NB CLOSING DATE IS PROVISIONAL
Information from the museum, 23 July 2009
The Picture Gallery of the Kunsthistorisches Museum is proud to host two masterpieces by the Haarlem Mannerist, Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem, on loan from the Rijksmuseum until summer 2012.
To welcome these two important visitors from Amsterdam, Room XV of the
Picture Gallery has been newly installed. The master’s Massacre of the Innocents (1590) and Bathsheba at her Bath (1594) are joined by paintings by Maerten van Heemskerck and Bartholomäus Spranger whose work greatly influenced Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem.
Its huge size alone (245 x 385 cm) makes the visit of the Massacre of the Innocents – rarely seen outside the Netherlands – a spectacular experience for our visitors.
Cornelis succeeded Heemskerck’s generation of painters in Haarlem. He received numerous official commissions, including the one for this painting, which was mentionned for the first time in the Honselaarsdijk inventory of 1755-58.
This biblical theme had never before been depicted in such a large size. With cruel brutality Herod’s soldiers conduct the systematic slaughter of Bethlehem’s infants, among whom they expect the baby Jesus, the new king of the Jews, to be. Overcome with grief, the mothers attack the soldiers. The naked figures are an indication of the practice at the Haarlem Academy of drawing from life. Typical of Cornelis is the so-called “bulbous style”, which accentuated the muscles.
Bathsheba at Her Bath is part of a series of pictures that Cornelis painted on a commission from the Haarlem City Council for Coenraed de Rechtere. Thematically these paintings are a reference to the latter’s position as a judge. King David saw the beautiful Bathsheba bathing and sent the husband of the woman he desired into battle to be killed to that he could have her for himself. The picture was later reduced in size; the tower of the king’s
palace can be seen but not the king himself. Stylistically Cornelis distances himself here from Spranger. The precious character of the depiction suggests the more delicate style of painting seen in Cornelis’s work from 1600 onwards.