MASSYS, Quentin
(b. 1465/66, Leuven, d. 1530, Antwerpen)


Quentin Massys (also spelled Matsys, Metsys, or Messys), Flemish artist, the first important painter of the Antwerp school. He was part of a Flemish family of artists, son of a Leuven blacksmith, Joost Massys (d. 1483), and his wife, Katharina van Kinckem. Joost Massys is known to have executed commissions for the new Leuven Stadhuis (1448–63), one of the most ornate town halls in the Netherlands, as well as other work for the Leuven authorities, and to have been superintendent of the chapel belonging to the Leuven metalsmiths’ Guild of St Eligius.

About 1492 Quentin married Alyt van Tuylt (d. 1507), by whom he had three children: Quinten, Pawel and Katelijne. He was by then already living in Antwerp and was admitted into the painters' guild. In 1508 he married Catherina Heyns, with whom he had ten more children: Jan Massys and Cornelis Massys, as well as Quinten II, Maria, Hubrecht, Abraham, Peternella, Katelijne II, Sara and Susannah. Both Jan and Cornelis became artists but were still under the age of majority at the time of their father’s death, of the 'sweating sickness' (plague).

Among Massys' early works are two pictures of the Virgin and Child. His most celebrated paintings are two large triptych altarpieces, The Holy Kinship, (or St Anne Altarpiece) ordered for the St Pieterskerk in Leuven (1507-09), and The Entombment of the Lord (c. 1508-11), both of which exhibit strong religious feeling and precision of detail. His tendency to accentuate individual expression is demonstrated in such pictures as The Old Man and the Courtesan and The Moneylender and His Wife. Christus Salvator Mundi and The Virgin in Prayer display serene dignity. Pictures with figures on a smaller scale are a polyptych, the scattered parts of which have been reassembled, and a later Virgin and Child. His landscape backgrounds are in the style of one of his contemporaries, the Flemish artist Joachim Patenier; the landscape depicted in Massys' The Crucifixion is believed to be the work of Patinier. Massys painted many notable portraits, including one of his friend Erasmus.

Although his portraiture is more subjective and personal than that of Albrecht Dürer or Hans Holbein, Massys' painting may have been influenced by both German masters. Massys' lost St Jerome in His Study, of which a copy survives in Vienna, is indebted to Dürer's St Jerome, now in Lisbon. Some Italian influence may also be detected, as in Virgin and Child (Nationalmuseum, Poznan, Poland), in which the figures are obviously copied from Leonardo da Vinci's Virgin of the Rocks (Louvre, Paris).