The fourteen essays in this volume focus on the Spanish reception of Flemish painters and paintings from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries. The essays are arranged in chronological order and are predominately in English, with one contribution in French, and another in Spanish. The introduction by the book’s editors, outlines the scope of the project and provides a concise overview of the longstanding historical ties between the two regions, particularly at the Spanish courts of Madrid and Zaragosa and the commercial center Seville. While the focus on the volume is on paintings and painters, the broader importance of Flemish artistic production—from stained glass to tapestries, metalwork and sculpture—is only briefly invoked here. At the close of the introduction, the editors propose a standard terminology for the copies: ranging from replica to interpretative copy, with reference to standard Renaissance literary theory on imitatio and aemulatio. In addition to this topical overview, it would have been helpful here to excavate the language used to describe copying in surviving Spanish contracts or treatises, such as Francisco Pacheco’s 1649 Arte de la pintura, to consider the overlap and divergences between period Dutch, French, and Spanish terms for artworks modelled on existing objects.
The book’s essays, with a few exceptions, can be broadly divided into those technical studies that consider issues of attribution, pieces that reassess religious purposes of copies made after Flemish models, and reconstructions of particular sites, commissions, and artists’ oeuvres. In the first category, Nicola Jennings “Imitation, Inspiration or Innovation? Juan de Flandes and the Use of Models from Illuminated Manuscripts,” assembles a compelling argument for Juan de Flandes’s early career as an illuminator of manuscripts, a trajectory first proposed by Carl Justi but borne out by close examination of the painter’s working methods. In her retelling, Juan de Flandes resembles Simon Bening in his proficiency in both oil painting and manuscript illumination. She proposes that the fifteen small panels depicting the Life of Christ (now in Madrid’s Palacio Real) were made for Isabella as devotional objects akin to a Book of Hours, as oil paintings to be held, rearranged, and contemplated by the queen. A collaborative essay by Laura Alba, Lorne Campbell, Hélène Dubois, and José Juan Pérez-Preciado considers the three full-size copies of Rogier van der Weyden’s Descent from the Cross, comparing differences in facture and composition in order to consider their authorship and potential patronage. The authors propose Philip II as the most likely candidate for the commissioned copy by Michel Coxcie, now in the Escorial. Almudena Pérez de Tudela assembles and compares the numerous versions of Anthonis Mor’s San Quentin portrait of Philip II and related works done for the Habsburg court. The serial production of panels depicting Christ Crowned with Thorns by the workshops of Dieric Bouts the Elder, his sons, and Spanish followers, is the subject of Miquel Àngel Herrero-Cortell and Isidro Puig Sanchis’s essay, which catalogues several known versions, their materials, and stylistic features.
Two essays reassess well-known instances of Spanish copies made after Netherlandish models, in light of contemporary devotional practice. José Juan Pérez Preciado’s essay on Jan Gossaert’s Deësis utilizes the 1584 entregas documenting additions to the Spanish royal collection in order to reconstruct how the painting once stood at the center of an altarpiece featuring the Athanasian Creed. The author provocatively suggests that a number of artworks (the Master of the Bruges Passion Scenes’ Miracle of Saint Anthony of Padua, Bouts’s triptych with scenes from the life of the Virgin) may have been altered when they entered the El Escorial collection, modified to include devotional texts that could have formed a cohesive devotional program for Philip II. Astrid Harth’s essay focuses on Charles V’s commission of devotional paintings from both Titian and Coxcie for Yuste, in light of Francisco da Hollanda’s precepts on archaism and fidelity to ancient sacred prototypes. Harth also proposes that Netherlandish style was both recognizable and imitable, and that the pairing of Titian and Coxcie’s works at Yuste paralleled Charles’s vast geographic empire.
