Masters of Mobility


12.1 Gillis van Coninxloo and Frankenthal

The landscape painter Gillis van Coninxloo II (1544–1606/07)1 is known for dark, wooded landscapes such as his Forest landscape with a resting hunter from the Princely Collections of Liechtenstein [1]. For a late 16th-century landscape, it shows remarkably little of a clear blue sky. At eye level, we only see trees with thorny branches and twisted tree-trunks. This was Van Coninxloo’s specialty: the majority of his oeuvre consists of gloomy wooded landscapes in which you can almost smell the dampness of the moss. However, to speak of a ‘majority’ is rather difficult as we only know of five signed or monogrammed paintings to date [1-5],2 while many attributions remain uncertain.3

Surprisingly, all the dated paintings go back to the last eleven years of his life when he lived in Amsterdam, where he arrived in 1595 and remained for the rest of his life. In this prosperous city, he must have experienced some success as an artist as he had a large workshop4 with many students, such as David Vinckboons I (1576-1631/1633) and Hercules Segers (1589/90-1633/40).5 He also put together a large art collection that primarily consisted of work from Antwerp landscape painters.6

Although all his dated works originate from his years in Amsterdam, Gillis van Coninxloo II is, however, more often associated with the small city of Frankenthal in the Pfalz region near the Rhine. He arrived there in 1587 as a refugee, having fled from Antwerp in 1585 because of his Calvinist beliefs.7 At the time Frankenthal was prominently inhabited by reformed refugees from the Netherlands who formed a productive community, especially in artistic disciplines such as tapestry, goldsmith wares and painting.8

Gillis van Coninxloo (II)
Forest landscape with a resting hunter, dated 1598
Vienna, private collection Liechtenstein - The Princely Collections, inv./ G 751

Gillis van Coninxloo (II) and Karel van Mander (I) and possibly Anonymous
Landscape with the judgement of Midas (Ovid, Metamorphoses XI, 174), dated 1598
panel, oil paint 119,5 x 203 cm
Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, inv./ 857

Gillis van Coninxloo (II)
Wooded landscape with a deerhunt, dated 1600
Graz, Alte Galerie des Steiermärkischen Landesmuseum Joanneum, inv./ 74

Gillis van Coninxloo (II)
Wooded landscape with a broken tree-trunk on the foreground, dated 1604
Vienna, private collection Liechtenstein - The Princely Collections, inv./ 753

Gillis van Coninxloo (II)
Wooded landscape with heron hunters, dated 1605
Private collection

Other painters who lived in Frankenthal, such as Pieter Schoubroeck (c. 1570-1607) and Anton Mirou (1578-1621), show a strong influence of Gillis van Coninxloo in their work, to the extent that the existence of a Frankenthaler Malerschule was once suggested by Eduard Plietzsch in 1910, who regarded Van Coninxloo as the leading figure in this school.9 However, more recent studies reject the existence of a painters’ school in Frankenthal and contest the position of Van Coninxloo as a central figure. In the early 20th century he was also regarded as the pioneer of the groundbreaking forest landscape, yet this was contested by Teréz Gerszi as Pieter Bruegel I (1526/30–1569) was already drawing such forests in the 1550s.10 Nevertheless, the influence Gillis van Coninxloo seemingly had on his circle, makes it clear that much more critical to learn more about his activity there, as his artistic work must have had a significant role there. Unfortunately, we are unable to trace any drawings or paintings to his Frankenthal years. The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium holds a rather sketchy, interesting drawing in its collection which is signed and dated CLooy 1590 [6]. As there is no other similar monogram known by Gillis van Coninxloo it is hard to verify whether this signature is authentic.11 For a long time the Landscape with the Judgement of Midas of the Alte Gemäldegalerie in Dresden [2] was considered his only work from his Frankenthal years as the date read 1588. Recent restoration, however, uncovered that the date actually reads 1598. 12

Still, even though we cannot identify any works from his Frankenthal period so far, it is certain that Van Coninxloo produced artwork during these years for two reasons. Firstly, archival documents prove he did. Several ‘landschaften Königsloth’ were described in the 1588 inventory of the Antwerp book and art dealer Cornelis Caymox I (c. 1540–1588/90) who traded at the art market of Frankfurt and Leipzig.13 Additionally, the jeweler, Antoni Mertens, who also came from Antwerp, stated that he indeed had received two paintings by Gillis van Coninxloo in 1589.14 Similarly, the spice merchant, Adriaen Verstraten, bought several of his paintings in Frankenthal.15

Gillis van Coninxloo (II) or after Gillis van Coninxloo (II)
Wooded landscape with a vista, 1590?
Brussels, Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten van België, inv./ 4060/924


1 For more information on Gillis van Coninxloo’s biography: Wellensiek 1954; Briels 1976, p. 220-254; Miedema 1994-1999, vol. 5, p. 74-85 (based on Van Mander 1604, fol. 267v-268r); K. Ertz in Saur 1992-, vol. 20 (1998), p. 522-526; Taylor 2000, p. 131-138; Miedema 2014.

