Photo: Universitaire Bibliotheken Leiden (CC-BY)


Jan Gossart, ca. 1500 — 1532
Print Room, University Library, Leiden

Jan Gossart was one of the most innovative and groundbreaking Netherlandish artists of the early sixteenth century. A particularly pivotal event in his life, resulting in this spectacular study of the Spinario and other antiquities, was his trip to Rome in 1508-09 as part of the entourage of Philip of Burgundy (1464-1524). Gossart’s four drawings after antique sculpture and architecture in Italy are the earliest by a Netherlandish artist to survive.

The Spinario, a Hellenistic bronze statue of a boy who appears to be removing a thorn from his foot, was already famous at the time. Gossart saw it in the Palazzo dei Conservatori on the Capitoline Hill, where it still stands today. The artist carefully rendered every detail of the boy’s appearance with his pen, but Gossart ventured beyond the act of mere copying. He breathed life into the sculpture by personalizing the boy’s face and enhancing his musculature, imbuing the static bronze with a sense of animation and sentience. In doing so, Gossart anticipated the Netherlandish practice of using antique statues as models for vivified figures in mythological or biblical narrative paintings.

Ilona van Tuinen, Curator of Drawings, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam