Michael North

title.none: Honig, Painting and the Market in Early Modern Antwerp (North)

identifier.other: baj9928.0101.007 01.01.07

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Michael North, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2001

identifier.citation: Honig, Elizabeth Alice. Painting and the Market in Early Modern Antwerp. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1998. Pp. xi, 308. $45.00. ISBN: 0-300-07239-2.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 01.01.07

Honig, Elizabeth Alice. Painting and the Market in Early Modern Antwerp. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1998. Pp. xi, 308. $45.00. ISBN: 0-300-07239-2.

Reviewed by:

Michael North
Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University

Elizabeth Honig's book has the ambitious aim not only to explore the iconographic development of the Antwerp market scenes but also the emergence of the Antwerp art market. Starting point of her research are the 16th-century market paintings by Pieter Aertsen and his nephew Joachim Beuckelaer. Their paintings are interpreted as representations of the new market economy and commodity culture of the world market Antwerp, although the paintings reflect the weekly and peasant markets instead of the international wholesale market. However, during the early 17th century the market painting ceased to be in the forefront of art, and the market became the staffage for a new type of still life invented by Frans Snyders (with some people in the background). Behind this fundamental change in the aesthetic of the market scene Honig witnesses changes in art production and collecting, i. e. in the art market.

Crucial for this development were changing patterns of the demand for art, due to new noble aspirations of the Antwerp elite. When a family became aristocratic and retired from trading, it imitated noble collecting patterns, buying paintings by Jan I Brueghel, Jan Baptiste Saive, Frans Snyders etc. The examination of Antwerp inventories from between 1550 and 1650 leads to the conclusion that local patriotism stimulated the patterns of collecting especially in 17th-century Antwerp. Antwerp collectors wanted Antwerp pictures, unlike their contemporaries in Amsterdam, who acquired also paintings by masters from other Dutch cities and by foreign (for example Antwerp) artists as well. Collecting of local art was an expression of civic pride. A model collection, including a canon of painters, which one had to possess, developed. It was based on certain "old masters" as Frans Floris, Pieter Bruegel, Quinten Metsys, Pieter Aertsen, which were joined by select "modern masters" such as Momper, Jan I Brueghel, Frans II Francken, Vrancx, Rubens, Snyders etc. In establishing his collection according to this canon, an Antwerp collector could profit from collaborative painting, a characteristic feature of Antwerp art production. With this respect artistic production in Antwerp differs from the rest of Europe, where we witness interstudio rivalry for important commissions (as in Italy) or individual masters, successfully exploiting personal market niches (as in Holland). Instead in Antwerp Honig reconstructs "collaborative circuits", two and more friends or colleagues who frequently worked together on paintings (Rubens-Snyders, Rubens-Jan I Brueghel, Jan I Brueghel-Van Balen). So if one wanted to have certain masters represented in his collection, collaborative paintings offered two names instead of one. And if one was not able to get the desired painter by this way, he had to solve the problem by a copy after a canonical painting, produced at large scale in the painters' workshops, who met thus the high demand for their and their ancestors' works.

Collaborative paintings are over-represented in the so- called gallery paintings, which emerged as new fashionable genre in the mid-17th century. The gallery picture did normally not represent a specific collection but the image of an ideal collection and a fictive group portrait of collectors and their guests viewing and discussing and trying to distinguish the artists' typical styles, for example in a collaborative painting. Thus the gallery paintings document a period, when connoisseurship got momentum as status symbol in the Antwerp society, thus shaping the social identities of Antwerp collectors.

I could have reported a lot more interesting observations on Antwerp's artistic production, but already now I can state that Honig's book provides many new insights in the Antwerp's art market and patterns of collecting. The latter could have probably a little bit more elaborated on the basis of the inventories. Apart from the fact that history paintings retained their top position at the artistic hierarchy, we learn absolutely nothing about their representation and that of other genres in the inventories. A comparison with John Michael Montias' research on Amsterdam and Delft inventories would have sharpened the view on the peculiarities of the Antwerp art market. This leads to another critical remark. Honig's book and bibliography are only very little affected by recent research on the European art markets. By comparing Antwerp with its predecessors (Bruges, Florence) and its contemporaries (Venice, Amsterdam), Honig would have been able to mark Antwerp's role on the European art map more clearly. However with Honig's book a first step is done towards a joint enterprise of mapping the European art market.