Jacob Cornelisz

(Oostzaan c. 1460/65 - 1533 Amsterdam)

The Resurrection of Christ, 1520-23

Oil on panel, 43¼ x 32 ins. (110 x 82 cm)

VP4957

Provenance

W. Forst, Cologne, after his death sold at
Anon. sale, Lempertz, Cologne, 13 December 1899 (Lugt 57675), lot 10 (as Lancelot Blondeel)
Where purchased by Eugen Schweitzer, Berlin
His sale, Berlin (Cassirer-Helbing), 6 June 1918, lot 52 (as Jacob Cornelisz.); illustrated Plate 35; sold for 7500 Reichsmark)
Georg Hartmann (1870-1954), Frankfurt am Main, and by descent to his grandson
Günther Hartmann (1935-2020), Spain, until 2021


Literature

Vorläufiges Verzeichnis der Ausstellung von Meisterwerken alter Malerei aus Privatbesitz im Städelschen Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt am Main 1925, p. 9, no. 15 (as Lancelot Blondeel)
O. Götz, G. Swarzenski, A. Wolters, Ausstellung von Meisterwerken alter Malerei aus Privatbesitz. Beschreibendes Verzeichnis, Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt am Main 1926, p. 14, no. 41 (as Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen)
Kurt Steinbart, “Nachlese im Werke des Jacob Cornelisz“, Marburger Jahrbuch für Kunstwissenschaft, 5 (1929), pp. 246, 248, 258, fig. 66 (as Studio Jacob Cornelisz)
Max J. Friedländer, Die altniederländische Malerei, 15 vols., Berlin/Leiden, 1924-1936, vol. XII (1935), p. 196, no. 268, without illustration
Max J. Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting, 16 vols, Leiden, 1967-1976, vol. XII (1975), p. 117, no. 268, without illustration.


Notes

We are greatly indebted to Dr. Peter van den Brink for his help in cataloguing this painting.  Please refer to his in-depth article on the picture in the Publications section of our website. 


Essay

The Resurrection of Christ by Jacob Cornelisz, which has recently surfaced on the market after an interval of some 100 years, is the subject of an in-depth article by leading expert Peter van den Brink (see our Publications page here) in which he discusses the sources for the composition, and the picture’s context within the artist’s oeuvre.  He also analyses with the aid of infrared reflectography (IRR)[i] the artist’s techniques and working processes, and suggests that the painting was originally intended as part of an epitaph in the chapel of a private family, four members of whom appear in the painting, kneeling in prayer beside the risen Christ.  Unfortunately, both the identity of the patron/s and the intended location have been lost in the mists of time. 

The earliest Amsterdam artist known to us by name, Jacob Cornelisz came from Oostzaan, a village north of Amsterdam, hence the name Jacob Cornelis van Oostsanen by which he is also often known.  By 1500, he had moved to Amsterdam, where he bought a house and studio on Kalverstraat from which he ran a busy workshop.  Both his sons, Cornelis Jacobsz. (c. 1490-1532) and Dirck Jacobsz (c. 1597-1567) trained as painters with their father and worked in the family business, and it is possible that his two grandsons Cornelis Anthonisz and Jacob Dirksz worked there too.  In addition to family members, Jacob trained several other artists, the most famous of whom was Jan van Scorel (1495-1562). 

In the opening decades of the sixteenth century, though still a relatively small provincial city, Amsterdam was already a busy trading port, and since the late Middle Ages, an important religious centre.  Numerous monasteries and convents were located in and around the city walls, as well as chapels and churches.  Holy sites and the regular pageants associated with them attracted a regular influx of pilgrims to Amsterdam creating a demand for food, shelter and souvenirs, and bringing prosperity to the city.  As a result, the market for religious art and artefacts flourished.  One of the most popular sites of pilgrimage in Amsterdam was the Heilige Stede chapel, situated across the street from Jacob Cornelisz’s studio on Kalverstraat. 

During this period, Jacob Cornelisz was the leading artist in Amsterdam.  He worked mainly for wealthy burghers and churchmen in Amsterdam and in the province of Holland.  He was extremely versatile, producing large painted altarpieces, smaller panels for private devotion, portraits and ceiling paintings in churches.  He also supplied designs for stained-glass windows and the embroidery on church vestments, and produced more than two hundred woodcuts.  However, Karel van Mander noted that much of his religious art was destroyed during the iconoclastic riots (de beeldenstorm) of 1566 when churches and religious houses throughout the Netherlands were ransacked and religious images destroyed.  Further works probably perished following the so-called Alteration in 1578, when Calvinism replaced Roman Catholicism as the official religion in Amsterdam, as a result of which many monasteries were closed and parish churches stripped of their contents.  Today, only around thirty-five of his paintings have survived.  The recent rediscovery of this painting is therefore a significant addition to his now much-depleted oeuvre.

Most of the two hundred or so woodcuts after designs by Jacob Cornelisz are monogrammed[ii] and dated between 1507 and 1522, making it easy to follow his development.  By contrast, only six of the approximately thirty-five paintings attributed to him bear his monogram, although a fair number are dated. The earliest known paintings are from 1507[iii]- though he must have been active before this date - and his last known securely attributed painting dates from 1526[iv].  Both the style and themes of his early works hark back to the Medieval tradition, but he soon began introducing Renaissance elements into his paintings.  He drew inspiration from the work of such contemporaries as Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) and Lucan van Leyden (1494-1533), and later from his former pupil Jan van Scorel, who returned home in 1524 after spending several years in Italy absorbing the art and culture of the Renaissance.  From 1523, Jacob Cornelisz’s style of painting changed significantly: he simplified his compositions and pared down the abundant details that characterised his earlier work, while at the same time adopting a lighter palette and a more refined and delicate application of transparent glazes. 

