WEYDEN, Goswijn van der
(b. ca. 1465, Bruxelles, d. after 1538, Antwerpen)

The Gift of Kalmthout

Oil on oak panel, 153 x 153 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

The kneeling couple, Arnold of Louvain (d. 1250) and his wife Elisabeth of Breda, bequeathed the district of Kalmthout to a monastery in the 13th century. Consequently the couple, long dead, are shown here holding small plots of earth with trees growing on them. They are giving their gift to the Virgin Mary as its actual recipient, since in the Middle Ages only real people and not institutions could represent legal entities, so that a pious donation had to be bequeathed to a saint.

Goossen van der Weyden must have inherited his grandfather's workshop stocks from his father, and despite their considerable age used them in paintings of his own. In his The Gift of Kalmthout, he probably based the lady to the right on a drawing after Rogier's portrait of Isabella of Portugal (J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu). The costume, imitated from Rogier's model but old-fashioned by the early 16th century, acquires new significance in this particular context, since his picture refers to a gift made in the 13th century, and the couple it shows had therefore been dead for centuries. While the figural types are of the 15th century, the style of painting and the background landscape betray the influence of modern art as practiced in Antwerp, where Goossen had settled around 1499. His descent obviously remained a source of pride to the painter, who at the age of 70 was still referring to his grandfather in the inscription on an altarpiece for the abbey church of Tongerlo. In a form of panegyric widely current at the time, and referring to the most famous painter of classical antiquity, he described Rogier as "the Apelles of his age."