The art dealer and collector Bob Haboldt has donated to the Rijksmuseum a masterpiece by Bartholomeus Spranger, The Body of Christ Supported by Angels, painted on copper ca. 1587. Spranger was one of the most important painters in Europe around 1600. From 1st June it will hang alongside other masterpieces by artists from the same region, including Adriaen de Vries and Joachim Wtewael.
Bob Haboldt: Coronavirus has affected me, in the first place emotionally. It gave me occasion to reflect on how I could make a contribution, and on how we could best memorialise this period. What is wonderful about paintings is that they are eternal and can serve as monuments to the difficult times in which we find ourselves. With this thought in mind, I came to the decision that I would donate this exceptional work by Bartholomeus Spranger to the Rijksmuseum. In the first place, it is a gift to everyone to commemorate the victims of COVID-19; it also serves as an example, encouraging everyone to do good for museums. I hope that others will follow.
Taco Dibbits, General Director of the Rijksmuseum: In these difficult times we have seen how art can offer solace and be a source of hope and reflection. Much of the art in Dutch museums over the past centuries was donated by private citizens, for the benefit of the general public, and we are deeply grateful to Bob Haboldt for making this generous gesture.
Spranger’s painting on this small copper plate is a powerful and poignant image of compassion, or imago pietatis. It shows angels supporting the body of Christ, illuminated by heavenly light. This Man of Sorrows is presented to us almost frontally. The angel in the foreground holds a basket containing attributes associated with the passion, such as the crown of thorns and the nails used to crucify Christ. In the background the three Marys are shown making their way to the grave that they will find empty.
This painting was made for private devotion, but quickly garnered wide fame when, in 1587, Hendrick Goltzius copied it as a print that was reproduced and distributed in large numbers.
Antwerp-born Bartholomeus Spranger was from 1581 court painter of the Habsburg emperor Rudolf II in Prague, the greatest art collector of his time. Spranger was one of the most important and influential artists at the court, where he embodied the new European Mannerist style. His previous period in Italy, particularly Rome, exerted a major influence on his work in which he combined elements of the Netherlandish tradition and Roman Mannerism. The paintings he made while at the court were highly valued by the emperor and his entourage.
Other works by Spranger in the Rijksmuseum include the large canvas Venus and Adonis (ca. 1585-90) and the spectacular drawing The Wedding of Cupid and Psyche (1586-87).
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