Claudia Banz, Höfisches Mäzenatentum in Brüssel. Kardinal Antoine Perrenot de Granvelle (1517-1586) und die Erzherzöge Albrecht (1559-1621) und Isabella (1566-1633)(Berliner Schriften zur Kunst XII), Berlin: Gebrüder Mann Verlag, 2000. 220 pp, 51 b&w illus. ISBN 3-7861-2309-8.
The Habsburg dynasty is the unifying factor in Claudia Banz’s study of the patronage of Antoine Perrenot de Granvelle, later Cardinal and from 1550 political advisor to Charles V and then Philip II, and the Archdukes Albert and Isabella, son-in-law and daughter of Philip II who from 1598 served as Regents in the Spanish Netherlands.
Banz’s monograph is based on her dissertation of 1996, so that her research was undertaken at a time when few studies of court culture in the Southern Netherlands were available, and she is to be admired for undertaking a task made particularly difficult through the scarcity of primary sources, especially in the case of Granvelle. She seeks to show how each patron (Albrecht and Isabella being treated as one) commissioned a certain type of art which aimed to convey a specific image of his/their role and function within a Habsburg-dominated society: She begins by defining Granvelle’s motivation asrepraesentatio and scientia and that of the Archdukes asrepraesentatio and pietas, and then examines how various commissions fulfilled these aspirations. Unfortunately, this method must ignore those works which do not fit the chosen criteria and thus results in a rather selective view of their patronage – after all scientiawas also clearly important for the Archdukes.
For Granvelle emulating royal patronage was a means of overcoming the humiliation of stemming from a minor noble family, of demonstrating his cultural and aesthetic taste and his superiority over the Netherlandish nobility. He acquired – often (mis-)using the power of his position – works by artists favoured by the Habsburgs, such as Titian, Leone Leoni, Anthonis Mor, to decorate his newly-built palace. This is one of the key works of Netherlandish Renaissance architecture, erected, as newly-discovered documents show, on two parcels of land, one of which already contained a residence. Building begun around 1550, and although vague about when completed, Banz’s observations imply a date later than the hitherto proposed c.1555. She suggests that the similarity between the façade of the new wing and that of Palazzo Farnese may have resulted from the involvement of the Farnese military engineer Francesco Paciotto, who met Granvelle in the Netherlands in 1558. The painted decoration of Granvelle’s Grand Galeria is described by a contemporary visitor as showing the Entry of Maximilian into Augsburg for the Reichstag of 1566 with all Electors and Princes of the Reich painted ‘au naturel’. It was however clearly the Entry of Charles V in 1548 on which occasion both Granvelle and his father were present. Based on the assumption that the numerous imperial tapestries depicting historical events in the lives of the Habsburgs provided the inspirational source for Granvelle, Banz proposes that the events depicted may relate to Marten van Heemskerck’s designs for engravings (published by H. Cock in 1556) illustrating the military triumphs of Charles over the German princes; she suggests Granvelle may even have commissioned the latter series. However, one wonders whether the erroneous identification of the Emperor as Maximilian might not have arisen because the decoration of the gallery did, as explicitly stated in the contemporary description, show an actual Entry and may have reminded its author, a member of the Saxonian court, of the ceremonial entries so much a part of every Reichstag meeting, or perhaps even resembled the series of engravings showing the Triumphal Procession of Maximilian I. The discussion of Granvelle’s patronage concludes with an extremely interesting and informative study of his promotion of antiquarian interests in the Netherlands.
The princely aspirations of Granvelle are rejected by the Archdukes who, so Banz’s conclusion, adopted a policy of commissioning ‘down-to-earth’ art which emphasised their identification with their Netherlandish subjects and thereby improve the reputation of the Habsburg dynasty so tarnished by political and religious events. Thus paintings by Jan Brueghel the Younger and Denijs van Alsloot showed the Archdukes mingling with their subjects, while one aspect of the funerary celebrations for Albert (died 1621) was to instruct the people about the benefits of Habsburg rule. The pilgrimage church of Our Lady within the fortified town of Scherpenheuvel, erected to fulfill a vow made by Albert following his triumph over Northern Netherlandish forces at the Battle of Ostend in 1602, served to exemplify both the triumph of ecclesia militans and the pietas marianaof the Habsburgs. Banz discusses how its sculptural and pictorial decoration contains specifically Habsburgian meaning and significance. She argues that Rubens was excluded from this prestigious public project because his aristocratic style was less suited to promoting the aims of the Archdukes than the ideal of humilitas inherent in the Caravaggesque manner of Theodor van Loon. This may be so, but it may also have been simple artistic rivalry. Cobergher was in charge of the entire project and may not have wanted to be eclipsed by Rubens, who in turn would hardly have been prepared to follow Cobergher’s instructions. Other aspects discussed include the role of royal portraits and the disposition of the archducal art collection, though this latter part is very selective in the works discussed.
Banz’s monograph provides new insights into the patronage of the Archdukes and Granvelle, and together with the numerous other publications which have appeared in recent times, adds to our understanding of the very different facets of the role of art and learning at the Brussels court.