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Marinus. Painter from Reymerswale

Museo Nacional del Prado. Madrid 3/9/2021 - 6/13/2021

Marinus: Painter from Reymerswale, on display in Room D of the Jerónimos Building from 9 March to 13 June with the sponsorship of Mitsubishi Corporation and the Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado, is the first monographic exhibition to be organised on this Netherlandish artist who worked in the first half of the 16th century. While many of his paintings are very well known and appreciated today from textbooks on economic history - the Flemish economic historian Raymond de Roover (1904-1972) was one of the first to associate money changers with the profession of banking in the 16th century and to illustrate them in his books - the artist’s life and work have been little studied in recent decades.

The exhibition, which is curated by Christine Seidel, Curator of painting up to 1800 at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart and the recipient of a Fundación María Cristina Masaveu Peterson study grant at the Museo del Prado in 2018, has brought together 10 paintings by this enigmatic artist, three of them - from the Louvre, the Hermitage and the Fine Arts Museum in Ghent - not previously seen in Spain, in addition to books, prints and coins that add context to the images by the artist and reveal his working practice.

From 2018 onwards the five works in the Prado’s collection were restored for the exhibition in the Museum’s restoration studio and are now presented together for the first time.

Curator:
Christine Seidel, Curator of painting up to 1800 at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart.

Access

Jerónimos Building

Sponsored by:
Mitsubishi Corporation
Fundación Amigos de Museo del Prado

Multimedia

Exhibition

The exhibition

The exhibition
The Tax Collector and his Wife (so-called Money Changer and his Wife)
Marinus van Reymerswale
Oil on oak panel
1539
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

The Museo del Prado is presenting the first monographic exhibition devoted to Marinus van Reymerswale, the enigmatic painter from Zeeland (Netherlands). Until now his works had only been shown in exhibitions on the art and development of genre painting in the first half of the 16th century in Europe and in the Netherlands, even though he was one of the most significant representatives of this new art form.

The Prado owns five paintings attributed to the painter, making it the museum that holds the largest number of his works. All of the panels have been restored and studied in depth in order to be exhibited together with important national and international loans, some of which are being displayed for the first time in Spain.

The exhibition offers a different perspective on the work of Marinus by contextualising the Prado paintings which, just over 150 years ago, were the starting point for the rediscovery of Marinus van Reymerswale. Visitors are thus offered the opportunity to gain a new appreciation of the painter’s imagery and artistic achievements.

Marinus, painter from Reymerswale (c. 1489–active until c. 1546)

Marinus, painter from Reymerswale (c. 1489–active until c. 1546)
The Calling of Saint Matthew
Marinus van Reymerswale
Oil on oak panel
c. 1530
Madrid, Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, 1930.96 (332)

Marinus began his career in Antwerp. In the early 16th century the city became a thriving commercial centre, attracting travellers, merchants and craftsmen from all over Europe to a city with rapidly growing trade networks. Artists played a vital role in this emerging international market. New pictorial themes, together with innovative methods of production and collaboration among painters, turned the northern metropolis into a productive artistic hub. Marinus, the painter from the nearby Reymerswale, where he returned before 1531, was one of the first to adapt to this growing demand for paintings with subjects that were both novel and popular.

He must also have had some knowledge of cartography, for after the St Felix flood which devastated his hometown in 1530, he was commissioned to draw up a map showing the damage in the region for Mary of Hungary, governor of the Habsburg Netherlands. The payment order for this commission is the only documentary evidence that Marinus lived in Reymerswale. Around 1540 he settled in Goes, where he probably died between 1546 and 1556.

Marinus specialised in a narrow range of subjects. His images of Saint Jerome, which abound in his oeuvre, are inspired by works by Albrecht Dürer, who visited Antwerp in 1521, and his paintings of the Calling of Saint Matthew are among the earliest on this subject in the 16th century. On the other hand, his genre scenes, mainly related to the money trade, have often been understood as depicting sinful human behaviour related to usury. However, in these works the painter introduced contemporary elements that reflect the economic changes of the time and seem to question the negative view that has traditionally been held of the figures depicted in them.

