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The first monographic exhibition on Marinus van Reymerswale is now opening at the Museo Nacional del Prado Monday, March 8, 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.

The first monographic exhibition on Marinus van Reymerswale is now opening at the Museo Nacional del Prado

From left to right: Marina Chinchilla, Deputy Manager of the Museo Nacional del Prado; Makoto Hattori, President of Mitsubishi Spain, S.A.U; Nuria de Miguel, General Manager of the Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado; Christine Seidel, Curator of the exhibition; and Andrés Úbeda, Deputy Director of the Museo Nacional del Prado. Photo © Museo Nacional del Prado

The aim of this exhibition, which is benefiting from the sponsorship of Mitsubishi Corporation and the Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado, is to introduce visitors to Marinus van Reymerswale, a Netherlandish artist who worked in the first half of the 16th century. As the exhibition’s curator Christine Seidel has explained: “Following their restoration, the paintings have returned to life with renewed splendour. New technical research, undertaken by the Museo Nacional del Prado, has contributed important information on the conditions and methods of production of his paintings in the emerging art market in Antwerp and in the context of the material culture of his day”.

The exhibition brings together 10 works by the artist, five from the collection of the Museo del Prado and 5 from other institutions including the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid and the Fine Arts Museum in Ghent. Two are particularly relevant as they have never previously been exhibited in Spain: the two versions of The Tax Collectors from the Hermitage and the Musée du Louvre, which depict the second popular subject in Marinus’s oeuvre, a body of work that focuses on the world of finance. Books, prints and coins from the outstanding collections of the Biblioteca Nacional and the Museo Arqueológico Nacional in Madrid add context to the painter’s images and reveal his working practice.

Marinus van Reymerswale (ca. 1489 - ca. 1546/56), whose surname derives from a city in the province of Zeeland located in the southwest of the modern-day Low Countries, based his artistic practice on the repetition of a small number of scenes: tax collectors, the so-called “money changers”, various versions of Saint Jerome in his study, a number of New Testament scenes and a Virgin and Child. In some cases these compositions may have been inspired by models by other artists such as Quinten Massys and Albrecht Dürer, but Marinus transformed them and created his own designs of striking originality.

The bindings of many of the books and the coins that appear in Marinus’s works reveal the artist’s remarkable technical ability to reproduce material elements and he filled his interiors with real objects to be found in his everyday environment. The figures’ eccentric clothing, however, moves his scenes away from the world of his contemporaries and gives them a theatrical character.

Marinus’s output includes numerous versions of a single version but with changes to the small details, possibly intended to achieve the uniqueness required by the client. In order to show the differences between the two known versions of The Money Changer and his Wife in the Museo del Prado, an interactive digital resource is available.

These variants on a single theme raise a series of questions relating to the painter’s practices and the resources he employed to facilitate the production of his work, creating some uncertainty regarding attributions and giving rise to the use of a group of terms such as “studio of”, “circle of” and “follower of”.

Marinus’s paintings play with elements employed by the financial world of the day to present and distinguish itself from other sectors of the middle class. The first paintings by the artist for which documentary information exists were among those owned by financial administrators. In 1604, for example, Karel van Mander, the first Dutch art historian, wrote that a work by the artist hung in the Middelburg office of Melchior Wintgis, the master of the Zeeland mint. By the 17th century others were present in international ducal and royal collections.

In the late 16th century and during the 17th century many of the artistic motifs that Marinus employed became dissociated from the financial professions and acquired a more negative reading. This moralising interpretation is also present in the artist’s work. However, it can be asked whether his paintings, which were aimed at a specific public, should solely be read in a negative manner or if distinctions exist that were generated by clients, conditions of production and changes of paradigm.

It may be due to the supposed proximity of Marinus’s paintings to the emergence of the pre-modern economy that their depiction of the world of finance continues to be of interest today. The connection between the artist’s compositions and this world has been researched by a range of historians, both from the perspective of economic history and that of the history of art. In the 20th century Marinus’s paintings were often used to illustrate texts on European economic history and the history of coins. 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 it in his book Money, Banking and Credit in Medieval Bruges. Italian Merchant Bankers, Lombards and Money Changers: A Study in the Origins of Banking (Cambridge Mass., 1948).

This modern gaze on the artist’s paintings also reveals that he paid close attention to depicting the particular characteristics of the financial market of his day. In 1979 in Spain the Association of Accounting and Company Administration chose the man in the artist’s painting in the Museo del Prado for its logotype, thus acknowledging that this is an image of economic activity in the Renaissance period.

In 1999 a stamp was issued with the Prado’s money changer painting on the occasion of the international Conference of the Museology of Money.

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