About the Verbeeck, painters in Mechelen
Several painters called Verbeeck were active in Mechelen (Mechlin) in the 16th century and even in the first quarter of the 17th century. They were active as genre scene painters, specialising in satirical and moralistic subjects, inspired by Hieronymus Bosch and by the plays performed in chambers of rhetoric.
Best-known is Frans Verbeeck: he is documented in Mechelen between 1531 and 1570. According to Karel van Mander he was a pupil of Frans Minnebroer in Mechelen. He became a master in the local painters’ guild in 1531, so his date of birth must have been circa 1510. He was dean of the painters’ guild in three successive years: 1563/64 and 65. There are no signed paintings known by him, although a fair number of Bosch-like subjects, that could not be given to Jan Mandijn or to Pieter Huys, have been attributed to him.
Jan I lived from circa 1520 until 1569 or later. There are two signed and dated drawings known by him, plus some dated but unsigned ones, clearly by the same hand. It is unclear if he was Frans’ I brother.
Two homonymous painters, which Jan Op De Beeck (2003) identifies as Frans II and Jan II were also active in Mechelen:
- Frans II had pupils between 1608 and 1614;
- Jan II (circa 1545 – after 1619) was dean of the painters’ guild from 1594 until 1607 and had pupils between 1600 and 1613.
About the three paintings on canvas from the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg
All three paintings were painted in Flanders, in Mechelen (Mechlin):
- according to the museum circa 1540/1580;
- according to Jan Op De Beeck (2003) , who takes them in a broad context of the workshop production of the four Verbeecks mentioned above, datable roughly between 1550 and 1620.
Two of them, the tournament and the masquerade, are attributed at the museum to the Verbeeck group. The third one, with the same subject (a peasants’ marriage) and a similar composition as our painting, is attributed there to the Verbeeck group, or to Jan or to Frans Verbeeck.
All three were originally part of a series representing feasts of fools.
According to the museum entry all three were painted in distemper on canvas. The binder for distemper is some form of glue of vegetable or animal origin, any except egg. For egg yolk is typical of tempera painting.
Tempera or watercolour paintings on canvas were typical of Mechelen. Van Mander states that Frans Verbeeck was skilled in painting watercolour pieces.
In the lower centre of the Peasants’ marriage is painted the following text, which is missing in our version:
"Deze mommerije is willecomme op dese feeste / Daer so menighen vuylen verrompelden boer is / De bruys is een leelikcke vuyl lossche beeste / ...den (bruyghom eenen grooten fraeyen boer is.)"
“This masquerade is welcome at this feast / As so many are filthy, crinckled peasants / The bride is un ugly, dirty, loose animal / … the (groom a tall, charming peasant)”.
About our painting: the love of the grotesque
Such a satyrical paintings were called in contemporary descriptions of households “drollerieën” or “sotte conterfeytsels”, which can be translated as “jokes, pleasantries” and “crazy paintings”. They were meant to criticize in a happy, funny, absurd, crazy way the foolish, animal-like behaviour of man lead by lust, desire, impulse: the mocking of human follies. They served as negative examples of improper behaviour for the civic elite of the towns of the Low Countries, just like the low-life scenes of our 17th century painters. For contemporary viewers the interpretation of these paintings must clearly have been much easier than for us. Sixteenth century humour was direct, obscene and scabrous, with no trace of refinement. Grotesque art only intensifies these characteristics.
These subjects and motives have to be seen in the long line that goes from Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450 – 1516) over Jan Wellens de Cock (circa 1470 – 1521), Jan Mandijn (circa 1500 – circa 1560), Pieter Huys (circa 1519 – circa 1581) and Frans Verbeeck (circa 1510/15 – 1570) to
Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1526/30 – 1569) and further to Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564 – 1638).
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it is a rare scabrous and grotesque painting mocking the human follies.