Jan Sanders van Hemessen was received in 1524 at the Guild of Saint Luke of Antwerp where he joined Quentin Massys. A friend of Erasmus, Massys had introduced the grotesque into his religious and secular scenes. Much ahead of its time, the Lender and his wife, painted in 1511 by Massys, shows two characters captured in a moment of their professional activity.
Van Hemessen's creativity is very innovative. He is the first to practice what was later called the Mannerist inversion, which consisted of relegating the religious scene to the background for devoting the foreground to a scene of daily life with the clothes of his time.
Often the religious action disappears, replaced by an accumulation of symbols that are no longer comprehensible to the observer of today but allows all fantasies, such as to apply to an angel the very colorful wings of a butterfly. By his frequent use of an instant narrative, van Hemessen is the founder of the Flemish genre painting and anticipates Bruegel's proverbs.
On May 1 in New York, Christie's sells a 111 x 128 cm oil on panel painted by van Hemessen in 1532, lot 7 estimated $ 4M.
This life-size half-length double portrait shows a man and a woman in a cozy interior. Richly dressed, they certainly belong to the Antwerp bourgeoisie. They are seated at a table centered by the board of a game which is a precursor to the backgammon.
These two characters discuss an element of the on-going game. The forefinger of the woman is pointing to two dice that have just revealed their number. They look at each other with a loving smile. Several elements, including the rings on the fingers and a quince freshly cut for sharing, evoke their marriage. Some other symbols are religious.
Please watch the video prepared by Christie's in which this painting is discussed by its consignor the minimalist artist Frank Stella.
SOLD for $ 10M including premium