Barthel Bruyn the Elder
Bartholomäus Bruyn (1493 – 1555), usually called Barthel Bruyn or
Barthel Bruyn the Elder, was a German Renaissance painter active in
Cologne. He painted altarpieces and portraits, and was Cologne's
foremost portrait painter in the sixteenth century.
He was born in Wesel or Cologne. His early works suggest that he
received his artistic training in the Lower Rhine. His earliest
documented altarpiece is a Coronation of the Virgin (1515–16)
commissioned by Dr. Peter von Clapis, a professor at the University
of Cologne. Bruyn’s altarpieces of the 1510s and 1520s are
influenced by the style of Jan Joest—to whom Bruyn was related—and
often emulate Joest’s habit of illuminating his figures from below.
By the time Bruyn painted the Essen altarpiece (1522–25) he had
combined Joest's influence with that of Joos van Cleve. In the
1530s, he developed a more Italianate style that reflects the
examples of Raphael and Michelangelo, which he probably knew only at
second hand through the engravings of Marcantonio Raimondi and as
filtered through the works of such artists as Jan van Scorel and
Martin van Heemskerck.
Bruyn is especially noted for his portraits. He was the first
important portrait painter in Cologne, and the founder of a prolific
school of portraiture that was continued by his sons Arnt and
Barthel Bruyn the Younger. Bruyn's depictions of the
upper-middle-class citizens of Cologne are "lively and expressive,
and they show no vain flattery". His subjects are usually portrayed
at half-length against a flat background; the face is the center of
attention, but costume details are crisply described, and prominence
is given to the hands. Bruyn did not sign his portraits, and some of
them have in the past been misattributed to Hans Holbein, whose
influence is apparent in Bruyn's works after 1539.
Barthel Bruyn was a respected citizen of Cologne and active
throughout his life in civic affairs. He was elected to the City
Council in 1549 and 1553, and died a wealthy man. His works are in
numerous public collections, including the National Gallery, London;
the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; and the Louvre in Paris.
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