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Het Laatste avondmaal, het eerst bekende schilderstuk van Karel van Mander de Jonge

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image of Oud Holland - Quarterly for Dutch Art History

A large panel of the Last Supper (fig. 1) can now be attributed to Karel van Mander the Younger (Haarlem c. 1583 – Delft 1623), after cleaning by the present owner, Douwes Fine Art in Amsterdam. The monogram at lower right (fig. 3), on the base of the pillar, has been identified as being that of the young artist and not of his father, the famous painter and writer of the Schilder-boeck, Karel van Mander the Elder. This painting is the first one by Karel van Mander the Younger to have been discovered.

Although it is known that the young Karel van Mander had been trained as a painter in his father's workshop and registered at the latest in 1613 as a painter in the Delft guild of St Luke, the artist has until now only been known as a designer for tapestries. This he did from about 1604 at the workshop of François Spiering, which he left in 1615 to start his own tapestry workshop. The numerous sources on this period speak mostly of the difficult, troublemaking character of Van Mander, who's family fled to Denmark after his untimely death in 1623.

The Last Supper is intriguing for its many borrowings from prints by and after artists from Karel van Mander the Elder's circle. The pose of several figures as well as some details of the tableware appear to have been derived from a large print by Jan Harmensz. Muller after a painting by Gillis Coignet (fig. 5). Three oddly large hands of figures at left, centre and right, are repetitions of hands from the Apostles series by Hendrick Goltzius of 1589, as is the upwards turned head of the apostle at upper left (figs. 6-8).

Some of the figures have been identified by Elisabeth Valentiner, in her study on Karel van Mander the Elder of 1930, as portraits. Whereas one of them, at left of Christ, might indeed have been modelled after the print by Goltzius of Dirck Volckertsz. Coornhert (fig. 9), the identification of the person at lower right, left of the pillar, as Goltzius, is not convincing. The only actual portrait seems to be the more contemporary looking figure at upper right, whose reaching hand has been derived from yet another print by Jan Muller after Goltzius. Although not convincingly applicable for this painting, the use of portraits in a Last Supper was not uncommon. In the Schilder-boeck Van Mander described a, now lost, series of Christ and the Apostles with portraits of artists on which his friend Cornelis Ketel was working.

Another interesting aspect of the painting is its date of 1602. This was the year that Van Mander's friend Bartholomeus Spranger, the court painter of Rudolf II, visited Amsterdam and Haarlem, where he was received by artists and rhetoricians. It is tempting to see the painting, possibly a joint project of both father and son Van Mander, as having been made in honour of this visit, as a tribute to Spranger with borrowings from prints by the two artists who engraved his designs, Hendrick Goltzius and Jan Muller. As such a large panel must have been made on commission, the Amsterdam notary and art patron Jacques Razet, a close friend of Karel van Mander the Elder, to whom the above mentioned print by Jan Harmensz. Muller was dedicated, comes to mind, also for the fact that he was known to support young artists.


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