2 The signature of RKDimages 261600 was probably added later (Boutsen 2017, p. 63-67. Monogrammed, but undated works are: Landscape with Venus and Adonis, undated, The Cleveland Museum of Art, inv. 62293 (RKDimages 261813); Forest landscape, Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, inv. 6504 (RKDimages 262015), which has a pendant, Forest landscape with a castle, Milotice, Schloss Milotice, inv. M-01853 (RKDimages 289232). There are records of monogrammed paintings on the art market, such as a landscape which was sold in 1995 by art dealer Kurt J. Müllenmeister in Solingen (RKDimages 262127) or a landscape dated 1588 auctioned at Christie’s Monaco on 7 December 1987, no. 12 (RKDimages 262131). However, the authenticity of the monograms remains impossible to determine as the whereabouts of the paintings are unknown. Apart from these signed or monogrammed paintings, one panoramic landscape served as a design for a print of Nicolaes de Bruyn (1571-1656) which adds a new certain attribution to his small oeuvre (RKDimages 31720).

3 There are several other attributed artworks which exhibit the style of Gillis van Coninxloo. However, as a reference I will only limit myself to mentions of Gillis van Coninxloo’s ascertained works.

4 The equipment listed in the inventory of his estate, for example seven easels, indicate that he had a well-equipped workshop in which many people could have worked (Briels 1976A, p. 231-235).

5 It is certain that Hercules Segers was an apprentice of Gillis van Coninxloo. His father, Pieter Segers, was still in debt for his son’s teaching when Coninxloo died: “Noch is Pieter Seghers schuldich ter zaecke van sijn soons leeren 16-9-0 (transcription from Briels 1976A, p. 234). This Pieter Segers must have been a close friend of Gillis van Coninxloo: he signed Van Coninxloo’s will as official witness (Amsterdam, Stadsarchief, Notariële akten, notaris L. Heylinc, dl. 57, fol. 322r-323r, 327r-v, Briels 1976A, p. 230-231).

6 A complete transcription of the inventory with the records of the auctioning, including the buyers names, can be found in De Roever 1885 and Briels 1976A, p. 230-244.

7 See Boutsen 2017, p. 68, note 5. It is believed that Gillis van Coninxloo spent the two years in between in Zeeland, but this cannot be verified due to a lack of historical sources.

8 See Hürkey/Bürgy-de Ruijter 1995; Hürkey 2006.

9 Plietzsch 1910.

10 Gerzi 1976; Ertz in Saur 1992-, vol. 20 (1998), p. 522-523. Also within the art of tapestry, the genre of the forest landscape was already common in the 1550s.

11 On the verso the inscription is written: aen antonis Moroo om voorst by bestelen (?) aen geeraelt de bueck. The mention of Anton Mirou locates the drawing in the surroundings of Gillis van Coninxloo. The mentioned Geeraelt the Bueck could be the tapestry weaver Gerard de Buck who made cushion decorations for the government of Amsterdam in 1591 and 1595 or his namesake, the painter Gerrit de Buck who was born in Amsterdam and lived by 1620 in Alkmaar (Bruinvis 1915, p. 64; Saur 1992-, vol. 14, p. 694).

12 Schölzel 2016, p. 72-77.

13 For the occasion of this symposium Berit Wagner has addressed this significant inventory. A transcription can be found in Kirchhoff 1889, p. 178-200. The inventory mentions the following artworks of Gillis van Coninxloo: ‘3 Landschafften Königsloth; 4 Landschafften Königsloth; Landschafften Königsloth; 2 von Köningsloth Jungen; 4 stüd von dem Königsloth; Stüd labora et Paressa Königsloth’.

14 'Ich Antoni Mertens, coopan juwelier, woonedne in deser stad Franckfort, bekenne bij desen wel en deuchdelijck afgecocht te hebben van Gillis van Coninxloo, schilder, nu ter tyt in Franckendaell residerende, twee doecken schilderije in olie gewrocht my gelevert tot myn contentemente, ende dat voor die somme van vijfftich florenen tot vyffthien batsen den gulden gerekendt…'. Frankenthal, Stadarchiv, Weeskamer, Lade 102 (transcription Wellensiek 1954, p. 301).

15 Wellensiek 1954, p. 301.

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