Friday, October 3, 2008

Maarten van Heemskerck

Marten Jacobszoon Heemskerk van Veen (Maarten van Heemskerck), Family Portrait with Bong and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Paperback, 1530.

Professor Wundrum's comment on my recent post jogged my memory of this lovely painting, done during van Heemskerck's Roman period. How lovely it is – on the surface! This family, with bong and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas paperback novel, is in fact a bucolic reaction to the tumult of 1530, which van Heemskerck, in his deep sensitivity to the world, must certainly have felt: the Augsberg Confession and its ripple through the Dutch Reformation community; the flooding of Rome; the 1529 siege of Vienna. Indeed, in so many of these paintings, our painters are not recreating simple moments (How we wish they were!) as much as they are resisting powerfully against the unquenched passions and roiling doubts of the High Renaissance and Reformation periods.

Indeed, van Heemskerck's composition is full of doubt. The diagonals, surging downward from the two sober, serious parents onto the heads of their scions (like the political doubt of the age, presaging the religious chaos of the latter half of the 16th century) practically slashes the picture into quarters; deep theological and ecclesiastical anxiety wrenches, for me anyway, any satiety from this scene.

The table hangs awkwardly on the canvas, urging the viewer to correct it (i.e., to correct the conflicts in Christian theology at the time) – the figures are awkwardly posed, with only the artist's innate sense of rightness holding them in any sensible position at all. The parents form a supportive "V," as they should, but the incongruity of the table's placement destroys any sense of stability we have. Ah – the 16th Century! We await the placidity of the sweet 1600s.


Hermann Wundrum said...

Yes, Herr Peeters, even the best laid tables, and the securities they offer us, cannot withstand the tumult of flood and revolution. The impact of these early masters, and their "deep sensitivity to the world", is surely "change we can believe in."

Jan Peeters said...

I agree, Professor Wundrum – the hour is much later than we think!

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