Denis van Alsloot
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Daniel or Denis van Alsloot or Denys van Alsloot (Dutch: Denijs van Alsloot) (c.1570–c.1626) was a Flemish Baroque painter. Alsloot was born in Mechelen. He initially painted using the style of Gillis van Coninxloo, but after 1610 gradually developed a style of his own. This style can be seen in paintings such as The feast of the Ommegang (Museo del Prado, Madrid) and Procession to Mary at the Zavel in Brussels (Victoria and Albert Museum, London). At the turn of the 17th century his career took off when he was appointed court painter to Albert and Isabella, the governors of the Spanish Netherlands. He became a painter to the elite and served a clientele of princes, courtesans and influential state officials.
He was still alive in 1626 as is testified by a painting dated in that year. He must have died in or before 1628 as two works he had left as inheritance to a niece were bought in 1628 by the Archduchess Isabella.
Van Alsloot mainly painted landscapes and scenes of local festivals and ceremonies. His work can be regarded as transitory in the development of landscape art in the early 17th century. All his known dated works were made in Brussels between 1606 and 1626.
The style of his landscape paintings shows an affinity with the work of Gillis van Coninxloo. In comparison to van Coninxloo, van Alsloot’s work is calmer and more static, uses a softer palette and is more precise of touch and more realistic. As such his work appears a synthesis of the styles of van Coninxloo and Jan Breughel the Elder. Like later landscape painters in Brussels such as Lucas Achtschellinck, Lodewijk de Vadder and Jacques d’Arthois, van Alsloot drew inspiration from the Sonian Forest near Brussels.
He also produced a number of landscape drawings that were likely intended as independent works of art. An example is the Forest Landscape with a Distant Castle of 1608 in the J. Paul Getty Museum, which is a fully developed and refined composition of a forest landscape with a view on buildings in the distance. The scenes in his landscape art often depict an actual site with topographical correctness and precision. He was also commissioned by the court of Albert and Isabella to paint views of their estates at Mariemont and Tervuren and of the Abbey of Groenendael.
Forest Landscape with a Distant Castle
He often collaborated with Hendrick de Clerck who painted the staffage in his landscape works. These landscapes contained mythological or biblical figures and were typically signed by both painters. There exist landscapes by van Alsloot not co-signed by the two painters in which the staffage was likely also made by de Clerck. The figures painted by de Clerck were draped in vividly coloured clothing, which clashed with the brown-green tonality of the landscape painted by Alsloot.
He also received commissions to make paintings of local festivals and ceremonies. His most valuable commission by Archduchess Isabella, was a series of eight paintings commemorating the Ommegang procession held in Brussels on 31 May 1615 for which he received 10,000 guilders. He received the commission before September 1615. It is likely only six of the originally commissioned eight works were eventually executed. These were displayed in the palace of Tervuren, located in a village north-east of Brussels.
Of Alsloot's six paintings of the Ommegang, only four survive: two in the Prado Museum, Madrid and two in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. One of these was divided in half at an unknown date. An undivided replica of it made around 1635 is part of the collection of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels, while a copy of one of the paintings is held by the Prado Museum. Artistically the works are not very remarkable as they mainly served a documentary, rather than an artistic, purpose. The paintings offer historians an interesting insight into this type of festivity.
That year’s Ommegang procession was particularly festive since two weeks earlier, at the jay-shooting ceremony of the Crossbowmen’s guild, Isabella successfully shot the jay she had attached to the spire of the Church of Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon. She was then crowned Queen of the guild.
The Ommegang in Brussels
It is assumed that Isabella had a political motive in ordering the series of paintings of the Ommegang. As her husband was ailing and likely to die soon, she wanted to show the court in Spain that she was regarded by the inhabitants of the Spanish Netherlands as their 'natural princess' and should therefore by allowed to continue to rule the Spanish Netherlands after her husband’s death. For this reason, she sent some of the pictures of the Ommegang to the court in Spain. At the same time, the Brussels elites used the Ommegang for their own political purposes as it was a demonstration to the other sections of society in Brussels that they had the support of the Archduchess. The city of Brussels and the Church of Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon, the church around which the Ommegang revolved, ordered copies of the paintings.
Denis van Alsloot at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (Dutch)
The 17th century biographer Cornelis de Bie erroneously calls him 'Daniel van Alsloot' in: Cornelis De Bie, Het gulden Cabinet vande edel vry schilder const, inhoudende den lof vande vermarste schilders, architecte, beldthowers ende plaetsnyders van dese eeuw, Jan Meyssens, 1661 (Dutch)
Hans Devisscher. "Alsloot, Denijs van." Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 21 Sep. 2014
Denis van Alsloot - Forest Landscape with a Distant Castle in: George R. Goldner, Lee Hendrix, Kelly Pask, European Drawings 2: Catalogue of the Collections, Getty Publications, 8 October 1992
The Ommeganck in Brussels on 31 May 1615: The Senior Guilds at the Victoria and Albert Museum
Robert Stein, Judith Pollmann, Networks, Regions and Nations: Shaping Identities in the Low Countries, 1300-1650, BRILL, 2010, p. 145-146
Van Sprang, Sabine, Denijs Van Alsloot (Vers 1568? - 1625/26): Peintre Paysagiste Au Service De La Cour Des Archiducs Albert Et Isabelle, Brepols Publishers, 31 Oct, 2014
Schilderkunst van A tot Z. MPI Books, Amstelveen. 1997 (Dutch)
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