Bartholomäus (Barthel) Bruyn the Elder
(1493 - 1555)
Bartholomäus (Barthel) Bruyn the Elder was active/lived in Germany. Bartholomaus Bruyn the Elder is known for portrait and religious theme painting, altar pieces.
Bartholomäus (Barthel) Bruyn the Elder
Biography from the Archives of askART
was the leading portrait painter in Cologne in the 16th century. His
birth date is known from Friedrich Hagenauer's portrait medallion of
1539, inscribed bartholomaus bruyn pictor coloniensis anno aetatis xlvi.
** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at
His earliest documented altarpiece, the Coronation of the Virgin
(1515-16; German priv. col.), was painted for Dr Peter von Clapis, law
professor of the University of Cologne, and his wife. On 20 December
1525 he acknowledged receipt of payment for his paintings for the high
altar of Essen Cathedral, a commission received in 1522 (of the two
pairs of wings one is extant: it has eight panels showing scenes from
the Life of Christ). On 22 April 1529 he contracted to do a cycle of
paintings for the new high altar of St Victor at Xanten, with the Lives
of SS Victor and Helena and scenes from the Life of Christ: he completed
the work in 1534. Bruyn received a commission in 1541 to clean Jan
Joest's altarpiece at Werden. In 1547 he began a major commission of
scenes from the New Testament (all destr., except Temptation of Christ;
Bonn, Rhein. Landesmus.) for the cloister of Cologne's
Karmelitenkloster, which he completed with the assistance of his sons
Arnt Bruyn and (2) Bartholomäus Bruyn (ii); he later painted altarpieces
(in situ) for the churches of St Andrew and St Severin in Cologne.
Bruyn's painting style evolved throughout his career as the styles
around him evolved; he seems to have readily assimilated all of the
newest trends. His early altarpieces reflect the style of Jan Joest, a
relative from whom he received a bequest. Bruyn sometimes utilized Jan
Joest's method of placing the light source low within the picture so
that the figures are highlighted by the eerie light from below, as in
the Nativity, a 1516 altar for the von Clapis family (Frankfurt am Main,
Städel. Kstinst.). While working on the Essen altarpiece (1522-25), the
highpoint of his early work, he continued to rely on Jan Joest's motifs
and began to show interest in the work of Joos van Cleve. He adopted
that artist's fanciful processions, splendid garments and buildings
decorated with classicizing ornament, and he even copied directly some
of Joos van Cleve's landscapes. Bruyn's earlier work is filled with
active figures, often in exaggerated positions .
while he worked on the Xanten altar (1529-34), Bruyn emulated the
classicizing figures and heroic style of the Italian Renaissance,
drawing particularly on Raphael and Michelangelo. For example, on the
outside of a portrait diptych of members of the Rolinxwerth Family
(1529; The Hague, priv. col.) the contrapposto pose of Lucretia is a
copy of Raphael's Galatea (1511-12; Rome, Villa Farnesina). The figure
groups and compositions in the double wings of the Xanten altar, the
statuesque saints in the Lives of SS Victor and Helena, the Ecce homo
and the Resurrection are early examples of his second-hand Mannerism.
Late works feature muscular Italianate figures in affected poses and
robust movement. Although some early scholars proposed an Italian trip,
it is now generally accepted that these Renaissance forms reached Bruyn
by way of the Romanists Jan van Scorel and Martin van Heemskerck, and
through Marcantonio Raimondi's prints after Raphael.
Many of the altar panels include group portraits, and Bartholomäus
Bruyn (i) is celebrated more for his portraits than for his altars. He
founded an important school for portraiture in Cologne, which had not
previously had a portrait tradition. Since Bruyn did not sign any of his
portraits, and they are not documented as his altarpieces are, scholars
have assigned his many attributed portraits by style, based primarily
on the Essen and Xanten altarpieces.
His portraits, mostly of the
patrician citizens of Cologne—mayors, public officials, businessmen and
scholars—are lively and expressive, and they show no vain flattery.
Bruyn was an honest and direct portrait painter, who represented his
fellow citizens with understanding and respect. He began work with
preparatory sketches, sometimes catching the likeness in a single
sitting. Some of these preparatory sketches are extant (see Rosenberg,
1935; Westhoff-Krummacher, 1965). Often he placed the waist-length
figure against a flat green or blue, but occasionally he included
drapery or architectural elements, or a landscape, as in the portrait of
Arnold von Brauweiler, Mayor of Cologne (1535; Cologne,
Wallraf-Richartz-Mus.). Bruyn's portraits focus attention on faces but
do not omit any detail of clothing, headdress, or jewellery. Hands are
prominent, often gesturing or holding an object that further illuminates
the identification, status or character of the sitter. The earlier
portraits are in the style of Joos van Cleve; then after 1539 they are influenced
by Hans Holbein (ii). In fact, some early inventories attributed his
drawings to Holbein. Bruyn's portrait school was very prolific and,
through his sons, long-lived.
Throughout his career, Bartholomäus Bruyn was active in civic
affairs and was a member of the same upper-middle-class Cologne society
that he portrayed with such frankness and dignity. In 1518 and again in
1521 he was elected to Cologne's auxiliary council; in 1549 and 1553 he
was elected to the City Council. He is recorded as buying in 1533 the
houses 'Carbunckel' and 'Aldegryn', property that had once belonged to
the painter Stefan Lochner.
Sphinx Fine Art
Share an image of the Artist firstname.lastname@example.org.