The artist’s large output indicates that he ran a sizeable workshop with several assistants.  It was standard practice at the time for the production of altarpieces to be something of a team effort.  Whilst the most prestigious commissions would have been executed wholly by the master, other works depending on their importance would have been painted partially or entirely by assistants, after a design by the master.  In this painting, with the benefit of infrared reflectography, Dr. van den Brink has demonstrated that Jacob Cornelisz was responsible for laying out the composition in the underdrawing, and making alterations to the original design.  Judging from the high quality of much of the painted surface, he also executed the principal figures, including Christ, the foreground scene with the two soldiers, the donor portraits, and the subsidiary scene of Christ appearing to Mary Magadelene in the garden.  The other small background scenes, depicting earlier episodes in the life of Christ, appear to have been delegated to a lesser hand, as have some other details of lesser importance. 

Despite the loss of much of Jacob Cornelisz’s religious work during the Reformation, his reputation as one of the finest Dutch masters of the early sixteenth century remained undimmed in the following century.  Writing in his Schilder-Boeck of 1604, Karel van Mander described him in laudatory terms as “that leading master in the use of the brush, the much-celebrated, renowned Jacob Cornelisz van Oostzaan in Waterland.”[v] More recently, interest in this multi-faceted artist has been stimulated by the major exhibition devoted to his work, Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen (ca. 1475-1533): De Renaissance in Amsterdam and Alkmaar, held at the Amsterdams Museum, Amsterdam & the Stedelijk Museum, Alkmaar in 2014. 

BIOGRAPHY

Very little is preserved in contemporary sources regarding the life of Jacob Cornelisz.  Our principal source is Karel van Mander’s Schilder-Boeck, published in 1604, but even that tireless biographer had to admit that he did not know when the artist was born or died.  He does however state that he came from Oostzaan, a village north of Amsterdam.  Based on van Mander’s assertion that Jacob’s son Dirck (c. 1497-1567) died in 1567, aged around 70, meaning that he was born c. 1497, Jacob Cornelisz’s date of birth is generally reckoned to have been between 1460 and 1465.  Equally, it is not known with whom he trained, although it has been suggested that he might have served his apprenticeship in Haarlem in the circle of Geerten tot Sint Jans (c. 1460-65-1488/93).  In 1500, Jacob Cornelisz bought a house on Kalverstraat in Amsterdam, but he may have been active in the city some time before.  In 1520, he bought the building next door.  The date of his marriage to Anna (d. between 1546 and 1551) is not recorded.  The couple had two sons and two daughters.  Both the boys followed in their father’s footsteps, becoming painters: Dirck Jacobsz (c. 1597-1567) became one of the first portrait specialists in the Northern Netherlands, but no works by his younger brother Cornelis Jacobsz. (c. 1490-1532) are known.  Karel van Mander noted that when Jan van Scorel (1495-1562) began his apprenticeship with Jacob Cornelisz in 1512, his master had a twelve-year-old daughter.  This may have been Anna Jacobsdr. (b. c. 1500), who married goldsmith and assayer Michiel Brugman of Amsterdam around 1524.  The other daughter, whose name and date of birth are unknown, married Thonis Egbertsz, who appears to have worked in Jacob Cornelisz’s workshop.  Van Mander also informs us that Jacob had a brother Cornelis Buys I (c. 1465/70-c. 1524/32)[vi], who was active as a painter in Alkmaar.  Jacob’s grandson Cornelis Anthonisz (c. 1505-1553) also became a painter, printmaker and cartographer in Amsterdam. 

In 1526, 1527 and 1528 Jacob Cornelisz, received payments totalling 225 guilders from Egmond Abbey for his work on an altarpiece.  This was an enormous sum of money at the time, suggesting that the now-lost altarpiece was a major work.  Although his date of death is not recorded, in a document dated 18 October 1533, his wife Anna is described as a widow.  He did probably pass away in 1533 since that is the year inscribed prominently on a portrait of the artist in the Rijksmuseum, which is presumed to have been based on an earlier lost self-portrait (fig. 1).


Fig. 1.  Workshop of Jacob Cornelisz, Portrait of Jacob Cornelisz,
signed with his monogram and the date 1533, oil on panel,
37.8 x 29.4 cm.  Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv. no. SK-A-1405. 




[i] Full IRR report by Tager Stonor Richardson carried out in September 2021 is available on request.

[ii] His monogram consists of an I (for Jacob), an upside-down W enclosing an upright V, followed by an A (for Amsterdam).  Information from the RKD. 

[iii] Noli me Tangere, 1507, 54.5 x 39 cm, Gemäldegalerie, Kassel and The Crucifixion in a private collection, New York. 

[iv] Jacob Cornelisz, Saul and the Witch of Endor, 1526, oil on panel, 85.5 x 122.8 cm, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, inv. no. SK-A-668. 

[v] Karel van Mander, Het Schilder-Boeck, Haarlem, 1604, fol. 207r-v.

[vi] There was no definitive system of surnames at this time.  Children could be named after a grandparent or some other family member.  The name Buys occurs quite often in Jacob’s family, apparently at random.