Surely for scholars the most important contribution that a museum curator can provide is a systematic catalogue of the paintings in the permanent collection, the more so in a major collection. Thus the welcome news that Lorne Campbell has completed his long-awaited catalogue of sixteenth-century Netherlandish (and early French) paintings in the National Gallery, London, offers a milestone in scholarship of Early Netherlandish painting. All scholars are already indebted to Campbell for his career-long scholarship on fifteenth-century paintings, particularly of Jan van Eyck, and his earlier London catalogue of the fifteenth-century Netherlandish panels (1998) remains exemplary. Users of this massive, two-volume tome will find the same meticulous attention to details of provenance, technical issues (where the National Gallery has long been a leader in both research and publication), and attribution and dating problems. These investigations are buttressed by clear and generous images of photomicrographs and details, of x-radiographs and infrared reflectograms, and of comparative images. Campbell, of course, needs no introduction to HNA readers. Formerly George Beaumont Senior Research Curator at the National Gallery, he also authored the 1985 catalogue of early Flemish paintings in the Queen’s Collection. So this publication culminates his career-long researches.
To give one example of the catalogue entries, I choose a painting where my own early work is engaged (and here I want to recant a lesser opinion of the work): the mid-career Crucifixion by Quinten Massys (NG 715, pp. 432-40). The advances in technical investigation since the early 1970s, when I first examined the painting, have revealed many new facts; for example, one board of the picture stems from the same tree as London’s “Ugly Duchess” by Massys (though that work is undated and Campbell rather mechanically assigns it to his presumed date around 1513; he might do well to compare it also to the Coimbra triptych figures, not mentioned). Many more changes are visible in infrared light, such as the right arm and fingers of Christ on the cross. Though earlier monographs on artists harshly treated any participation by lesser hands in a work, today we realize that most significant painters had large workshops, and this Massys painting has both superb figures beneath the cross together with other figures who are repeated in other Massys works, notably Ottawa’s Crucifixion (fig. 12, which I judged then as better and consigned this panel as a “variant”). After careful technical analysis (ten figs.) and description, Campbell rigorously surveys its history of attributions, even before Waagen, before concluding (with me, especially now) that “both NG 715 and the Ottawa Crucifixion appear to be largely by Quinten himself.” Then he goes on to discuss another Massys image for Damião de Góis, Portuguese humanist in Antwerp, who wrote Latin poems, given here in translation, to his lost painting.
Not all pictures are quite as significant, but the Ugly Duchess by Massys also gets full treatment by Campbell (NG 5769, 446-63; previewed in London’s recent catalogue, Renaissance Faces, 2008, 228-31, no. 70). Here he even quotes from unpublished Reis-Santos notes to Martin Davies about the new-found pendant, which I later published in the 1970s and which he paired with the London bust in the same exhibition (2008, no. 71). With his usual care, Campbell lists numerous related drawings (the most famous is by Leonardo, preserved in a studio replica), prints, and copies or versions of the image, even noting John Tenniel’s use of the National Gallery work for his “Ugly Duchess” (whose name clings to the panel) from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865; figs. 8-9). He notes that much modeling is painted wet-in-wet and feathered (figs. 12, 14), with evident underdrawing, and microphotographs suggest different working methods for patterns on each horn. Campbell lingers on the question of the identity of the old woman, assuming that this is a portrait, and he rightly notes her archaic costume as well as that of her pendant male, quite close to Burgundian fashions. He also worries about her physical condition, identifying her deformities as stemming from Paget’s disease. To me, both assumptions are questionable, especially given the close use of a Leonardo grotesque head as a model, which Campbell denies ultimately (460), opting for the claim (for an artist not known from any extant drawings) that Massys might have even exchanged drawings with Leonardo but also that “any resemblance between the Windsor drawings . . . and other grotesque heads by Leonardo himself may be dismissed as coincidental.” At least all the evidence is here, a tribute to Campbell’s thorough scrupulousness.
Of course, the National Gallery has many fabulous paintings by other artists. Massys has been singled out for personal reasons (five other pictures by the artist are also discussed, and one work by a follower appears close to the Master of the Morrison Triptych group), but also because Campbell argues radically for less of a relationship concerning Leonardo da Vinci. An inventory of other highlights will show the value of this essential catalogue, whose artists’ biographies alone are up-to-date standards of received wisdom. Joachim Beuckelaer, for example, receives a biography (92-102) that includes a generously illustrated roster of paintings (with references), a chronology, discussion of supports and working procedures, and overview of patrons and collectors. Then follows the large quartet of canvases, The Four Elements (1570; pp. 103-37), with fully 55 images of comparisons and details.
The hits keep coming: Bosch’s Christ Mocked (144-61); Bruegel’s Adoration of the Magi (176-97, incorporating (191) the revised date of 1563 for the Winterthur Adoration in the Snow as well as a full history of the painting); and Patinir’s St. Jerome (610-18; as “Workshop,” with comparisons). Marinus van Reymerswaele’s Two Tax Gatherers gets an extensive write-up (648-60) and comparison to its prototype in the Louvre, already discussed in an excellent National Gallery Technical Bulletin (2003), although there is no mention of the Massys model for the work, now in the Liechtenstein collection (I plan to publish this work shortly in the JHNA). Even the anonymous masters are fascinating in London, especially the Master of the Female Half-Lengths (508-25) and Master of 1518 (550-61).
Five varied portraits (still isolated from any pendants) by “Jean Gossart” as well as his Virgin and Child (with comparisons to three other versions) and the incomparable Adoration of the Magi, whose entry (352-83, with 47 figs.) forms a highlight of the catalogue. There Gossart’s two signatures preclude issues of attribution, but Campbell discusses “the theory of a ‘prestige collaboration’ between Gossart and Gerard David, and attends carefully to the genesis of the composition in Dürer prints and Hugo van der Goes paintings. He hedges on questions of dating, opting for “between 1506 and 1516,” but (as published earlier in The Burlington Magazine) Campbell has sleuthed out the noble patron, Daniel van Boechout.
Here Campbell is at his best – an unmatched archivist-cum-detective whose studies of provenance and patronage remain lasting contributions. As curator in London he has also mastered and partnered with conservation masters of cutting-edge laboratory investigation of paintings. He generously credits other curators and conservators who have contributed to his entries, and footnotes offer a clear trail for another scholar to follow to his sources.
The understudied province of early French paintings rounds out the catalogue with a coda, and here too the roster is significant and representative. Standout fifteenth-century works by Jean Hey (his Joachim and Anna at the Golden Gate, linked to a Chicago painting by Martha Wolff in her recent collection catalogue; 754-67) and the name work by the Master of Saint Giles (777-807), with its vivid evocation of a church interior in the Mass of St. Giles, are given detailed entries.
With this tome Lorne Campbell has left us who study Netherlandish art (and who for years have had to content ourselves with the laconic and unillustrated Martin Davies catalogue of a half-century ago) a lasting legacy. Both the National Gallery and the wider scholarly community have been well served by his long-term labours.
University of Pennsylvania