Ambrosius Benson (Attr.), Impressive altar triptych representing the Golgotha and the portraits of the donors, oil on panel, Bruges, ca 1549-1550.

Attributed to Ambrosius Benson, School of Bruges, ca 1549-1550

Biography Ambrosius Benson (1500-1550):

Lombardy (regio)
probably was an apprentice in Lombardy (Milan?) before he came to Bruges as a journeyman
Brugge 1519 - 1532
became a master in the guild in 1519; c. 1520, Benson was engaged in an acrimonious lawsuit with his former teacher Gerard David: from the transcripts, it appears that Benson worked several years with David before 1519 (Van Miegroet 1989, p. 27-29). Held several positions in the guild between 1521 and 1541.
He left for Madrid and stayed there from 1532 until 1536
Returned to Bruges in 1536, where he died in 1550.


Open triptych arched in the upper part:
Central panel: crucifixion on the mountain of Golgotha with St. John, Mary Magdalene and the Holy Mary in a dramatic setting, lamenting the suffering of the Saviour. The dark sky that fills with stormy clouds and waning light heightens the emotional tension and drama of the last hour of Christ.

Left panel wing open: portrait of Jean de Cruyninghe (deceased in 1559) and Jacqueline de Bourgogne, his spouse (1523-1556). Represented in the devotional attitude, kneeling and praying.
Left panel wing closed: Bishop with mitre and staff, full-length grisaille painting.
Right panel wing open: portraits of Van Der Hulst's family members (Holland). Represented as well in a devotional manner, kneeling and praying.
Right panel wing closed: crowned female saint with crown and book (possibly Saint Theodora) in her hand, full-length grisaille painting.

Jacqueline de Bourgogne was the granddaughter of Antoine (Great Bastard of Burgundy and natural son of Philippe Le Bon, Duke of Burgundy) and the daughter of Adolf of Burgundy, knight of The Order of the Golden Fleece and admiral of the sea. She married on the 19th of November 1549 in a second marriage at the Castle of Zandenburgh, Jean de Cruyninghe, Viscount of Zeeland, and Seigneur of Beveren and Tournehem ( See 'Dr. G. Sirjean, Encyclopédie Généalogique des Maisons Souveraines du Monde, Branches Cadettes, X. Deuxième Maison de Bourgogne, Paris, 1965, p.129).

Provenance: Acquired by the present owners at 'Goyet Antquités, "La Maurelle", 5, Traverse Régny Marseille in September 1992 (see joined documents, photographs). Authentification report by Eric Turquin, 69, Rue Sainte Anne, Paris (see also joined documents, photographs), dated 17 September 1992.

Side panels closed: 122 x 88 cm frame included
Side panels open: 182 x 88 cm frame included
Central panel (Golgotha):102 x 70 cm
Left side wing panel: 29 x 106 cm
Right side wing panel: 29 x 106 cm

Style analysis:
The landscape painting in the background follows the style evolution of the mid-16th century. High horizon and sky mirror (1/5th of the height) and tricolour perspective (ochre, green and blue) are typical of the evolution of spatial perspective in the middle of the 16thC.
The central panel with the crucifixion seems to be of slightly earlier date and typical of Benson's style:
strong late Gothic influences and mobility and attitude of the figures who subscribe to the psychology of the devotional subject matter. Especially the figure of John the Evangelist in the typical crimson robe and intense facial expression can be found in other works by Ambrosius Benson (see: Netherlands Institute for Art History Den Haag; Images of the digital collection nrs 116344, 29923 and 62065) and the Crucifixion by Benson in the collection of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels (cat. 7796).

The donor portraits on both side wings of the triptych seem to have been painted in 1549 after the couple was newly married. The ultraviolet light study of the faces shows a lot of overpainting, which could mean that the portraits were altered after the death of Ambrosius Benson.

  • Condition: Condition report available by request.