POURBUS, Frans the Elder
(b. 1545, Bruges, d. 1581, Antwerpen)
Flemish painter, son of Pieter Pourbus. His work consists mainly of portraits and religious subjects, although he also executed a number of landscapes and history paintings. He worked mostly for the wealthy patrician class, and his work was instrumental in spreading the Romanism of Frans Floris (his teacher) throughout the Netherlands. It is probable that Frans Pourbus's earliest teaching was with his father in Bruges, but by 1564 he is recorded as working in the Antwerp studio of Floris. According to van Mander, Frans Pourbus and his fellow student Crispijn van den Broeck together completed an altarpiece by Floris after the latter's death in 1570.
In 1566 Frans Pourbus married Susanna, a daughter of Cornelis Floris and niece of his master, and in 1569/70 he became a master in the Antwerp Guild of St Luke, though he retained his citizenship of Bruges. Gortzius Geldorp was his pupil in Antwerp in 1570. For Ghent Cathedral Frans painted Christ among the Doctors (the Viglius Altarpiece, 1571; in situ), which includes life-size portraits of Emperor Charles V, his son Philip, their secretary Viglius ab Aytta (d 1577), Jansenius, first Bishop of Ghent (d 1576), and the Duke of Alba. A decade later Pourbus executed the portrait of the Hoefnagel Family (c. 1581; Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels), shown grouped around a harpsichord playing musical instruments, in which the artist included a self-portrait (playing a lute) at the upper left. The picture was acquired in 1696 by Constantijn Huygens the younger from a cousin, a Hoefnagel descendant, in exchange for a horse; the young girl of 15 or 16 with a parrot in her hand was Huygens's grandmother. An inventory drawn up after Frans Pourbus the Elder's death lists 20 portraits by him, many from the circle of the Duke of Anjou.
His religious works are usually in the Italianizing style of Floris, but markedly Reformed Church in content; his portraits (like his father's) are close to the sober style of Mor.