the Magi in Berlin, a poor copy after a lost Hugo van der Goes. This lost work was also the model for Gerard David's Adoration of the Magi now in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich, and the latter would also appear to have influenced the composition of this painting. Kaines-Smith (1928) argued that this work demonstrates that Isenbrant originated in Antwerp and that he was, in his early years, closely allied with Goossen van der Weyden.

There is an inscription which runs along the garment of the figure in the middle background. On the belt of this figure, a letter 'Y' can be seen. It is possible that this is the initial letter of the artist's name. Since there is no work by Ysenbrandt that bears a signature or monogram, this would be an interesting discovery if it could be supported by the content of the rest of the inscription.

Rights Owner Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Author Dr Patricia Smyth
 

 

 

 

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