In search of new interpretations

In search of new interpretations
The City Treasurer and his Wife (so-called Money Changer and his Wife)
Marinus van Reymerswale
Oil on oak panel
1538
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

It is possible that the Italian historians Lodovico Guicciardini (1567) and Giorgio Vasari (1568) were referring to Marinus when they mentioned a certain ‘Marino de Sirissea’ in their treatises. Carel van Mander, the first biographer of Netherlandish artists of the 15th and 16th centuries, who did not have first-hand knowledge of his works, showed little appreciation for the painter in his Schilder-boeck (Book of Painters, 1604), as did early art historiography. It was not until the second half of the 19th century that Marinus was rediscovered and esteemed with the help of, among others, the paintings in the Prado.

Marinus used compositions developed by the most famous contemporary artists, such as Quinten Massys, to create new subjects. He also employed innovative working methods to respond to the demands of the growing art market and a new clientele. Unlike other workshops, which concentrated on painting devotional images, Marinus’ production, characterised by a high degree of professionalism and specialisation, focused almost exclusively on secular and semi-profane topics.

The most successful of them, the so-called ‘money changer and his wife’, seem to be a reflection on the rapidly changing financial world of the time, which presented both new opportunities and unpredictable risks. Since the Church censured any dealings with money, these paintings have often been interpreted as an expression of this negative judgement. Marinus, however, does not seem to fully subscribe to this criticism, but focuses on the representation of these figures and their corresponding activity. Thus, these supposed ‘money changers’ – more likely treasurers, tax collectors and merchants – also appear as what they were, functionaries of well-organised and regulated administrative structures. A more nuanced and profane approach is thus proposed: instead of showing images of usury, Marinus seems to warn against illicit behaviour in positions of power in the financial administration.

Art, money and markets

Art, money and markets
The City Treasurer (so-called Two Tax Collectors)
Marinus van Reymerswale
Oil on canvas transferred from panel
c. 1530
Saint Petersburg, Museo Estatal del Hermitage, GE 423

In a process that had begun in the early modern period, Europe experienced a rapid development of economic structures in the first half of the 16th century, which led to a profound transformation of society. The money trade became a decisive factor for prosperity and progress, although it was severely criticised in moralising and satirical texts. By the time of Marinus, the regulation of monetary transactions had already evolved into complex administrative structures controlled by civil servants.

Money changers, who had existed since the 13th century, soon became a symbol of usury and greed. They were often depicted in extravagant or old-fashioned garments, such as the headdresses that appear in Marinus’ works. The painter combined these outlandish garments, which came from an earlier tradition, with contemporary elements such as coins and myriad books and papers with texts on fiscal and legal matters. In this way, he transformed images that were seen as depicting negative activities into paintings that referred to the reality of the changes taking place in the dynamic financial market of his day.

Variations on a theme and their possible meanings

The presence in Marinus’ paintings of high-value gold and silver coins, many of which were in circulation at the time, as well as a number of texts – legible to educated viewers and sometimes mentioning people contemporary to the painter – allude to the fiscal tasks and obligations of municipal administrations and citizens. These objects make it possible to identify the figures in his paintings as officials of the municipal tax administration. Combining elements of the popular visual culture of his time, Marinus’ ‘tax collectors’ and so-called ‘money changers’ oscillate between the allegorical and the strikingly concrete of early 16th-century society.

These works reveal their originality by modifying an apparently already established iconography. Marinus has often been described as an unimaginative successor to Massys, a painter who only transformed a motif borrowed from the master into exaggerated satire and social criticism. On the contrary, Marinus is the representative of a new type of painting that elevated secular subjects to the rank of other genres in a process that would reach its peak in the following century. However, in the first half of the 16th century, neither this category nor its interpretation was so well established or defined that these early examples can no longer be considered an exception. The care taken by the protagonists in verifying the coins underlines the seriousness of their work. By introducing variations in the different versions, Marinus’ works seem to go beyond the limits of a single interpretation and instead invite us to think of other possible meanings.

