BRUYN THE ELDER, Barthel

Creator

BRUYN THE ELDER, Barthel
b. Germany, 1493 - 1555
Artistic contacts between cities in Italy, like Florence, Siena and Venice, and those of Germany, like Cologne, were ongoing during much of the 15th century. The humanist attitudes and novel visions of Italian Renaissance art were taken northwards both by wandering Italian artists, and by the engravings that had been discovered in the mid-15th century, which enabled people to make cheap editions of the most important Renaissance works. Important as the influences of Early Renaissance painting were on the development of German art, of equal relevance were the events in their homeland, where the Reformation was continuing to make its presence felt. In the country that had seen the success of the Protestant Reformation movement which had declared itself hostile to painting, there was no longer any demand for religious art. This was a great blow to artists, because it meant that they lost their most important source of commissions and income, and helps to explain why court patronage and painting increased in importance. To compensate for the collapse of their main patron, the Church, German artists were obliged to turn to other subjects, notably portrait art and landscape painting, which they sold to the nobility and bourgeoisie. Thus, naturally, Barthel Bruyn the Elder was a German artist especially known for his portraits. He was the first important portrait painter in Cologne, and the founder of a prolific school of portraiture that was continued by his sons Arnt and Barthel Bruyn the Younger. His subjects are usually portrayed at half-length against a flat background; the face is the center of attention, but costume details are crisply described, and prominence is given to the hands. Bruyn's depictions of the upper-middle-class citizens of Cologne are lively and expressive, and they are realistic, showing no vain flattery. Bruyn did not sign his portraits, and some of them have in the past been misattributed to Hans Holbein, whose influence is apparent in Bruyn's works after 1539. Nevertheless, a large body of independent portraits has been established for him through comparison with donor portraits in securely documented retables, such as the high altarpiece that Bruyn completed for Xanten Cathedral in 1534. The large irises, prominent chins, fleshy noses and lips, and high-contrast modeling characteristics of the Xanten portraits are typical in Bruyn’s work. Material and iconographic evidence suggests that many of Bruyn's portraits with rounded tops were originally attached as folding diptychs.

Citation

BRUYN THE ELDER, Barthel, b. Germany, 1493 - 1555, and Artistic contacts between cities in Italy, like Florence, Siena and Venice, and those of Germany, like Cologne, were ongoing during much of the 15th century. The humanist attitudes and novel visions of Italian Renaissance art were taken northwards both by wandering Italian artists, and by the engravings that had been discovered in the mid-15th century, which enabled people to make cheap editions of the most important Renaissance works. Important as the influences of Early Renaissance painting were on the development of German art, of equal relevance were the events in their homeland, where the Reformation was continuing to make its presence felt. In the country that had seen the success of the Protestant Reformation movement which had declared itself hostile to painting, there was no longer any demand for religious art. This was a great blow to artists, because it meant that they lost their most important source of commissions and income, and helps to explain why court patronage and painting increased in importance. To compensate for the collapse of their main patron, the Church, German artists were obliged to turn to other subjects, notably portrait art and landscape painting, which they sold to the nobility and bourgeoisie. Thus, naturally, Barthel Bruyn the Elder was a German artist especially known for his portraits. He was the first important portrait painter in Cologne, and the founder of a prolific school of portraiture that was continued by his sons Arnt and Barthel Bruyn the Younger. His subjects are usually portrayed at half-length against a flat background; the face is the center of attention, but costume details are crisply described, and prominence is given to the hands. Bruyn's depictions of the upper-middle-class citizens of Cologne are lively and expressive, and they are realistic, showing no vain flattery. Bruyn did not sign his portraits, and some of them have in the past been misattributed to Hans Holbein, whose influence is apparent in Bruyn's works after 1539. Nevertheless, a large body of independent portraits has been established for him through comparison with donor portraits in securely documented retables, such as the high altarpiece that Bruyn completed for Xanten Cathedral in 1534. The large irises, prominent chins, fleshy noses and lips, and high-contrast modeling characteristics of the Xanten portraits are typical in Bruyn’s work. Material and iconographic evidence suggests that many of Bruyn's portraits with rounded tops were originally attached as folding diptychs., “BRUYN THE ELDER, Barthel,” UCSB ADA Museum Omeka, accessed September 25, 2022, http://art-collections.museum.ucsb.edu/items/show/3195.