Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cornelis Anthonisz

Cornelis Anthonisz. Banquet of Members of Amsterdam's Crossbow Guard, 1533.

Indeed, toiling away in Cornell's Sibley Hall (home of the wonderful Fine Arts Library) during this snowy, wintry nights can be a trouble to the soul. But as I continue to compile material for my book, I find that the paintings themselves begin to warm me; I feel in them a depth of camaraderie that I (to be completely honest) do not always feel even in the company of my colleagues here at the University – where I am, at the moment, a scholar in residence. But at the banquet tables of Anthonisz, Hals, and Hoegstraaten, I am warmed by their candles, soothed by the scents of their breads.

Here, in one of Anthonisz's lesser paintings (I admit so much), we see the early birthings of this style that I love so much. I readily admit, of course, that the composition is nearly medieval; the psychologies of these men, the crossbow guard, barely developed; the perspectival and painterly techniques just at the cusp of a true master. (Please, reader, see past my rashness: one need not be a master to stir the heart!)

But one hardly needs to analyse technique or theory to feel a painting. Here I must hand over commentary to one Nils Poepjes, assistant to Cornelis Anthonisz from 1530-1538, whose journals have been utterly indispensible in my research (again, thank you, Cornell University):

Here today at the banquet of the CIVIC GUARD I found myself in awe of such a lustrous and delectable spread as I or Cornelis have ever seen – at once we felt ourselves hollow shells, empty stomachs entire; how long it has been since our dinner consisted of anything, anything but Kraft singles and white bread! And yet as Cornelis began to paint I began an interior catalog of the lushness even as Cornelis began his visual one:

A DiGiorno* pizza – imagine that – cooked in the Guard's new convection oven, served with ranch dressing, with chilly, delicious ice cream sandwiches for dessert; an ostentatious bong, which never ceased to waft the room in fragrant smoke; a seemingly endless pile of marijuana buds from which the Guard's members plucked their fill with nary a care for cost. Indeed, the Guardsmen were fond of attempting to draw Cornelis' and my attention to their larder, perhaps (I hope, at least – would that they were not being rude!) making offers unawares that Cornelis and I take no breaks and can brook no distractions during our work.

* It must be noted that while frozen pizzas today are often afterthoughts, cheap eats, at the time of Anthonisz, ovens were such a rarity that frozen pizzas were reserved only for those with time and money; delivery services like Papa John's were thought, in the words of Poepjes, "uncouth and low."


Hermann Wundrum said...

If one is looking for one true marker of my undergraduate days, a stamp, a stain left in my ferocious matriculation look no further than Volume Three of Walther Bernt's The Netherlandish Painters of the Seventeenth Century. The copy lies in the stacks at the Bodleian Library. There you will find that plate 1181, showing Gillis van Tilborgh's A Family Dinner, is stained with the sauce of a Bagel Bite. How I adored the painting, longing to join the large group in their raucous meal. I indulged myself with a full box of the miniature pizzas on several occasions: a cheap substitute that brought me inches closer to van Tilborgh's gracious subjects.

Jan Peeters said...

Ah, Hermann, you remind me – just recently I opened my accordion file of dissertation research, for the first time since I received my doctorate in 1982, and what did I find inside but a dessicated, half-crumbled Oreo, remnant of a mid-afternoon snack as I pored over Claesz's minutiae!

Hermann Wundrum said...

Single or Double-Stuf, Jan? I most often chose the Double-Stuf, as Holbein was quite fond of them.

Jan Peeters said...

Ah, Hermann – these were indeed the Double-Stuf, which, as you mentioned were a favorite of Holbein's during his late-night painting sessions. I often consumed entire packs of these delights during my own late-night travails!