Man, Myth, and Sensual Pleasures: Jan Gossart's Renaissance

October 6, 2010–January 17, 2011

Gossart as a Designer

Although Gossart's primary activity was painting, documents show that he was also commissioned to design other types of works, including a triumphal chariot, choir stalls, sculpted tombs, a monumental church window, and possibly even a snowman erected at Philip of Burgundy's Brussels residence in winter 1511. None of these is known to have survived. In addition, the designs of a few extant sculptures and medals have been tentatively attributed to him; at the very least, they can be said to have been inspired by his style. By extending his activity beyond the field of painting, Gossart appears to have been among the first painters in the Netherlands to introduce an artistic practice already common in Germany and Italy.

Several drawings on view in the exhibition add to our knowledge of Gossart as a designer. Most are related to stained-glass roundels—the small, circular painted glass panels that enjoyed great popularity in the Netherlands in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Their refined execution suggests they were meant as more than just models for the glass painters.

Other drawings document commissions for a church window, a sculpted monument, the ceiling of a chapel, and a print. Their finished appearance—necessary because they probably were made to be shown to the patron for approval as well as to guide the craftsmen responsible for the execution of the design—no doubt accounts for their survival. The elaborate, drawn triptych on view also suggests that Gossart was more active as a painter of ambitious altarpieces on a large scale than is generally known.