I = Adriaen Isenbrandt


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Adriaen Isenbrandt (between 1480 and 1490 – July 1551) was a Flemish painter of the Northern Renaissance considered to be a significant artist of his period.  His work is conservative, in the early Northern Renaissance style.  The conundrum lies in the fact that he left no signed or documented works, and, given his tendency to borrow motifs and compositions directly from other artists, definitive attributions are not possible.

Isenbrandt may have been born in Haarlem or Antwerp around 1490.  The first mention of him is when he bought his burghership (citizenship, membership to the middle class) in Bruges in 1490 and then became a master in the painters’ guild and the goldsmiths’ guild.  Although already a Master, he worked in the in the workshop of Bruges’ leading painter

Baptist of Christ, Gerard David

Baptist of Christ, Gerard David

Gerard David, a painter and manuscript illuminator, then established his own workshop nearby. The influence of Gerard David shows clearly in the composition and the landscape background of the works attributed to Isenbrandt.

Bruges was one of the richest cities in Europe during Isenbrandt’s time, and Isenbrandt painted diptychs (two painted or carved panels hinged together) and portraits for rich traders and merchants.   One of his first paintings (c. 1518–1521) was Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, part of a diptych (two painted or carved panels hinged together) in theOur Lady of the Seven Sorrows,

Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows

Church of Our Lady in Bruges. There are two painting from 1518 that are associated with him, a  triptych, the Adoration by the Magi,  which was destroyed in 1942 when the church in which it was housed was bombed,

Adoration of the Maji

Adoration of the Maji

Portrait of Paulus de Nigro, 1518

Portrait of Paulus de Nigro, 1518

and the Portrait of Paulus de Nigro.   Compare this with another portrait thought to be by Isenbrandt, Man Weighing Gold.  Both seem stereotypical and rather lifeless, but note that they have been done with

Man Weighing Gold, 1515

Man Weighing Gold, 1515

a soft touch and there is a sfumato (smokey) effect of the contours, a technique of da Vinci.

Major artists, such as Isenbrandt, usually created only the main parts of each painting, with the background then filled in by assistants.  Thus the quality of a work depended largely on the skill of the assistants, leading to the uneven quality of the work attributed to Isenbrandt.

Rest During Flight to Egypt (attributed),

Rest During Flight to Egypt (attributed)

He and his assistants painted many Madonnas.   Rest During Flight to Egypt is attributed to Isenbrandt; note  the landscape in he background, also in Virgin and Child .

Virgin and Child

Virgin and Child

All his figures are painted in warm tones and lively colors, set against an idyllic background of a hilly landscapes with castles situated on top of a vertical rock, winding rivers and thick foliage.  In this, he appears to have copied both Gerard David and Jan van Eyk.

Mass of Saint Gregory

Mass of Saint Gregory

The Mass of St. Gregory and the Madonna and Child show the influence of the Italian Renaissance in its scenery elements such as volutes, antique pillars and ram’s heads.  Through these elements he is seen as the precursor of the Renaissance painter  Lancelot Blondeel, another Flemish painter, who assisted in a restoration of the Ghent Altarpiece.Madonna and Child

Madonna and Child



Isenbrandt died in Brughes in 1555, a man of considerable means.

Virgin and Child, Blondeel

Virgin and Child, Blondeel



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