CLEVE, Joos van
(b. ca. 1485, Antwerpen, d. 1540, Antwerpen)

Virgin and Child

Wood, 53 x 42 cm
Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest

Very little has been discovered as yet about the life and activity of Joos van Cleve, also known as Joos van der Beke, although some of his most important paintings have been firmly attributed and the sphere of his activity outlined, at least approximately. At one time he was known only as the Master of the Death of the Virgin, after a large altar in Cologne, and, since there were several painters surnamed van Cleve, his pictures have often been confused with their work.

Joos was born in Bruges in the 1480s and worked in Antwerp from 1511 onwards. His altar-pieces and portraits were known and appreciated beyond the boundaries of the Netherlands, and he spent some time as a portrait painter at the court of Francis I, King of France. He was influenced by Leonardo and the Italian Renaissance painters, but in his religious compositions he mostly adhered to the great tradition of early Netherlandish painting handed down from Van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden. This half-length Madonna is a late Gothic type, frequently found also in Memling's works. She faces the spectator and gives to her Child a glass of red wine symbolic of the Redemption. The colouring is brilliant, the fresh green of the landscape and the fiery red of the Virgin's mantle creating a lovely harmony.