This study is an important new account of the life and work of the Flemish master Petrus Christus. It is the first volume to focus specifically on the physical characteristics of his works as criteria for judging attribution, dating, and the extent to which he was indebted to Jan van Eyck and other artists for the development of his technique and style. The author's aim is to examine how certain works were made in order to solve some rather traditional questions of connoisseurship.
Recent technical and archival investigations, the result of which are published here together for the first time, form the basis of a sophisticated reassessment of Christus. His relationship with van Eyck's workshop is explored. There is a careful description of his working methods, including his use of underdrawings and his exploration perspective. The results of dendrochronological analyses of many of his panels are also given.
As important as this technical and art-historical evaluation is the social and biographical background that is provided. Christus is placed in the context of fifteenth-century Bruges, a wealthy and powerful city under the rule of the dukes of Burgundy. Its status as a ducal seat fostered a lively cultural life, and patrons for artistic undertakings were also found in the relatively large number of well-to-do citizens and foreign merchants who lived there. The economic, social, and political forces that affected Bruges are described, as is their impact on the city's community of artists, which included Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling. Throughout, the authors draw on archival documents relating to citizenship, public celebrations, contracts, and confraternities to describe artistic activity in Bruges and to construct Christus's cultural biography.
This publication accompanies the most important exhibition of early Netherlandish paintings in the United States in more than three decades. Each of the twenty-seven works is discussed in an extended entry with a complete provenance, and a selected bibliography is provided.
The authors of this major study of Petrus Christus are Maryan W. Ainsworth, Senior Research Fellow, Department of Paintings Conservation, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Maximiliaan P. J. Martens, Associate Professor, History of Medieval Art, University of Groningen.