17th century Flemish boxwood Corpus-Crucifix attributed to Mattheus van Beveren
Attributed to Matthieu van Beveren or his atelier
Antwerp, Belgium; ca. 1660’s
Boxwood (corpus); ebony wood and red tortoiseshell veneer (cross)
Approximate size: 21.75 (h) x 8.75 (w) in. (cross); 10.25 (h) x 5 (w) in. (corpus)
While no identified crucifixes by Matthieu van Beveren are absolutely confirmed, Christian Theuerkauff’s past scholarship on the subject of identifiable corpora by this master have narrowed the known examples to a mere handful of qualified works. The most notable of these is a large boxwood corpus preserved at the Vleehuis Museum in Antwerp datable to the 1670’s.
Matthieu’s production of crucifixes is cited in 18th century documents from two Flemish churches and in the testimony of Van den Sanden who proclaimed, “his beautiful images of Christ, whilst dying on the cross, are today still purchased for collector’s cabinets and the House of God.”
Various of the ivory and boxwood corpora associated with Matthieu appear to have been influenced by Peter Paul Rubens’ paintings and drawings of Christ’s Crucifixion and those sculpted by Jerome Duquesnoy. However, the youthful works of the master, executed during the 1660’s, emphasize the greater influence of Anthony van Dyck and it is during this period that our corpus may find its possible genesis. In particular, the figurative form of Christ echoes an oil painting of the Crucifixion attributed to van Dyck, ca. 1630-32, at the Courtauld Institute (inv. P.1947.LF.107). More notable, however, is its comparison with the figure of Christ in Matthieu’s 1668 Lamentation for the altar of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows in Dendermonde and especially the smaller scale domestic boxwood house altar figure group of the same subject at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (inv. 64.164.242) and its ivory corollary at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels (inv. 1764).
Comparisons may also be drawn between the face of Christ in Matthieu’s 1661 stone Ecce Homo for the Church of St. James in Antwerp and especially the downward gaze of his marbled painted wood figure of a veiled angel featured in the left niche along the Altar of Seven Sorrows, previously noted.
Particularly informing of an association and logical origin with Matthieu are the distinctive features that characterize our Christ. These include the perizonium which leaves the proper right hip of Christ exposed and the modest swath of linen providing privacy, a feature associated with all corpora securely attributed to Matthieu. Also noted is the undercut upper eyelids and furrowing brow line accentuated by a pursed indentation above the supraorbital ridge; the simple feature of three tear-like drops of blood emanating from Christ’s side-wound—commensurate on other of his smaller scale sculptures representing Christ; the cavernous and elongated concha of the ear; the elongated triceps which are pulled taught and create a cavernous shadow beneath the biceps; the exaggerated strain of the flexor carpi beneath the wrists; and the iliac circumflex veins running laterally along the lower abdomen as observed on his wooden Lamentation model at the MET and his stone figure of Neptune on the Memorial to Duke Lamoral II of Thurn and Taxis (Chapel of St. Ursula in the Church of Notre-Dame du Sablon in Brussels); the latter two works chiefly cited for any attributions of the corpora ascribed to Matthieu.
Although the present crucifix is managed with care and a superb attention to surface details there is yet a simplicity that could suggest the work could be related to a finer production of similar or larger scale. We may observe a similar association between the previously cited boxwood Lamentation preserved at the MET and the ivory Lamentation in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels or comparatively the stone monument for Jasper Boest in St. Jackbskerk in Antwerp and the reduced-scale ivory variant at the Beguine Convent in that same city.
The corpus is notably complimented by its original ebony guilloché ripple molded cross with inset red tortoiseshell veneer, indicative of the expensive tastes of the period. A similar configuration of ebony wood and red tortoiseshell veneer is found on the elaborate Coronation of James II Cabinet in the UK Royal Collection Trust executed by Matthieu and his workshop sometime between 1685-90 (inv. RCIN 21633).
Two larger and highly detailed ivory corpora compared against the Christ attributed to Matthieu at the Saint Carolus Borromeus church in Antwerp have commanded six-figure sums at auction: Lempertz, 15 July 2021, lot 87 and Sotheby’s, 9 July 2015, lot 172. The former is most probably a late mature work, large in-scale and highly accomplished, although in the present author’s opinion the latter corpus appears to have more in common with one preserved in the Monastery of St. Truiden, variably attributed to Gabriel Grupello or a later, quite talented, follower of Matthieu or member of his circle.
We believe the present corpus, small in-scale and in the modest medium of boxwood, is indicative of the early years of Matthieu and a precursor to the masterworks that entailed his demand for commissions and established his more recently heralded respect as one of the foremost Flemish sculptors of the late Baroque era.
Please note, this sculpture is stored in Europe and per CITES regulations, must be sold inside territories where antique tortoiseshell is permissible in commerce. However, the boxwood Christ and associated skull (representing Golgotha) can be removed and purchased independent of the cross. Please contact us to discuss.
Condition commensurate with age with minor wear and a loss to the index finger of Christ's proper left hand.
Christian Theuerkauff (1975): "Anmerkungen zum Werk des Antwerpener Bildhauers Matthieu van Beveren (um 1630-1690)" in Oud Holland, Vol. 89, no. 1, pp. 19-62.
C. Theuerkauff (1988): “Addenda to the Small-Scale Sculpture of Matthieu van Beveren of Antwerp” in Metropolitan Museum Journal, no. 23, pp. 125-47.