Interactive

Saint Jerome, saint and scholar

Saint Jerome, saint and scholar
Saint Jerome in his Study
Marinus van Reymerswale
Oil on oak panel
1533
Madrid, Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, 611

As numerous as the paintings related in one way or another to money are the depictions of Saint Jerome in his study. In the 16th century this Church father became the epitome of the scholar in the age of humanism. The popularity of the saint’s image is often connected to the 1520/21 trip to the Low Countries made by Albrecht Dürer, creator of an enduring iconography, reinforced by the circulation of his engravings on this theme which inspired numerous variants in that area in the course of the 16th century. Marinus’ depictions of the saint are indebted to Dürer’s prints, and their success must have led him to create several versions of his own paintings.

Marinus’ compositions were copied even after his death and continued to enjoy a certain popularity in the late 16th century. In the 17th century, his paintings still circulated on the art market, sometimes under other authorships. Some of the earliest works that can be traced in Spain appear in inventories with different attributions, for example to Dürer or his school, to Lucas van Leyden, and possibly hidden behind the name of Quinten Massys as well.

Artworks

The Calling of Saint Matthew
1

The Calling of Saint Matthew

Marinus van Reymerswale

Oil on oak panel

c. 1530

Madrid, Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, 1930.96 (332)

3

Stultifera navis

Sebastian Brant

1 March 1497, 145 leaves, in-quarto

Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional de España, INC/287

4

Espejo de la vida humana

Rodrigo Sánchez de Arévalo

13 May 1491, 124 leaves, in-folio

Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional de España, INC/2329(1)

5

Four excelentes of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, the Catholic Monarchs

Obverse showing the king and queen in profile with the aqueduct of Segovia between them

Gold

Segovia, 1497–1520

Madrid, Museo Arqueológico Nacional, 1973/24/17114

6

Four excelentes of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, the Catholic Monarchs

Reverse showing their crowned coat of arms held by the eagle of Saint John

Gold

Segovia, 1497–1520

Madrid, Museo Arqueológico Nacional, 1973/24/17113

7

Écu au soleil of Charles VIII of France

Obverse showing the French royal coat of arms surmounted by the sun

Gold

Angers, 1483–98

Madrid, Museo Arqueológico Nacional, 104920

8

Écu au soleil of Charles VIII of France

Reverse showing the cross of lilies

Dijon, 1483–98

Gold

Madrid, Museo Arqueológico Nacional, 104921

9

Teston of William IX Palaeologus, Marquess of Montferrat

Obverse showing the marquess in profile

Silver

Casale Monferrato, 1494–1518

Madrid, Museo Arqueológico Nacional, 2009/140/1702

10

Engelsgroschen of Frederic III, George and John of Saxony

Obverse showing an angel presenting the coat of arms of the Arch-Marshall of the Holy Roman Empire

Silver

1507–25

Madrid, Museo Arqueológico Nacional, 2009/80/1254

11

Vlieger of Charles V

Obverse showing the crowned double-headed Imperial eagle and the date of minting

Silver

Antwerp, 1539

Madrid, Museo Arqueológico Nacional, 1973/24/14926

12

Vlieger of Charles V

Reverse showing the monarch’s crowned coat of arms on the Cross of Burgundy

Silver

Dordrecht, 1539

Madrid, Museo Arqueológico Nacional, 1973/24/14925

The City Treasurer (so-called Two Tax Collectors)
13

The City Treasurer (so-called Two Tax Collectors)

Marinus van Reymerswale

Oil on canvas transferred from panel

c. 1530

Saint Petersburg, Museo Estatal del Hermitage, GE 423

The Tax Collectors
14

The Tax Collectors

Marinus van Reymerswale

Oil on oak panel

c. 1535

Paris, Musée du Louvre, Département des Peintures, RF. 1989 6

17

Saint Jerome in his Study

Alberto Durero

Engraving

1514?

Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional de España, INVENT/29394

18

Last Judgement

Alberto Durero

Woodcut from the Small Passion series

c. 1510

Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional de España, INVENT/75115 ESTAMPA 37

Saint Jerome in his Study
19

Saint Jerome in his Study

Marinus van Reymerswale

Oil on oak panel

1533

Madrid, Museo de la Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, 611

21

Saint Jerome in his Study

Marinus van Reymerswale

Oil on oak panel

c. 1541

Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

The Calling of Saint Matthew
22

The Calling of Saint Matthew

Marinus van Reymerswale

Oil on oak panel

After 1536

Gent, Museum voor Schone Kunsten, S.86

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