LAWRENCE STEIGRAD FINE ARTS

Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and British Portraits

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JOOS DE MOMPER (Antwerp 1564 – Antwerp 1635) and

FRANS FRANCKEN THE YOUNGER (1581 – 1642)

The Temptation of Christ

oil on panel

20 x 27 inches          (51 x 69 cm.)


PROVENANCE

Estate of K’ung Ling-Chieh, Texas (son of Dr. H. H. K’ung the former Prime Minister of China and nephew of the former President Chiang Kai-shek of China)

 

Joos de Momper was born in Antwerp in 1564, the son of the painter and art dealer Bartholomeus de Momper (1535 – after 1589) and Suzanna Halfroose. His grandfather Joos de Momper the Elder (1500-1559) was also a painter. Trained by his father he became a master in the Guild of St. Luke at the early age of seventeen during his father’s term as dean. It appears that De Momper traveled to Italy shortly thereafter, where it is believed that he may have worked in the studio of Lodewyk Toput, il Pozzoserrato, in Treviso. By September 4, 1590 the artist was back in Antwerp when he married Elisabeth Gobijn. They had ten children including Philippe (1598 -1634) and Gaspard who also became painters. In 1596 they purchased a house, De Vliegende Os, on the Vaartplaats, the same street where Tobias Verhaect and Sebastian Vrancx lived. In 1610 De Momper was elected assistant dean of the Guild of St. Luke, and in 1611 head dean. Known to have worked in his studio are Hans de Cock, Fransken van der Borch, Loys Sollen and Peer Poppe, as well as his nephew Frans de Momper (1603 -1660). Besides Frans Francken the Younger the artist collaborated with the figure painters Jan Brueghel the Elder and the Younger, Hendrick van Balen, Hieronymous Francken II, David Teniers the Younger, Tobias Verhaecht and Sebastian Vrancx. His work was popular in Antwerp among collectors and artists alike, and often included in the Kunstkammer paintings of imaginary collections done by his Antwerp associates. [1]

Very few of De Momper’s works are signed and only one painting and two drawings are dated. [2] This work must be viewed among his earliest, those executed before and around 1600. The paintings from this period derive from the Mannerist tradition, much influenced by the work of Pieter Brueghel the Elder and Paulus Bril. They are characterized by steep mountains often with jagged, geometrical rock formations, broad river valleys, or harbor scenes that employ an elevated point of view. Their color scheme is divided into the traditional layers of a brown foreground, yellow and or green middle ground, with the distant background cast in bluish tints. [3] In this painting the artist has harnessed the traditional patterns to their most dramatic potential. The terrain threatens the viewer paralleling the devil’s onslaught of Christ. The dark mountains juxtaposed against the brilliant light of the center act as a framing device for the test of faith, further spotlighted by the dark mouth of the grotto which adds to the illusion of depth. Following his baptism Christ went to the wilderness and fasted for forty days. Afterwards Satan came to tempt Christ three times. The first temptation is the subject of our painting, and the one most often depicted. The scene is almost always a rocky place in which Satan says, “If you are the Son of God tell these stones to become bread”. Satan is shown with an outstretched hand offering a stone. Christ repudiates him with quotations from the Scriptures. [4]

Klaus Ertz has viewed the painting on March 7, 2007 and confirmed the work to be by Joos de Momper and the figures to be by Frans Francken the Younger.

 

 

[1] Peter C. Sutton, “Joos de Momper the Younger & Jan Brueghel the Younger” in Dutch and Flemish Paintings, The Collection of Willem Baron van Dedem, Frances Lincoln Limited, London, 2002, p. 167.

[2] Hans Vlieghe, Flemish Art and Architecture, 1585 – 1700, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1998, p. 184.

[3] Marjorie E. Wieseman, “Joos de Momper the Younger,” exhibition catalogue Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Age of Rubens, September 22, 1993 - January 2, 1994, pp. 456-458.

[4] James Hall, “Temptation in the Wilderness”, in Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art, Harper & Row, Publishers, New York, 1979, p. 298.

Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts

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