Cornelis Engelbrechtsz, Christ Carrying the Cross

Cornelis Engelbrechtsz

Christ Carrying the Cross

25.7x19cm, Oil on panel


Cornelis Engelbrechtsz (c. 1462 – 1527) was an early Dutch painter. He was born and died in Leiden, and is considered the first important painter from that city. Engebrechtsz. taught a number of other Leiden painters, including Lucas van Leyden, Aertgen van Leyden and Engebrechtsz. ‘ own sons Cornelis, Lucas, and Pieter Cornelisz. Kunst. Lucas van Leyden is considered his most important pupil, eclipsing Engebrechtsz. in popularity.
Engebrechtsz. was born sometime between 1460 and 1465. He probably lived in Leiden uninterrupted from about 1497 until his death. Engebrechtsz. was a member of the local archer schutterij (militia) from 1499 tot 1506 and the crossbow militia from 1515 to 1522.
His earliest dated work is a triptych of the Adoration of the Magi (1493), which is now in the Museum De Lakenhal in Leiden. This work shows the influence of the Flemish painter Rogier van der Weyden, who was a major influence on early Dutch painting.
In the early 16th century, Engebrechtsz. began to develop his own unique style, which was characterized by its realistic portrayal of figures and its use of bright colors. His paintings often depict religious subjects, but he also painted portraits and genre scenes.
Some of Engebrechtsz.’s most famous paintings include The Christ Child with the Virgin Mary and Saint Anne (c. 1510), The Last Supper (c. 1515), and The Crucifixion (c. 1520). These paintings are all in the collection of the Museum De Lakenhal in Leiden.

“Christ Carrying the Cross”

The turbulent energy and exaggerated emotionalism of this composition, populated with small slender figures in contrapposto poses, dressed in elegant clothing, and painted in a colorful palette, became hallmark traits of the mature, Mannerist style of Cornelis Engebrechtsz.   As demonstrated in this delicate panel he favored warm colors and enameled glazes applied in many layers to create glistening surfaces. Costumes are fanciful and Engebrechtsz. enjoyed painting exaggerated draperies as a means to illustrate his refined technical skills.
One of the leading painters of sixteenth-century Leiden and the teacher and collaborator of Lucas van Leyden, Engebrechtsz. adapted some of the dramatic power of the Antwerp Mannerists to develop a uniquely expressive character in his work.
Little is known of Engebrechtsz.’s training, and few of his early works survive. As Leiden’s preeminent painter, Engebrechtsz. earned commissions from the town council and other important institutions, though he painted mainly biblical subjects.  His large, prolific workshop trained many leading painters, and Engebrechtsz.’s acclaim seems to have attracted students from outside Leiden. When these students brought to Leiden the Mannerist style then popular in Antwerp, Engebrechtsz. incorporated selected elements into his own art.


Private collection, Zurich, Switzerland


Newhouse galleries, New York
Rafael Valls Fine Art, TEFAF, March 2012
Art rules, Artlife project, Tallinn, 2015

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