Marten Ryckaert

(1587 - Antwerp - 1631)

A Village Landscape, with a Wagon and Horses crossing a Ford in the Foreground

Oil on copper, 9½ x 14⅞ ins. (24.2 x 37.9 cm)
One of a pair
Framed: 13½ x 19 ins. (34.3 x 48.2 cm)

To view the pair to this painting see: A Mountainous Landscape, with a Lake in the Foreground and The Flight into Egypt.


Private Collection, Spain, until 2023


Judging from their divergent subject matter, these two small paintings were most likely not conceived as a pair, however, they are of almost exactly the same size and have been together for some time.  In one of the paintings, Ryckaert depicted a mountainous landscape, with a lake in the foreground.  Stands of tall trees frame the view across the water of Italianate buildings clustered round a castle situated on the far shore.  In the left foreground, a small group of figures can be recognised as depicting the Flight into Egypt.  Mary is seated at the foot of a tree, nursing the baby Jesus, while the young St. John the Baptist kneels beside her, dressed in a tunic of animal skins, with his traditional attributes, the cross and scroll, and the lamb.  Joseph stands nearby with the donkey.  In the other, the artist depicted a bucolic landscape set in high summer in his native Flanders.  A church and village houses nestle in an intensely green valley, ripe corn stands in the fields and country folk go about their everyday tasks.  A city, probably Antwerp, appears in the distance. 

Marten Ryckaert was a landscape painter whose style had its origins in the Mannerist tradition of his native Antwerp.  The landscapes of Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625) were an important influence on his stylistic development, as were those of the Fleming Paul Bril (1554-1626), whose work he must have encountered during a supposed sojourn in Rome around 1607 to 1610/11.  The intimate landscapes of the German artist Adam Elsheimer (1578-1610), who worked in the Eternal City in the first decade of the seventeenth century, seem also to have left their mark.  After his return to Antwerp, Ryckaert devoted himself to producing landscapes that were strongly reminiscent of Bril.  The similarity between his palette and Bril’s suggests that Ryckaert was not only familiar with the widely circulated engravings after Bril, but also with his paintings.  Art historians have further observed that the ongoing evolution of Ryckaert’s style echoed the changes taking place in Bril’s work in the years before his death in Rome in 1626.  This was indeed plausible since contemporary inventories attest to the presence of many examples of Bril’s work in Antwerp collections in his lifetime. 

These two panels show how far Ryckaert has moved away from the fantastic, mountain landscape of his early Mannerist phase, in favour of more realistic scenery, inspired by Bril’s late style.  The vivid colour contrasts of Ryckaert’s early manner and the division of the picture into retreating zones of brown, green and blue have given way here to a simpler structure and a softer, more naturalistic colour scheme.  In both cases, the fresh, green landscape is lit by warm sunshine, evoking a bucolic mood.  The ultra-smooth surface of the copper supports lends itself to Ryckaert’s meticulous technique, enabling him to describe in great detail the feathery foliage of trees and the lively little figures that animate the scenes. 


Marten Ryckaert (or Maerten Rijckaert) belonged to an extended family of artists from Antwerp.  The son of David I Rijckaert (1560 – c. 1607) and Catharina Rem, Marten was baptised in Antwerp on 8 December 1587.  His father was a brewer and “stoffeerder” (decorator of wooden statues), who had become a master in the Antwerp Guild of Saint Luke in 1585.  His older brother, David II Rijckaert (1586-1642), was a still-life painter, his nephew David III (1612-1661) became a prominent painter of genre scenes, and his niece Catharina married the painter Gonzales Coques (1618-1684).  Because of a birth defect, or perhaps as a result of an accident, he had only one arm.

Marten was a pupil of his father and of the landscape painter Tobias Verhaecht (1561-1631).  Although undocumented, he probably travelled to Italy between 1607 and 1610/11, where it is possible that he worked in the Roman workshop of the renowned Flemish landscapist Paul Bril.  Back in Antwerp, he became a member of the Guild of St. Luke in 1611/12, registering as the “painter with one arm”.  He also joined the local chamber of rhetoric, De Violieren, which counted among its members the painters Jan Brueghel the Elder, Sebastiaen Vrancx (1573-1647), Frans Francken the Younger (1581-1642) and Hendrik van Balen (1575-1632).  He was reputedly a close friend of Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641), who painted his portrait, showing Ryckaert dressed as a Russian prince[i].  This portrait was still in the possession of Marten Ryckaert when he died and is today in the Museo del Prado, Madrid.  The portrait was engraved by Jacob Neefs, and included in van Dyck’s “Iconography”, which contained portraits of famous people of that time.  Ryckaert fell ill early in 1631 and was buried in Antwerp on 11 October that year. 

[i] Anthony van Dyck, The Painter Marten Ryckaertc. 1631, oil on panel, 148 x 113 cm. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Inv. No. P001479.