SCOREL, Jan van
(b. 1495, Schoorl, d. 1562, Utrecht)

12 Members of the Haarlem Brotherhood of Jerusalem Pilgrims

Oil on panel, 115 x 276 cm
Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem

Jan van Scorel's portraits are highly naturalistic and reflect little of the 'modern' manner of his other paintings. While in Haarlem, he created a joint portrait of members of the Brotherhood of Jerusalem Pilgrims. The Brotherhood, founded in 1506, consisted of prominent local men who had made the arduous pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, which is depicted in the small painting within the painting held by a servant. This is an early group portrait, a type of painting that grew in popularity in the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Van Scorel sacrificed unified action for a clear presentation of each individual. The twelve gentlemen are arranged, in chronological order of their pilgrimage, two by two, as if in procession. Each holds a palm branch, known as a Jerusalem feather. The Brotherhood's members were responsible each Palm Sunday for escorting a wooden Palmesel, a wheeled statue of Christ riding on an ass, through the streets of Haarlem.

Scorel placed the group against a wall. The men's coats-of-arms and mottos appear as if painted on the wooden trim above their heads.The sculpturesque features of each man are carefully recorded. Below, inscribed sheets of paper, rendered in trompe l'oeil, are affixed to a fictive strip of wood. The first lists deceased members of the Brotherhood. The eight-line text beneath each man identifies him, testifies that he visited Christ's grave and offers a supplication or prayer. Later their death dates were added. The third figure from the right, above the detached edge of paper, is the artist dressed as a canon.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.