JUAN DE FLANDES
(b. ca. 1465, ?, d. 1519 Palencia)
Netherlandish painter active in Spain from 1496. He was one of a number of north European artists trained in the Ghent-Bruges school employed by Queen Isabella. The only indications of his early life are his style as a painter and the generic name (John of Flanders) given him in Spain. Even his twenty-three years in Castile are sparsely documented and known mostly through contracts and official records. He is first recorded in the payrolls of Isabella's servants in 1496 and stayed on at court until her death eights later. He was appointed court painter in 1498. Little remains of this period of activity except for the altarpiece of St John the Baptist, executed or the Charterhouse of Miraflores (surviving panels in the Museum van der Bergh, Antwerp, Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Geneva, and private collection), and part of the magnificent, now dismembered and scattered work of art, known as the Polyptych of Isabella the Catholic. A miniature altarpiece he painted for her was once much renowned, but is now dismembered and scattered; a characteristic panel from it, Christ Crowned with Thorns (Detroit Institute of Arts), shows his delicate miniaturistic style.
Following Isabella's death in 1504 Juan de Flandes decided to remain in Castile, seeking commissions from ecclesiastical clients. After a brief spell in Salamanca, he attracted the attention of a major patron, Juan Rodríguez de Fonseca, the Bishop of Palencia. Although often absent from his Palencian see, he provided funds for the decoration of the cathedral, principally for the completion of the high altar which had been started by his predecessor. The altar, which is still intact is an early example of the Plataresque style and was originally intended to contain only sculpture by the Burgundian master Felipe de Bigarny. However, Fonseca decided to expand the commission with ten paintings by Juan de Flandes, who signed the contract on 19 December 1509 and completed the work a year or so before his death in 1519.