Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Black Magus in Birmingham

Adriaen Isenbrandt  Adoration of the Magi Triptych  (1510-12)
I had an hour or so to spare in Birmingham,  last Sunday so decided to visit its Art Gallery to see if any Renaissance Blacks were to be found.

It was quite easy, perhaps too easy, as the Gallery's paintings and sculpture were laid out chronologically. In its Medieval and Renaissance room I found an Adoration scene by Adriaen Isenbrandt (c1490 to 1551) with a characteristic Black Magus complete with earring. He was in a Adoration panel flanked either side - dexter (right!) panel The Annunciation and sinister (left!) panel The Circumcision. 

Adriaen Isenbrandt  Black Magus Detail
Isenbrandt‘s realistic, naturalistic style with much exquisite detail in all parts of the composition, in oil on oak, follows the style of two previous generations of Bruges artists :                      

1st  Generation Jan Van Eyck (c. 1395–1441) 

2nd Generation Hans Memling (1430 - 1494)

3rd Generation Adriaen Isenbrandt (c1490 to 1551)

The Black Magus presence most probably came from Isenbrandt‘s awareness of Hans Memling’s (1430 - 1494) influential Adoration work (see below), as Memling had done , for me, the definitive work that introduced the Black Magus presence into the Adoration composition to other Netherlandish artists of the period.

Memling’s Adoration was itself a variation of a work by his master Roger van den Weyden (c1400 - 1464) - van Wyden’s foppish young, White Magus is  substituted - fifteen years later - by Memling for an equally flamboyant young but Black Magus.

Rodger van den Weyden, Adoration of the Magi, oil on panel, c.1455

Hans Memling, Adoration of the Magi, oil on panel, c.1470-72,

Netherlandish rtists such as Hugo van der Goes (1440- 1482), Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516) and Gerard David (active 1484; died 1523). Just like Adriaen Isenbrandt seem to have been aware of the Memling altarpiece with its Black Magus.

So, Adriaen Isenbrandt's Adoration Tryptch with its Black Magus takes its style from fifteenth century Bruges artistic traditions and its composition from Hans Memling to create a colourful, pleasing and typical Adoration with a Black Magus.

Adriaen Isenbrandt  Adoration Triptych Detail

Adriaen Isenbrandt  Adoration of the Magi Triptych (Detail) (1510-12)

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