MASTER OF THE FORTIES

Creator

MASTER OF THE FORTIES
b. The Netherlands ca. 1540's
The Master of the 40s is the name given by the art historian Max J Friedlander to the painter of an anonymous group of approximately thirty known portraits. This artist is called the Master of the 40s because most of his paintings are dating to the 1540’s. He worked mainly in Antwerp, painting portraits of wealthy, middle-class men and women. During the 1540’s, Antwerp was the center for art in Northern Europe. It was also one of the most populated cities in Europe and the leading trade and banking center of the Netherlands. Portraits were regarded as an essential part of the interior decoration of the houses of the well-to-do which naturally led to a strong demand in the market. As the painting of portraits was regarded as more of a craftsman-like imitation of nature than a creative invention, the names of artists tended not to be recorded. Furthermore, with two exceptions, the Master’s sitters are unidentified. The Master is often regarded as a follower of Joos van Cleve (1485-1540), because his period of activity from 1540-1551 began immediately after van Cleeve’s death. Where van Cleeve’s varietous clients at court pushed his artistic range, the Master worked primarily for the bourgeoisie merchant class and demonstrated a sense of uniformity in his depictions of facial features. These portrayals, executed with a qualitative assurance and objectivity, also suggest neat and solid craftsmanship. They are also devoid of coats-of-arms or other distinguishing emblems, which marks them as members of the upper middle class rather than the aristocracy. The Master typically painted portraits in half-length formats, in which the sitter’s head is viewed frontally or slights turned to the side, set close to the top of the panel. Furthermore, he often painted a monochrome backdrop of intermediate brightness in order to emphasize the sitters’ silhouettes and allow the flesh parts to stand out. The velvety rendering of sitters’ eyebrows is another noteworthy characteristic of the artist, as are long, conical fingers with oval nails. Often, his sitters hold a glove in their hand – holding a glove (or pair of gloves) was a standard trademark of a gentleman in early Netherlandish portraiture. This gesture, along with the sitters’ severe expressions and the painterly clarity epitomise how the Master conformed with the traditional conventions Netherlandish portraiture, which aimed to stress the decency, respectability, and moral purity of the sitter. Overall, the impression of his portraits is one of vivid clarity encapsulated in a veneer of high gloss

Citation

MASTER OF THE FORTIES, b. The Netherlands ca. 1540's, and The Master of the 40s is the name given by the art historian Max J Friedlander to the painter of an anonymous group of approximately thirty known portraits. This artist is called the Master of the 40s because most of his paintings are dating to the 1540’s. He worked mainly in Antwerp, painting portraits of wealthy, middle-class men and women. During the 1540’s, Antwerp was the center for art in Northern Europe. It was also one of the most populated cities in Europe and the leading trade and banking center of the Netherlands. Portraits were regarded as an essential part of the interior decoration of the houses of the well-to-do which naturally led to a strong demand in the market. As the painting of portraits was regarded as more of a craftsman-like imitation of nature than a creative invention, the names of artists tended not to be recorded. Furthermore, with two exceptions, the Master’s sitters are unidentified. The Master is often regarded as a follower of Joos van Cleve (1485-1540), because his period of activity from 1540-1551 began immediately after van Cleeve’s death. Where van Cleeve’s varietous clients at court pushed his artistic range, the Master worked primarily for the bourgeoisie merchant class and demonstrated a sense of uniformity in his depictions of facial features. These portrayals, executed with a qualitative assurance and objectivity, also suggest neat and solid craftsmanship. They are also devoid of coats-of-arms or other distinguishing emblems, which marks them as members of the upper middle class rather than the aristocracy. The Master typically painted portraits in half-length formats, in which the sitter’s head is viewed frontally or slights turned to the side, set close to the top of the panel. Furthermore, he often painted a monochrome backdrop of intermediate brightness in order to emphasize the sitters’ silhouettes and allow the flesh parts to stand out. The velvety rendering of sitters’ eyebrows is another noteworthy characteristic of the artist, as are long, conical fingers with oval nails. Often, his sitters hold a glove in their hand – holding a glove (or pair of gloves) was a standard trademark of a gentleman in early Netherlandish portraiture. This gesture, along with the sitters’ severe expressions and the painterly clarity epitomise how the Master conformed with the traditional conventions Netherlandish portraiture, which aimed to stress the decency, respectability, and moral purity of the sitter. Overall, the impression of his portraits is one of vivid clarity encapsulated in a veneer of high gloss, “MASTER OF THE FORTIES,” UCSB ADA Museum Omeka, accessed September 25, 2022, http://art-collections.museum.ucsb.edu/items/show/3193.