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Aert van den Bossche

Adam and Eve

Panel: 49,6 x 33 cm

introduction

This delicate little painting, which dazzles us with its refined colours, its numerous details and its remarkable quality of execution, plunges the viewer into a heavenly world. The lush portrayal of fauna and flora, meticulously depicted by the painter, spreads out before our eyes. In the foreground, the long stems laden with flowers are an indication of a desire to give a precise rendering of nature as well as offering the curious onlooker with a form of variety. The equally wonderful foliage immediately stands out owing to its regularity and delicateness.

There are three other paintings similar to ours, also portraying Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden: one is kept at Ludwigshafen [1], the second was last known to be in the Kidston of Basingstoke collection [2] and the third one in the Wilhelm-Hack-Museum [3].
All of them are based on a famous diptych by Hugo van der Goes, whose left wing – kept in Vienna – also features the original couple [4]. The main difference lies in the fact that in the version by Van der Goes, Eve is placed in the centre of the panel, and is already holding the forbidden fruit in her hand. The Devil, in the form of a strange hybrid creature with a human head, who is traditionally involved in Eve’s confusion, is nearby. In Aert van den Bossche’s version, the Tree of Knowledge shares centre stage in a rigorously symmetrical manner, by placing Adam and Eve on either side of it, and thus plays the central role. The emphasis is on the fact that the sin hasn’t yet taken place, but the fruit is within hand’s reach, with the Devil lying in wait in the background.

Our version is almost identical to the one in the Wilhelm-Hack-Museum. The composition is exactly the same, but it is the colours above all that make the difference. Adam’s naked body can clearly be compared with the saints in the Martyrdom of Saint Crispin and Saint Crispinian [5], with Lazarus on the right wing of the Melbourne Triptych [6] or Christ in the Denial by the same artist [7].

Our small painting could easily have been part of the private collection of a wealthy Brussels collector in the late 15th century. Furthermore, our panel's original frame provides us with highly valuable information: it bears the mark of the Brussels panel-maker who made it, allowing us to date it to the second half of the 15th century. This indication therefore firmly establishes the provenance of this magnificent work whose refinement continues to delight the eye today.

[1] Master of the Embroidered Foliage, Adam and Eve, panel, 47,5 x 33 cm, Ludwigshafen am Rhein, Wilhelm-Hack-Museum.
[2] Master of the Embroidered Foliage, Adam and Eve, panel, 48 x 31 cm, Basingstoke, former John B. Kidston collection.
[3] Aert van Bossche, Adam and Eve, oil on oak, 47,5 x 33 cm, Ludwigshafen am Rhein, Wilhelm- Hack-Museum, inv. 457/42.
[4] Hugo van der Goes, Diptych with Adam and Eve and the Lamentation of Christ, after 1479, panel, 41 x 61,5 cm (with frame), Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum.
[5] Aert van Bossche, front, Martyrdom and decapitation of Saint Crispin and Saint Crispinian, oil on panel (transferred to canvas), 97,8 x 39,2 cm (each panel), Brussels, Musée de la ville de Bruxelles, inv. K/ 1977/1 and 2; back, Saint Crispin and Saint Crispinian and two members of the Brussels guild of shoemakers, oil on panel (transferred to canvas), 97,8 x 39,2 cm (each panel), Moscow, The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, inv. 4074 and 4075.
[6] Master of the Legend of Saint Catherine (central panel), Master of the Princely Portraits (left wing), Aert van den Bossche (right wing), Triptych of the Miracles of Christ: Feeding the multitude (central panel), Marriage at Cana / Rest during the flight to Egypt (left wing), Resurrection of Lazarus / Saint Peter (right wing), between 1491 and 1495, oil on oak, central panel 113,9 x 83,2 cm; wings 113,2 x 37,2 cm, Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria, inv. 1247/3.
[7] Aert van Bossche or studio, Job Altarpiece. The Denial of Peter, 1485-1489, oil on oak, 52 x 26,5 cm, Private collection.

Provenance :
Munich, 1920;
Hofrat Dr. Otto Scheider (d. 1936), Mannheim, passed down through the family;
Private collection.

Littérature :
M. J. Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting, IV, Leiden and Brussels, 1969, p. 75, no. 36a;
A. Scherer, "Vom Andachtsbild zum Sammlerbild. Varianten des Sündenfalls von Hugo van der Goes", in K. Bergdolt, G. Bonsanti (Ed.), Opere e giorni. Studi su mille anni di arte europea dedicati a Max Seidel, Venice, 2001, pp. 363-70;
F. Gombert, "Un réseau de collaborations d'artistes", in F. Gombert, D. Martens (Ed.), Le Maître au Feuillage brodé, exhibition cat., Palais des Beaux-Arts, Lille, 13 May – 24 July 2005, Paris, 2005, pp. 32-33, ill. 25;
A. Scherer, "Adam et Ève dans l'atelier du Maître au Feuillage brodé et la question de l'anonymat", in F. Gombert, D. Martens (Ed.), Le Maître au Feuillage brodé, Symposium organised by the Palais des Beaux-Arts Lille, 23-24 June 2005, Lille 2007, pp. 31-44, ill. 20;
Veronique Bücken, Griet Steyaert, The Heritage of Rogier van der Weyden – Paintings in Bruxelles 1450 – 1520, Uitgeverij Lannoo, p. 259.

Expositions :
The Heritage of Rogier van der Weyden, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, 12.10.2013 - 21.11.2013, cat.56.