The remarkable doyenne of sixteenth-century Netherlandish drawings has done it again, this time on her home court. Teréz Gerszi has been publishing on the Bruegel era and its wider frame in time and space since 1959, according to her own bibliography in this volume. As the exhibition of her drawings collection from the Budapest Museum, this catalogue can be taken as her last word on the works that she has curated for more than a half-century. As someone who has been using the Gerszi scholarship across my entire career, let me take this occasion to salute her (and the late Hans Mielke, to whom the book is dedicated).
Gerszi does not waste much time on her Introduction. She casts the period as “early modern” (in so many words), i.e. an era of “new secular culture and new artistic aspirations.” Italian connections loom large, as do court patrons who often fostered Italianate forms. Drawings assume greater prominence as art works, both as modelli and as preliminary designs for engravings (especially after the 1540s) and sculptures. Figure studies remain rare, but landscape albums proliferate. At the end of the century independent drawings flourished, e.g. for albums amicorum,
The drawings are organized chronologically, in clusters with temporal logic. The first segment, while defined as transitional, “Development of the Late Gothic Style and the Reception of Italian Art,” actually features “Romanists,” including Heemskerck and Floris. One highlight here is Van Orley’s study (1528-30; no. 4), Sharing Out the Game, for the so-called Hunts of Maximilian tapestry cycle in the Louvre. With an upcoming exhibition on Michiel Coxcie in Louvain, a set after Petrarch’s Trionfi (nos. 6-10), possibly for tapestries, should also be noted. Curiously, although she shows numerous links between drawings and prints, Gerszi neglects to illustrate one print after Heemskerck’s Last Judgment (no. 15) by Cornelis Bos (d. 1555).
Section Two, “Pieter Bruegel and the Influence of his Landscape Art,” builds around the 1554 Large Landscape with Trees and a Church (no. 21), touched by Campagnola. It also includes a trio of Hans Bol landscapes with figures (nos. 24-26), which derive from Bruegel, plus a fine, colored drawing by Jan Brueghel with Tobias and the Angel on a hillisde (no. 28). Three Tobias Verhaecht overlooks (nos. 31-33) carry the Bruegel formula to the turn of the century.
Despite the Bruegel presence in the catalogue title, pride of place in this book truly belongs to Italy’s influence. Section Three, “Netherlandish Artists Who Settled in Italy,” underscores the point, especially around the drawings of Denys Calvaert (nos. 41-44), who settled in Bologna after Antwerp training. Also striking is Lodewijk Toeput’s colored closeup of the monumental, cavelike ruins of the Colosseum (1581; no. 40).
Remaining sections concentrate on how Italian influence radiated into Northern courts and cities. Section Four focuses on Munich, especially court artists Frederik Sustris (nos. 46-47) and Pieter de Witte/Candid (nos. 48-49). HNA Review readers will want to expand this analysis by using the 2006 Munich catalogue by the incomparable Thea Vignau-Wilberg plus the new monograph on Sustris by Susan Maxwell (2011). Unsurprisingly, the Budapest collection climaxes with the Prague court of Rudolf II, Section Five. A lone Spranger, Minerva and the Muses(no. 55) typifies his work in both form and content. Both Pieter Stevens (nos. 58-62) and Paul van Vianen (nos. 65-70) present a range of colored landscapes, akin to the work of Roelandt Savery. A charming figural scene by Dirk de Quade van Ravesteyn (no. 64) reprises Cranach’s signature myth, Cupid Stung by Bees Running to Venus.
In Section Six, Prague meets Haarlem, “Dutch Masters in the Duality of Late Mannerism and Realism.” Karel van Mander, who intervened with Spranger, is well represented by both an Annunciation and a Rape of Europa (nos. 71-72), the latter adapted for an engraved roundel by Zacharias Dolendo (1592). Jan Muller’s chalk Ill-Matched Pair is a finished drawing, in contrast to Jacques II de Gheyn’s study sheet with heads (nos. 74-75). Abraham Bloemart produced both a figure study for an engraving (by Swanenburg), Zacchaeus (no. 77) as well as his signature subject of dilapidated cottages (nos. 78-79).
Finally, a pair of landscape sketchbooks date near the end of the century. The first, formerly ascribed to Pieter Schoebroeck, shows hilly landscapes on blue paper (nos. 81-88). The latter, dubbed the Master of the Budapest Sketchbook, consists of fourteen double-sided sheets (nos. 89-100). Another fascinating record of travel is the collected city views by the Master of Frankenthal (nos. 101-110) and views of the region of Schwalbach by Anton Mirou (nos. 111-17).
Some of these drawings have been exhibited often elsewhere, while others – always of high quality and worthy of study – have rarely been seen, let alone published. As ever, Teréz Gerszi deserves warm thanks from all students of drawings but especially from those specialists who study Northern drawings of the sixteenth century. She clearly shows why Budapest deserves attention among the great collections of this material.
University of Pennsylvania