CLEVE, Cornelis van
(b. 1520, Antwerpen, d. after 1570, Antwerpen)


Flemish painter, son of Joos van Cleve. He was a pupil of his father, with whom he collaborated in his father's last years. The apparent influence of Italian artists, particularly Andrea del Sarto, on Cornelis's style suggests that he visited Italy in his youth, but there is no documentary evidence for this. It is likely that Cornelis became a master in the Antwerp Guild of St Luke following the death of his father in the winter of 1540-41, in order to continue the studio; in 1545 he joined the Guild's mutual aid association (Arbenbus). In the same year he bought a house in the city, and on 28 December 1546 he married Anna Aerts, the daughter of a parchment maker.

Cornelis van Cleve seems not to have been very successful: he had difficulties making his house payments in 1546 and 1547, which may explain why he sold it in 1555 and emigrated to England. (Another reason may have been his Protestant sympathies, to judge from the name of his daughter, Abigael.) Once in England, according to van Mander, Cornelis tried to establish himself as a portrait painter, and his failure to do so drove him insane (hence his nickname, ‘sotte Cleef'). Nothing of his work in England has survived, except, possibly, the Portrait of Two Boys (Cambridge, Fitzwilliam). Cornelis van Cleve was brought back to Antwerp and put into the custody of his son-in-law but apparently never recovered.