Winter Scene by Joos de Momper

Winter Scene by Joos de Momper (c.1630)

“…Why, sir, Claude for air and Gaspar for composition and sentiment; you may walk in Claude’s pictures and count the miles. But there are two painters whose merit the world does not yet know, who will not fail hereafter to be highly valued, Cuyp and Mompers…”

Richard Wilson

In an earlier blog about the Welsh landscape painter, Richard Wilson, I told you how he believed that although the landscape works of Claude Lorrain and Gaspar Dughet were lauded, he spoke about the, as yet, unknown talents of Aelbert Cuyp and Joos de Momper and so I thought it was time to take a look at the life of Joos de Momper the Younger and one of his greatest works.

Joos de Momper also known as Josse de Momper was born in 1564 in Antwerp.  He was just one of an outstanding artistic dynasty.  His great grandfather, Jan de Momper I,  was a painter in Bruges; his son, and our featured artist’s grandfather, Josse de Momper I, was also known as an artist and dealer who moved from Bruges to Antwerp, where his son, and Joos’ father,  Bartolomeus de Momper , inherited both occupations, as well as being an engraver. Bartholomeus’s sons Josse de Momper II and Jan de Momper II were both landscape painters, but Josse the younger, today’s featured painter, was the exceptional artist of the family.

He received his initial artistic training under the guidance of his father, Bartholomäus de Momper.   In 1581, when he was seventeen years of age, de Momper’s father, who was at that time Dean of the Antwerp painters’ guild, The Guild of St Luke, enrolled him as a vrijmeester (master) into that association.   It is believed that around this time Joos travelled to Italy.  Records show that an artist in Treviso, Lodewijk Toeput, was his teacher .  Another reason for believing that the young artist had visited Italy is that so many of his paintings featured mountain scenes and as he spent most of his life in Antwerp, to have such a knowledge of mountains, almost certainly meant that he had at one time crossed the Alps into Italy.   So did he go to Italy?   A further clue to whether de Mompers was ever in Italy came in 1985  when the frescoes in the church of San Vitale in Rome, previously attributed to Paul Bril, were attributed to Joos de Momper the Younger.

Records show that in 1590, the twenty-six year old artist was back in Antwerp as it was in this year and in this city that he married Elisabeth Gobyn.  The couple had ten children.  The painting dynasty was to continue with two of the  couples’ sons, Gaspard and Philips both becoming notable artists.  Gaspard de Momper and Philips de Momper I,  both became painters although little is known of their work, except that Philips executed the figures in some of his father’s paintings; he also spent some years in Rome, where he had travelled with Jan Breughel the Younger

 In 1594 De Momper collaborated with two other Flemish painters Adam van Noort and Tobias Vwerhaecht as well as the Flemish architect Cornelis Floris on the decorative programme to celebrate the entry of the Archduke Ernest into Antwerp.   Shortly after this de Momper was invited to become one of the Archduke’s court painters, a position he took up at the court of the Archduke and Archduchess Albert and Isabel Clara Eugenia, the sovereign rulers of the Spanish Netherlands. In 1611, de Momper was made Dean of the Guild of St Luke in Anterp.

Most of de Momper’s paintings, like the one we are going to look at today, featured landscapes and his work was very well received. His landscapes were sometimes topographically accurate whilst others would be idealised fantasy ones, but all sold well.    His work was highly regarded and he is considered to be the most important Flemish landscape artrist of his time.  The timeline of great Flemish painters puts him coming after Pieter Bruegel, whose works greatly influenced him, and before Peter Paul Rubens.  

My Daily Art Display today features a painting simply entitled Winter Landscape and was painted by Joos de Momper the Younger around 1630 and can now be seen in the North Carolina Museum of Art.  This is a winterscape with a number of figures,  which were believed to have been painted, not by de Momper, but by Pieter Bruegel’s son Jan.  I love this work as it is so “busy”.  Besides the beauty of the landscape in winter we have a dozen people depicted carrying on with their daily duties.  Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s influence is clearly evident in this winter landscape.    Joos de Momper was known for his use of Mannerist colors in many of his landscapes, but in the more realistic pictorial representations, such as today’s painting, he used more natural colors.   Momper’s has managed to deliver a scene with such aesthetic appeal. 

Woman by cart

In this village landscape before us, the houses and people, which in his mountain landscapes were mere accessories, are now in some way the main focus of our attention.   Look at the woman in red who stands by the cart.  Look how the artist has depicted her struggling and straining with an arched back to lift the barrel on to the cart.  Look how her face is reddened by the physical effort.  To the right of her we see a mother and two children in a line.  The mother is carrying a bundle of firewood on her head whilst her son tags behind with a token few sticks of kindling.  Following up at the rear is the young daughter, with her arms outstretched shrieking, as she is being left behind.

Man with baskets

It is a scene full of activity and I love to cast my eyes around the painting to discover what is happening.  At the barn we see a man repairing a cart whilst the white horse stands passively to the side.  In the left midground we see a man bent over surveying what looks like two large wicker baskets.  I am not sure what he is doing but whatever is going through his mind, he seems fascinated by them.  Besides the people in the painting, look at the way the artist has elegantly painted the trees which have shed their leaves and which stand tall and unbowed in this cold but still winter’s day.

In the background on the right we have the nearby town.  It is separated from our main scene by a river, the water of which seems partly frozen over.  Fishermen are at the river trying to catch something for their meal in the small parts that have yet to be frozen. 

Town and bridge

The way to the town is accessed by a small wooden bridge and we see a man with his dogs making his way over it and heading into town..

I hope you have enjoyed this painting and thanks to Richard Wilson, I have discovered a new Flemish artist and one day I will return to him and look at another of his works.

Finally my thanks go to Universal Pops’ Photostream on Flickr for the details of the painting.  His photographic site is quite amazing and well worth a visit.