Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi, Pointing to her Children as her Most Precious Ornaments

Gillis Mostaert the Elder Netherlandish
circle of Crispijn van den Broeck Netherlandish
circle of Lambert Lombard Netherlandish

Not on view

In response to the matronly guest seated between two men who shows off a ring from her jewel box, Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi, points to her children, returning from school, as her most precious ornaments. The choice of subject, taken from the first-century Roman writer Valerius Maximus (“Memorable doings and sayings”, introduction to book 4, chapter 4) and rarely depicted before, is indicative of the humanist culture that spread among Netherlandish artists in the course of the sixteenth century. This is especially true of Antwerp, where the author of the drawing, Gillis Mostaert, was active as a genre and landscape painter. The attribution is based on a stylistic comparison with one of the rare signed sheets by him in the Frits Lugt Collection, Paris. The purpose of the Museum's drawing is unknown, but the relatively cursory style indicates it was preparatory to another work, perhaps a painting.

Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi, Pointing to her Children as her Most Precious Ornaments, Gillis Mostaert the Elder (Netherlandish, Hulst 1528–1598 Antwerp), Pen and brown ink, brush and blue wash

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