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Otto Venius Van Veen

 (1556 - 1629)
Otto Venius Van Veen was active/lived in Belgium.  Otto Veen is known for painting.

Otto Venius Van Veen

Biography from Van Ham Kunstauktionen

Otto van Veen was one of Antwerp's leading figure painters and he was the teacher of Peter Paul Rubens.  His work "Miles Christianus", which impressively depicts the dramatic battle of the Christian knight against the seven deadly sins and death itself, was considered lost for a long period of time.  In 2007 Hans Ost praised the work extensively in his piece "Unbekannte Werke von Otto van Veen" (unknown works by Otto van Veen) in the Wallraf-Richartz yearbook.  Presumably it was created between 1609 and 1629 for a Cologne cleric and in the 19th century it came to the collection of Johann Jakob Merlo who is known for his fundamental article "Nachrichten von dem Leben und den Werken Kölnischer Künstler" (news of the lives and works of Cologne artists) from 1850.  After his death in 1890 the painting was sold by auction and after decades of uncertainty it was rediscovered in a private collection only a few years ago.  Merlo dedicated an extensive description to this opulent work: "I consider the allegorical painting by Otto Veenius a principal ornament of my collection.  Next to excellent technical skills it shows the artist's poetic intellect in all its greatness.  By painting his work he wanted to visualize the sublime truth that true Christians have the power to overcome tribulations of the Evil and thereby earn everlasting salvation.  A young man trusting in his faith, hope and love is able to wield his sword with a brave and unshaken hand against the mightiest vices.  These capital vices being wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony are represented by brilliantly chosen attributes. On his shield there is a depiction of Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac, which represents an important connection to the human duty of obedience against God's commandment.  Above the young hero there is a host of angels who show him the weapons of Christ in order to fortify him. The ground is split and in the abyss there are men who abandoned themselves to vices.  They make desperate gestures, are surrounded by flames and have to bear the torture of condemnation. (...) On high we see the splendid future lying ahead of the Christian hero: in a glory of light and surrounded by the multicolored arch of peace there is Christ holding the banner of victory with the cross.  He rewards the kneeling young man with the crown of the Blessed. Below we see the inscription: Miles Christianus contra peccata mortalia pugnans coronam recipit. (...)

According to the statement of former owners Otto Veenius painted this work which is excellent in every respect in Cologne for a noble friend of art, a member of the Domcapitel.  This information appears even more trustworthy since the style which predominates the painting is the style of the Italian school and firstly recalls Giulio Romano.  He probably created this work shortly after returning from Italy when he still had the lively impressions of his local studies in mind." [translation]

The subject of the battle of the virtues against the vices goes back to the 4th century and is present to the modern era.  The trizonal structure of the painting recalls compositions of the Last Judgement.  The division of the spaces is also influenced by the medieval painting type where the "good" are depicted on the left side whereas the "damned" are shown on the right side of the painting.  Another element that fits into this interpretation is the fact that the beautiful female half figure at the lower left margin is not part of the group of the "damned", but instead she makes aware of the inscription by leaning over the railing in order to read it.  According to Ost this inscription can be seen as an evidence for Otto van Veens authorial, scholarly, text-oriented interest as a pictor doctus.  The motif of the painting itself has its origin in the letter of Paul to the Ephesians in the bible: Eph.6, 10-17.

Otto van Veen worked at the court of the prince-bishop of Liège, Gerard von Groesbeck, in Rome, at the Prague Court of Emperor Rudolf II. and at the Munich Court of the Wittelsbacher before he finally came to Cologne in 1583 where he became court painter of the Cologne elector Ernst of Bavaria. Most probably his inspiration for this painting originates from the time spent in Italy.  A large Chiaroscuro xylograph by Andrea Andreani served him as a model for his work.  In turn Andrea Andreani states in a text concerning his depiction that his work refers to a drawing by Battista Franco which seems lost at the present day.

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Portrait painted by Geertrui van Veen

About  Otto Venius Van Veen

Born:  1556 - Leiden
Died:   1629 - Brussels, Belgium
Known for:  painting