“ANDIE DE GELDERS”
Flanders, first half of 16th century
Madonna with the Child, Magdalene and angels
oil on wood, 76×48.5 cm
If we look carefully at the lower part of this intriguing painting we will notice a small cartouche not far from the Virgin’s foot. It is not lying on the ground, but painted so as to make it seem that it is stuck onto the wood. A true trompe-l’oeil: there is a fold in the middle and the corners are glued, even if the upper left one has come unstuck. This tiny piece of paper is the key to the attribution of the work we are presenting. In fact, there is little room for error: the inscription on it reads “ANDIE: DE: GELDERS”, which undoubtedly refers to the author. The research conducted by Alessandro Nesi to find biographic notes or other works attributed to this painter has not produced any results so far, but the expert has been able to circumscribe what was most probably the milieu in which the artist moved and his stylistic components.
As Nesi points out, the name written on the cartouche brings us directly to a Flemish environment: neither the Latinized form “de Gelder” nor the local one “van Gelder” are rare in Flanders, as witnessed, for instance, by the Seventeenth-century painters Jan van Gelder, native of Antwerp, or Aert van Gelder. Also stylistically – observe the sharp and contorted folds of the draperies, the surprisingly painstaking rendering of the details, the pointed tops of the mountains in the background – the most fitting comparisons can be found in the Flemish milieu of the early Sixteenth century, especially that of Antwerp. However, as Nesi correctly points out, it is possible to perceive, in this Nordic substratum, a strong influence of the Italian Renaissance, and in particular – something especially the Virgin’s face seems to suggest – of a Leonardesque matrix. Precisely this characteristic places the work by our unknown artist principally within the context of the Flemish painters bewitched by Italian art, as for instance Joos van Cleve and the son figlio Cornelis, or Jan van Scorel.