THE opinions of the sixteenth century are unanimous on Jan van Scorel and proclaim his fame loudly and--the reasons for this fame. On the other hand, the judgment in more recent literature is full of doubt and criticism, because the value of his achievements, admired by his contemporaries, has now become questionable. So unbounded is our admiration for Netherlandish painting that Scorel's determined and conscious turning away from tradition seems at first sight to be a dangerous uprooting. In quite recent times, it is true, there is a dawning tendency to recognize the positive side of the Rome pilgrim's achievement--as we can see in Grete Ring's article.1 The growing scientific spirit widens our susceptibilities in all directions. Increasing insight throws ever greater light on the necessity of change, and every result demands recognition. It may well be that behind this objectivity lurks the subjectivity of modern taste for which Scorel's mannerism has lost its horror. When the Obervellach altarpiece first became known, some forty years ago, this work, painted before the Fall of Man, was immediately placed far higher than all Scorel's later achievements. And since few people were able to examine this out-of-the-way triptych the bias in its favour was retained in the compilatory literature. The motive for Grete Ring's criticism of the early work was the desire to get rid of the foolish idea that on Italian soil the master had exchanged inherited values of priceless worth for a phantom. In reality, the style of the Obervellach altarpiece is discordant and on the verge of disintegration. One can sense the inner void and the readiness to receive fresh ideals.
Jan van Scorel was born on August 1, 1495, in the village of Schoorel near Alkmaar. His first teacher was Willem Cornelisz (more correctly Cornelis Willemsz), an unknown Haarlem painter,2 and later he went to Amsterdam to Jacob Cornelisz. Restlessness and dissatisfaction with mere craftsmanship drove him to Jan Gossaert, who at that time--c. 1515-- was at Utrecht and was looked upon, thanks to his Italian experience, as the great innovator. Subsequently, Scorel was lured southwards by his love of travelling and his thirst for new experience and knowledge, to