Early Netherlandish Painting: From Van Eyck to Bruegel

By Max J. Friedlænder | Go to book overview
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JAN JOEST

A SINGLE work, however significant, is not, generally speaking, sufficient to illuminate its author's personality from all sides. Characteristic qualities must recur in other works if our conception of the author is to be confirmed and completed.

Jan Joest is everywhere named in connection with the wings of the Kalkar altarpiece, but since the proposal to identify him with the Master of the Death of the Virgin was--quite rightly--rejected, no further attempt has been made to insert him correctly in the historical chain. In 1904, when the wings were exhibited at Düsseldorf, comment on the isolated altar work was limited to conventional words of praise.

Kalkar documents have supplied us with the information that Jan Joosten carried out the great task of painting the two wings with twenty pictures, five on each side, between 1505 and 1508. As far as we can gather from the payment entries, the painter seems to have come from outside to do the work at Kalkar and to have departed after he had completed his task. On the other hand the painter's name was found in a Kalkar list of soldiers for the year 1480. It was, so one assumes, on the strength of this earlier association with Kalkar that the master received the commission in 1505. Perhaps he was a native of the town.

It so happens that the name of a painter, Jan Joest, has been found in a far more celebrated art centre than Kalkar ever was, namely Haarlem. And the identification of the Haarlem artist with the Kalkar one has been everywhere accepted.

In 1510, i.e. after the years at Kalkar, Jan Joest purchased a house in the Dutch town; in 1515 he executed a commission for the church of St. Bavo; in 1519 he was buried in that church. The Haarlem and the Kalkar dates agree. But prior to 1505 there is no trace of Jan Joest at Haarlem. From which town he had come to Kalkar must remain an open question.1

There is an altarpiece in the cathedral of Palencia to which, as to so many noteworthy monuments in Spain, C. Justi has drawn attention.2 In the church records the painter's name is given as Juan de Holanda.

____________________
1
Friedländer ( Die Altniederländische Malerei, XIV, 1937, p. 114) thinks it probable that Joest was born at Wesel, as according to a newly-found document he was in that town as early as 1474.
2
Miszellaneen aus drei Jahrhunderten Spanischen Kunstlebens, I, p. 329.

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