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Cornelis Massys

Circa 1510 – Antwerp – 1556/57

A genre and landscape painter, Cornelis Massys or Metsys was the second son of Quentin Metsys and Katharina Heyns. Trained in his father’s workshop, he became a master in Antwerp in 1531. He distinguished himself in his early career with a series of small engravings featuring on one hand, religious and allegorical scenes in an Italianate style and on the other hand, popular and moralistic subjects inspired by Hieronymous Bosch, thus setting a trend which would soon be taken up by Pieter Brueghel the Elder.

Cornelis Massys also proved to be an excellent landscape artist. Along with Herri Met de Bles and Matthijs Cock, he made a crucial contribution to the development of this genre in Flemish painting, continuing in the direction established by Joachim Patinir, of whom Massys is certainly the closest and most worthy heir. However, in his hands, the panoramic landscapes have a more intimate accent and, in alternating dark masses of greenery with transparent depths, they reveal a new and individualistic observation of atmospheric effects. Indirectly carrying on in his father’s realistic vein, although in another genre, Cornelis Massys distances himself from the picturesque and tortuous forms which are still dominant in the work of Met de Bles, thus foreshadowing the aspirations of the landscape artists of the end of the XVIth century.