Several essays assemble groups of related works for analysis. Marie Grappasonni contributes an important précis of the career of Marcellus Coffermans and his work as a copyist of various earlier Netherlandish models, outlining how these copies exploited Spanish taste. Macarena Moralejo Ortega assembles an intriguing group of works after Federico Zuccari’s complex fresco of the Annunciation for the Annunziata Church in Rome, mostly disseminated via Cornelis Cort’s engraving. David García Cueto enumerates the numerous copies after Rubens by Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo and other, largely unknown Spanish artists in the Spanish national collections, including a number of previously unpublished works from the royal collection. Expanding on the summary of royal patronage provided in García Cueto’s essay, Ángel Rodríguez Rebollo revisits the famous cycle of copies after Rubens in the Prince’s apartments in the Alcázar of Madrid, arguing that the scenes from the Torre de la Parada and the Labors of Hercules were intended to form a didactic scheme aimed at educating the royal prince. By delving into the curious enlargements and alterations made to the works by Mazo, this close study of a particular well-known suite of copies after Rubensian models demonstrates the importance of reconsidering basic questions (How were these copies made? Why this selection of iconographies?) in order to raise new avenues of research about the familiar space of the Alcázar.
Finally, the volume contains a group of case studies that investigate a particular site or artistic oeuvre. Jessica Weiss analyses Juan de Flandes’s copy of the Miraflores altarpiece as part of Isabella’s broader political strategy of seeking legitimacy for her rule by continuing the artistic patronage of her father. Similarly, Ana Diéguez-Rodríguez unpacks the commissioning of a lost Calvary by Hendrick de Clerck, which followed a work by Coxcie, to strategically ally the parish with the Spanish king via the patronage of the Archduchess Isabella. Manuel García Luque focuses on Granada, a city that was neither a court center nor a major commercial hub (although it remained a key city for the silk industry), to consider how Flemish models made their way into local artists’ workshops. Beyond assembling a corpus, García Luque suggests how artists, such as Alonso Cano, were crucial to the dissemination of compositions by Van Dyck and Rubens. The final essay in the volume, by Eduardo Lamas, considers how the artist Miguel Manrique, working in Malaga, utilized his personal and mercantile connections to Flanders (his mother was Netherlandish in origin, and the city had a considerable Flemish émigré population).
This intriguing case study, in lieu of a conclusion, suggests a number of future potential avenues of research, namely how various artistic industries and merchant communities were tied to the Low Countries via family and/or trade, across the Spanish world. While the volume chiefly focuses on the Iberian peninsula, these Flemish immigrant networks, as the work of Eddy Stols has demonstrated, stretched across the Atlantic.[i] Sandra van Ginhoven, Hans van Miegroet, and Neil de Marchi have studied how bonds of marriage and blood enabled the transatlantic export of paintings and textiles from the Low Countries, and also the clear links between textile and pigment trades and the movement of paintings, sculptures, and artists across the Atlantic.[ii] While the volume productively expands our knowledge of the pervasiveness of Flemish painted models and painters in the Iberian peninsula, considerable work remains, concerning the broader context of these artistic relationships across multiple media, patterns of taste, and consumption that valued artworks and objects de Flandes.
[i] See Eddy Stols, “Artesanos, mercaderes y religiosos flamencos en el México virreinal,” in Memorias e historias compartidas. Intercambios culturales, relaciones comerciales y diplomáticas entre México y los Países Bajos, edited by Laura Pérez Rosales and Arjen van der Sluis (Mexico City: Universidad Iberoamericana, 2009), 19-39; and Eddy Stols, “No hay más Flandes en o tempo dos flamengos in koloniaal Amerika,” De zeventiende eeuw 21, no. 1 (2005): 3-28.
[ii] Sandra van Ginhoven, Connecting Art Markets: Guilliam Forchondt’s Dealership in Antwerp (c. 1632–78) and the Overseas Paintings Trade (Leiden: Brill, 2017); Neil De Marchi and Hans Van Miegroet, “Flemish Textile Trade and New Imagery in Colonial Mexico (1524-1646),” in Painting for the Kingdoms, edited Jonathan Brown (Mexico City: Fomento Cultural BanaMex, 2010), 878-923; and Neil De Marchi and Hans Van Miegroet,“Exploring Markets for Netherlandish Paintings in Sprain and Nueva Espana,” Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 50 (1999): 81-111.