Circle of Henrik Douwerman (c. 1480- 1544)
Duchy of Cleves
Second quarter of the 16th century
H. 38; W. 21 cm.
Provenance: Private Collection, Belgium
This moving Pieta can be linked to one of the most prestigious German sculpted corpus of the end of the Middle Ages, grouped around the name "School of Kalkar". Located in the Bas-Rhin, near the Dutch border, Kalkar appears in the second half of the 16th century as a dynamic artistic center, characterized by the dramatic intensity of its representations. These are born under the chisel of some of the most talented sculptors of the so-called late Gothic, attached to the famous workshops of Henrik Van Holt, Arnt Van Tricht or even Henrick Douwerman to whom we propose to attribute our Pietà. Sitting on a rock, Marie, her cheeks marked by fine sculpted tears, presents the lifeless body of her son to the faithful. As in levitation, he is kept in precarious balance thanks to the support of the right hand of the Virgin and of his own left foot. Although original and unusual in the production of the late Middle Ages, this striking composition is not completely new. It is thus found in a very singular way within the corpus of the School of Kalkar, on a Pieta produced by Henrick Van Holt in 1538 for the church of Saint-Victor in Xanten. The formula was repeated a few years later on the Pieta in the Saint-Martin church in Griethausen, which came from his workshop, but also on contemporary works linked to his fellow student: Henrick Douwerman. Marked by small crescent moon eyes, emblematic of the School of Kalkar, the perfect oval face of our virgin, with a high rounded forehead, full cheeks and a small pinched mouth, is not without echoing the one of the famous Magdalena of the church Saint-Nicolas of Kalkar, a masterpiece by Henrik Douwerman, whose falling mantle draws the same fan of flat folds with soft edges as on our sculpture when it meets the ground. The horizontality and the expansive dynamism of these folds distributed in large diagonals under the knees of our Virgin, sign the work of an artist influenced by Douwerman, like the Master of Saint Pierre de Venray, named after the eponymous sculpture that 'he made around 1538, presenting the same arrangement of draperies so specific to the artist's production, also observed on the famous predella of the altarpiece of the Seven Sorrows of Mary in the Church of St. Nicholas in Kalkar, on one of the companions of the Saint Ursula of the Risjkmuseum, or to a lesser extent on the sublime Immaculate Virgin of Birgden. The opulent hair of the latter, divided into long locks affixed, with thick, carefully sculpted tight curls, echoes that quite extraordinary of our Virgin. It can also be seen in the center of the sinister group of young girls sculpted at the foot of the Saint Ursula of the Riksjmuseum, finally convincing us of the creation of our sculpture in the entourage of the master, during the second quarter of the 16th century. Supporting the comparison with the most famous works of Douwerman, our sculpture presents itself as a precious testimony of this art, both elegant and expressive, sober and dynamic, produced in the Duchy of Cleves at the end of the Middle Ages.
© Galerie Sismann
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