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Quentin Matsys

 (1466 - 1529)
Quentin Matsys was active/lived in Flemish, Belgium.  Quentin Matsys is known for Portrait, religious figure and satirical painting.

Quentin Matsys

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Quentin Matsys
Quentin Matsys was a painter in the Flemish tradition and a founder of the Antwerp school. He was born at Leuven, where legend states he was trained as an ironsmith before becoming a painter. Matsys was active in Antwerp for over 20 years, creating numerous works with religious roots and satirical tendencies.

Most early accounts of Matsys' life are composed primarily of legend and very little contemporary accounts exist of the nature of his activities or character.  During the greater part of the 15th century, the centres in which the painters of the Low Countries most congregated were Tournai, Bruges, Ghent and Brussels. Leuven gained prominence toward the close of this period, employing workmen from all of the crafts including Matsys. Because no guild records were kept prior to 1494 in Leuven, there is no concrete proof that Matsys attained his master's status there; however, historians generally accept this to be the location of his early training because there he had not been previously registered in Antwerp as an apprentice. As a member of Antwerp's Guild of Saint Luke, Matsysis considered to be one of its first notable artists. Existing records of Guild laws and regulations from the 16th century indicate that it is highly unlikely that Matsys was self taught, despite accounts in Carel van Mander's Schilderboek (1604) stating that Matsys studied under no artist.

The roots of Matsys' training are unknown, but his style reflects the artistic qualities of Dirk Bouts, who brought to Leuven the influence of Memling and van der Weyden. When Matsys settled at Antwerp at the age of twenty-five, his own style contributed importantly to reviving Flemish art along the lines of van Eyck and van der Weyden.

Matsys departed from Leuven in 1491 when he became a master in the guild of painters at Antwerp. His most well known satirical works include The Ugly Duchess (1515), A Portrait of an Elderly Man (1513), and The Money Changer and His Wife (1514), all of which provide commentary on human feeling and society in general. He also painted religious altarpieces and triptych panels, the most famous of which was built for the Church of Saint Peter in Leuven.

Most of the emphasis in his works lies not upon atmosphere, which is in fact given very little attention, but to the literalness of caricature: emphasizing the melancholy refinement of saints, the brutal gestures and grimaces of gaolers and executioners. Strenuous effort is devoted to the expression of individual character.

Matsys had considerable skill as a portrait painter. His Ægidius (Peter Gilles), which drew from Thomas More a eulogy in Latin verse, is but one of many, to which one may add the portrait of Maximilian of Austria in the gallery of Amsterdam. In this branch of his practice, Matsys was greatly influenced by his contemporaries Lucas van Leyden and Jan Mabuse. Matsys' portraiture exhibits highly personal and individual emotional characteristics that reflect his adherence to realism as a technique. 

His Virgin and Christ, Ecce Homo and Mater Dolorosa (London and Antwerp) are known for their serene and dignified mastery, gaining in delicacy and nuance in the works of his maturity. It is believed that he had known the work of Leonardo da Vinci in the form of prints made and circulated among northern artists (his Madonna and Child with the Lamb, inspired by The Virgin and Child with St. Anne, reflects da Vinci's inflences). This is largely regarded as proof that Matsys was greatly influenced by Italian Renaissance artists and that he most likely travelled to Italy for at least a brief period.

Matsys died at Antwerp in 1529.


Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for Quentin Matsys
Quentin Massys (also Matsys or Metsys) was born in 1466 in Louvain but worked in Antwerp, Belgium, where he became the leading painter of his day. Although he became a master in the guild there in 1491, his early career is obscure.

Massys continued the tradition of the great masters of 15th century Netherlandish art, but he was also clearly aware of Italian art, particularly Leonardo, and may well have crossed the Alps at some point in his career. Massys also painted portraits and genre scenes. He had two painter sons, Jan and Cornelis. He died in 1530.

Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

The Oxford Dictionary of Art, Oxford University Press, 1988 edited by Jan Chilvers, Harold Osborne and Dennis Farr, consulting editor.

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Portrait by Jan Wierix

About  Quentin Matsys

Born:  1466 - Leuven, Belgium
Died:   1529 - Antwerp, Belgium
Known for:  Portrait, religious figure and satirical painting