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Record Image
Bruyn, Bartholomäus (German, b.1493, d.1555), Attributed to

Joest, Jan (German, b.1455-1460, d.1519), After
Birth of the Saviour
oil on panel
710 x 495 mm panel size; 863 x 647 mm frame size
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Bequeathed 1967 by Mrs Doris Monheimer.
This night nativity belongs to a family of images that was once thought to derive from a lost work by Hugo van der Goes (1435–1482). An earlier view was that the images descended from such a work by Jan Joest van Calcar (1460–1519). A later theory suggested the original was a painting by Geertgen Saint John in the National Gallery in London. A still more recent opinion is that the group does derive from a lost Van Calcar work and that a sub-group of them does so via a painting by Bartholomäus Bruyn (c.1492–1553/57), a pupil of van Calcar and probably his son-in-law; and that this work is one of that sub-group produced in Bruyn’s studio. Such complexity of attribution is not unusual among works from a time when artists laboured collaboratively and pictorial ideas were treated as common property.
This image is innovative in its depiction of the Saviour’s birth at night, its treatment of the participants as plain or ugly and its setting in a ruined castle. These characteristics, which contrast with the idealisation of Renaissance Italian imagery, are typical of northern Europe, especially what are now the Netherlands and Belgium. The painting affords an instructive glimpse of the struggle of painting to emerge from medieval convention.

not on view

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