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