Jan Gossaert: Northern Light

Jan Gossaert made his name working for the Burgundian court and was among the first northern artists to visit Rome, writes Susan Foister, curator of 'Jan Gossaert's Renaissance', the only exhibition in more than 45 years of works by this archetypal ‘Old Master’.

In the cold Brussels winter of 1511 the 47-year-old Philip of Burgundy, illegitimate son of Duke Philip the Good, both churchman and admiral, built a snowman. No ordinary snow figure, it took the form of Hercules, a classical figure associated in particular with the ruling Burgundian dynasty, and it was admired for its excellent proportions. Philip was a cultivated man and is said to have had some training in both painting and the art of the goldsmith, yet it is likely that he was helped to design the muscular snowman by the artist whose interest in classical antiquity he had taken pains to encourage, Jan Gossaert (c. 1478-1532).

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