Signed and dated in brush [centre] H Bol/ 1573 and inscribed in the left corner H.A.S. Bol/ 1573, inscribed on the verso in pen and brown ink Hans Bohl and numbered 1936
Pen and brown ink and brown wash and two shades of grey wash heightened with white, incised for transfer on laid paper
273 x 198 mm. (10 x 7 in.)
Our drawing, plus the two side panel drawings in the Rhode Island School of Design2, Providence and The Frits Lugt Collection3, Paris, are for a painting in a private German Collection4 [see Figures 1]. The differences between the three drawings and the painting are quite marked. In our drawing of The Crucifixion the top of the composition is not rounded like an arch, as in the painted version in Germany. However the key elements are the same, the positioning of the three crosses, the two lances (though in the painting a third has been introduced), and the overall location of the figures. The location of the Three Maries at the foot of the Cross are similar, however the internal positioning of the figures is quite different. This is certainly to be expected, especially due to the fact that the picture in Germany has been dated by Franz to twenty years later, the year of Bols death, 1593. There are other changes between the drawing and the painting, for example the ladder in the drawing has been removed from the painting, and there are changes to the fighting figures in the background, and the townscape has been flattened in the painting, whilst in the drawing the town is on a hillside.5
The changes between our drawing of The Crucifixion and the painting are also repeated in the other drawings for this triptych. In the drawing of the Adoration of the Shepherds in the Frits Lugt Collection in Paris the changes between the drawing and the painting are significant. The whole composition in the painting has been spread out horizontally. This is not a surprise since the drawing only measures 98 mm in width. In an interesting note aside the two drawings in Paris and Providence measure 98 mm each in width, whilst our drawing is 198 mm in width. Therefore it seems likely to assume that all these three drawings came from the same batch of paper, and the Paris and Providence sheets were just cut in two. Moreover the height of all three drawings are exact, the Paris and Providence sheets are 273 mm in height, and our drawing is 273 mm in height. Back to the drawing in Providence and the painting in Germany, the wooden structure in the drawing has been removed and the whole expanded and extended. The figure group has also been expanded, however the key elements are the same and the shepherd on left of the drawing holding his hat is repeated in almost the same position in the painting.
In the drawing of The Resurrection in Providence and the painting in the German private collection the changes are similar to the ones we have seen between the Paris drawing and the painting in Germany. In regards to The Resurrection the composition in the painting have been expanded horizontally to include a larger rocky landscape and more soldiers. Again the key elements in the composition of the drawing have been kept. The sleeping guard on the lower left, the figure holding a lance, also on the left, and the risen Christ in the sky.
The composition of our drawing was one that Bol was keen on since we know of three other versions in gouache. One in the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence6, a second in the Szpmvszeti Museum, Budapest7, and the third in a private collection in England8. Emily Peters has recently pointed out that our drawing probably served as a preparatory drawing for the gouache in Providence. 9
Hans Bol, born of good descent, two paternal uncles being painters, was trained in the Malines tradition of water-verwers (water-painter) or doekschilders (canvas painters). These pictures, painted with watercolour or tempera on canvas, were used as wall decorations and formed a more affordable alternative to the very expensive tapestries.1 Little of this mass production remains. Despite his success in this typical Mechelen specialty, frustrated because his designs were widely copied and even sold under his name, Bol abandoned it and chose to work with very small sizes, more difficult to be copied by others, devoting himself to drawings minutely finished in colours on parchment. In addition to these miniature-like gouaches, Bol is known for his extensive graphic oeuvre of both uncoloured drawings and prints. His earliest known drawing, signed and dated 1557, is in the collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (inv. no. N 35). According to his compatriot, fellow artist and biographer Karel van Mander (Schilderboeck, 1604), Bol was apprenticed for two years to an ordinary local canvas painter when he was 14 years old.2 After that he travelled in Germany, first staying in Heidelberg for two years, eventually returning to his native city of Malines in 1560. There he was enrolled in the painters guild in 1560 or 1561. Bol settled in Antwerp in 1572 after Malines had been taken and plundered by Spanish troops trying to regain control in the low countries after the waves of revolt and iconoclasm. He joined the Antwerp guild of St Luke in 1574, together with his younger brother Jacob (or Jacques) and received citizenship a year later. When the city on the river Schelde also came under siege, surrendering the year after, he was one of the many artists from the Southern Netherlands who fled the Spanish oppression and sought their fortune in the free province of Holland. In 1584 Bol travelled to the North, following his brother Jacob, who went to Dordrecht in 1578. By way of Bergen op Zoom (where he had been before, around 1579-80), Dordrecht and Delft, he finally arrived in Amsterdam around 1588, and died there in 1593.
Bol became an important link between the Flemish landscape tradition and that of the Northern Netherlands. His drawings are a witness to the prominent role he played in the development of landscape art in the Netherlands. His landscapes are often populated by human figures, in scenes from the bible or from everyday life, often combined. Realistically observed details mingle with elements drawn from the imagination. In this approach to landscape Bol was influenced by the work of his contemporary Pieter Bruegel the Elder. With this great master he also shared his preference for depicting the seasons and the months of the year. Bruegel had revived this medieval tradition with his monumental series of the months, painted in 1565. In the following years he made designs for a series of prints of the Four Seasons. When Bruegel died 1569, only Spring and Summer had been completed. That Bol was approached by the famous print publisher Hieronymus Cock to make designs for Autumn and Winter, demonstrates the high esteem the artist already enjoyed by 1570. In effect, through this commission the young Bol became the old Bruegels successor. In the following years Bol designed several more series of the Four Seasons with the activities characteristic of each. None of these is as exhaustive as the series of the Twelve Months in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (inv. no. MB 2005/T 2), which was engraved by Adriaen Collaert to the order of the print publisher Hans van Luyck, and thus became widely known and exerted great influence on contemporary artists. In 1582 Hans Bol and his workshop illuminated the Book of Hours of the Duke of Alenon, who was proclaimed Duke of Brabant in that year.
Among his pupils recorded in 1572, 1575 and 1580 were his stepson Frans Boels and Jacques Savery (c. 1565-1603), the latter mentioned by Carel van Mander as his best pupil. Gillis van Coninxloo, Joris Hoefnagel and David Vinckboons are also considered to have been trained by him. Bol was portrayed by Hendrick Goltzius in his engraving of 1593, the year he died of the plague, just as Savery did.
1. Stefan Hautekeete, written communication 26 February 2014, gave a lecture in December 2013, at a conference ‘Bruegel. Coxcie. Two sides of the same coin’, entitled Italianate and vernacular trends in the work of Hans Bol, in which he discussed the sources of many motifs that occur in our drawing and the others that are connected to the painting. Brepols will publish the proceedings of this conference in their series ‘Museums at the crossroads’, at the end of the year.
2. K.G. Boon, op.cit., under no. 22, fig 39a.
3. K.G. Boon, op.cit., no.22.
4. Heinrich Gerhard Franz, Bietrge zum Werk des Hans Bol, Jahrbuch des Kunsthistorischen Institutes der Universitt Graz, 14, 1979, pp. 205-6, figs 10-12, on plates LXVIII and LXIX.
5. H.G.Franz, loc.cit.
6. Inv. no. 1983, La cronique des arts in Gazette des Beaux-Arts, vol. LXIII, no. 1141, February 1964, pp.50-1, fig. 175.
7. T.Gerzi, loc.cit.
8. Bob Haboldt, 1989, p.56, no.15
9. The RISD gouache measures 264 x 197 mm, see Figure 2 below
10. Albert Elen, http://goo.gl/U0s5oT on line biography 14 January 2016