(b. 1495/1500, Helmond, d. ca. 1570, Bruxelles)


Flemish painter. According to van Mander, he worked in Brussels and was a friend of Domenicus Lampsonius (1532-99), who included Gassel in his Pictorum aliquot celebrium Germaniae inferioris effigies (1572). Gassel, whom van Mander described as a good but unproductive painter, belonged to the Joachim Patenier and Herri met de Bles tradition of landscape painters. He preferred panoramic rocky and mountainous views with a high horizon and a plethora of details, but his works have a character of their own and are not mere slavish imitations. The rocks and mountains have less fanciful silhouettes and are generally placed further into the background of the composition. The sparse and generally dark brown foreground flows gradually into the empty blue-green but distinct mountainous distance. The figures in Gassel's paintings are generally of a thick-set build with large heads; yet they add colour to the otherwise dull foreground.

By using repoussoir motifs and elements that lead into the composition, he introduced two features from Italian landscape painting, but these often exist in isolation in a landscape where the artist is not prepared to abandon the high horizon and excess of detail. He experimented with the repoussoir motif in the Landscape with a Copper Mine (Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels) and the Landscape with Juda and Thamar (Kunsthististorisches Museum, Vienna): a few trees on a hill in sharp profile against a light background landscape; however, he was unable to exploit the full potential offered by this convention. Indeed, the repoussoir motif appears to be unconnected to the rest of the landscape, in which individual motifs have their own perspective, resulting in a less than unified whole.

A stage further in Gassel's development is evident in the Landscape with a Noli me tangere (National Gallery, Prague); here the dark repoussoir foreground is linked by a road to the rest of the landscape. Although the details seem less superfluous, the scene still appears rather artificial, with its strongly horizontal divisions.