VOORT, Michiel van der, the Elder
(b. 1667, Antwerpen, d. 1737, Antwerpen)
Bust of Jacobus Franciscus van Caversonc. 1713
Marble, height 84,7 cm
Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels
The masterly portrait bust is the only surviving part of the mausoleum of Jacobus Franciscus van Caverson and his wife, Johanna Schockaert, which once stood in the former Dominican church in Brussels. The monument was demolished at the end of the 18th century. All the other elements apart from the bust were then lost, having been mentioned together for the last time in the Brussels auction catalogue of 1820. The composition is also known to us through an engraving in Jacobus Le Roy's Le Grand théatre sacré du Duché de Brabant (1734) and by a small number of designs preceding the completion of the grave. Above a tomb with the funerary text stands, on a base, a portrait of the deceased, flanked to the left and right by two stately seated female figures, Fortitude and Prudence, a reference to Caverson's motto: Fortiter et prudenter. On the fronton Saturn is depicted, his left arm resting on an hourglass and pointing with his right hand to the words Prope est. The architectural conception of the monument is classical: the tomb is decorated with two consoles, and in front of and next to the two Corinthian pilasters hang the sixteen quarters of the two deceased, whilst their helmeted coats of arms are set up under the fronton.
Judging from the engraving this was an impressive composition, the loss of which is to be lamented. Fortunately the well preserved remaining bust is proof of Michiel van der Voort's skill and mastery. Although the sculptor represents his model realistically with deep eye sockets, sunken cheeks, narrow, pressed lips and a prominent nose, he does not impair either the bearing or the worthiness of Caverson, speaker of the second chamber of the Council of Brabant and member of the Privy Council and the Council of State. The imposing Regency wig and the virtuously draped toga further emphasis the magistrate's dignity. One may assume that Michiel van der Voort received the commission for the Brussels funerary monument around 1713, the year of Caverson's death. Right then he was at the peak of his career as a highly productive artist and had just completed the pulpit for St Bernard's Abbey in Hemiksem with its Four Continents, which now stands in Antwerp Cathedral.