Jan Gossaert, better known as Mabuse, is a very important artist in the evolution of Flemish painting. And all this because of an enormously influential trip he made toRome.
Mabuse after finishing his training in the city of Bruges, he reached the rank of master in Antwerpin 1503, and soon went to work for Philip of Burgundy. A character who as a bishop had to go to theVaticanin 1508, a trip in which he was accompanied by his entourage, including the painter
Mabuse's Old Couple
The stay in Rome was going to be decisive for Mabuse. He devoted himself to painting ancient monuments and discovering theclassical art. And all that baggage was taken back to the Netherlands, being the true introducer of Renaissance art in those northern European lands, especially the one inspired by Rome, called Romanist style. An influence that was going to give a very important turn to flamenco art and the tradition that came from artists like Rogier van der Weyden or the Van Eyck brothers. A tradition in which Gossaert himself had been trained and had created important masterpieces such as his Adoration of the Magi.
But the trip to Rome changed those concepts, and taking advantage of the fact that both the aforementioned Adoration of the Magi and the Elderly Couple are in thesame museum, the National Gallery in London, you can see very clearly the evolution of the artist.
Although in another of his works, such as Jean Carondelet's Diptych, we see two portraits, this one of the elderly must be considered the only double portrait of him on the same canvas. His identity is unknown, although they are most likely bourgeois, rather than aristocrats.
The presentation of both figures is in a bust format on a green background. That background and the light that comes from above give unity to the whole. Where there are also very interesting details.
For example, on the man's hat there is a kind of brooch where Mabuse, with the traditional taste for the Flemish miniature, has painted a nude young couple with a cornucopia as a symbol of freshness and abundance. Perhaps in a kind of joke about the advanced age of the two characters, in which the wrinkles are clearly visible and without the man opening his mouth, we know that he has very few teeth.
Everything is very naturalistic, and at the same time manages to give dignity to the portrait. They are two characters who are elderly, they know they are at the end of life and they carry it with stoicism. Undoubtedly a wonderful snapshot of those two people to whom the portrait gives them a poise of monumental air.
The exact date of the work is not known, and in fact the London National Gallery itself gives a wide margin of years for its dating. From 1510 to 1528.