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Frans Hals Museum restorers at work on 'De heilige Lucas schildert de Madonna'.

Saint Luke painting the Virgin turns out to be two paintings

Tuesday 16 April 2024

The internationally renowned painting Saint Luke painting the Virgin by Maarten van Heemskerck turns out to have consisted of two paintings.

The iconic painting Saint Luke painting the Virgin (1532) by Maarten van Heemskerck (1498, Heemskerk – 1574, Haarlem) has been extensively examined and restored as part of the first retrospective exhibition (28 September 2024 – 19 January 2025). During the restoration, it turned out that the painting originally consisted of two parts. These were connected by a middle piece at the end of the 16th century after the Great Iconoclasm in the Low Countries. The background of the painting had been painted over in the 17th century. It’s technically complex to remove a 17th-century layer of paint from an underlying 16th-century layer. After extensive work, the resulting restoration is truly groundbreaking. Now the added layer of paint has been removed, the original colours are visible again. This adds more depth and spaciousness to the painting and makes it even more alluring. The restoration also gives insight into the artist’s studio practice and shows how innovative he was. The painting will be displayed for the first time in four centuries as two separate parts at the Maarten van Heemskerck exhibition, together with 132 other works of art, including 49 paintings by this enterprising artist.

Lidewij de Koekkoek, Director of the Frans Hals Museum: ‘These discoveries give us important new insights into Van Heemskerck’s work and studio practice. He’s rightly considered one of the most important 16th-century artists from the Northern Netherlands. Together with the Stedelijk Museum Alkmaar and Teylers Museum, we’re now showing the first ever retrospective exhibition of this artist’s work. And it’s high time!’

You can visit the retrospective exhibition of the works of Maarten van Heemskerck (1498, Heemskerk – 1574, Haarlem) at the Frans Hals Museum, Stedelijk Museum Alkmaar and Teylers Museum from 28 September 2024 – 19 January 2025. Each museum is showing works from a specific period in the life of this influential and successful 16th-century artist to celebrate the 450th anniversary of his death. These include works from the museums’ own collections as well as rarely loaned paintings, drawings and prints from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, The National Gallery, London, the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Warsaw National Museum and the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin. The exhibition underlines the high degree of innovation, expression and drama in the work of this Dutch Renaissance artist.

Maarten van Heemskerck, De heilige Lucas schildert de Madonna, ca. 1532, Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem.

Visit the Frans Hals Museum to see the early works of Van Heemskerck displayed alongside works by fellow artists such as Jan van Scorel and Jan Gossart. The Stedelijk Museum Alkmaar focuses on Van Heemskerck’s journey to Italy and shows how this experience resulted in works that were bold and spectacular for the time. Teylers Museum has more than 60 high-quality prints by Van Heemskerck that show the artist’s successful entrepreneurship: many hundreds of prints were widely distributed throughout the Netherlands.

Extensive research was carried out for the exhibition. Saint Luke painting the Virgin and a number of other works were recently restored. And a comprehensive publication of the life and works of the artist will be presented, written by Van Heemskerck expert Ilja Veldman. Recent research has brought to light new insights including attributions, portrait identifications and new information on Van Heemskerck’s network and working method.

The exhibition was partly funded by donations from the Turing Foundation and the Cultuurfonds, among other donors.


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