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 Jan Metsys  (c.1510 - c. 1575)

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Lived/Active: Flemish/Belgium      Known for: Religious, allegorical painting, female nudes

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Jan Metsys, or Massys, or Matsys, or Matsijs (c. 1509 - Antwerp - c. 1575 - Antwerp)

He was born into a south Netherlandish family of artists, as the son of  painter Quinten/Quintin Metsys.  Jan worked in the style of his father, whose studio he may have taken over following his death in 1530.  Two years later, though still under the age of majority, Jan was admitted as a master in the Guild of St Luke in Antwerp.

During his first Antwerp period from 1431 to 1543, he is said to have worked closely with his father until his death and  may also have completed some of his father's unfinished works. The first dated painting generally attributed to Jan is the St Jerome (1537; Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum), which is completely in the style of Quinten/ Quintin). 
 
In 1544, together with his brother Cornelis and other artists, Jan was sentenced in his absence and exiled from Brabant because of his heretical sympathies.  His wife remained in Antwerp, and he was registered as a fugitive.  He may have gone to France, in particular to Fontainebleau, perhaps also to Germany; he was in Italy around 1549.  Only one signed and dated painting is known from the artist’s period in exile: a Virgin and Child (1552; Genoa). In 1550 he tried to have his sentence reduced, and before December 11, 1555 he returned to Antwerp.  In the following period of 1555 to 1578, he executed most of his dated paintings.

Throughout his career Jan worked in a traditional style.  Though there are satirical genre scenes, for example groups of courting couples and unequal lovers, reminiscent of his father's work,  he is best known as a painter of the female nude.  He frequently used Old Testament, allegorical and mythological subjects for the depiction of sensual female nudes as his early signed Judith (1543; Boston, MA, Museum of Fine Arts).  His more mature style, of 1555 to 1575, can be seen in compositions such as Bathsheba Bathing (Paris, Louvre), Lot and his Daughters and Susanna and the Elders (both Brussels, Royal Museum of Fine Arts).  Among his best works are versions of Flora (Venus Cythereia), one with a view of the harbour at Genoa (Stockholm, Nationalmuseum) and another with the shipping lanes of Antwerp in the background (1559; Hamburg, Kunsthalle).  In these works a large-scale, classicizing figure reclines awkwardly in a rhetorical pose in the foreground, with a topographical view in the distance.
 
Collections:
Royal Museums of Fine Arts, Brussels; Louvre, Paris; Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna; Kunsthalle, Hamburg; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Palazzo Bianco, Genoa, amongst others.
 
Sources include:
wikipedia.org
sphinxfineart.com

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