Thursday, June 18, 2015

Anthonius Mor: 16th Century Portraits that Looked Like People

"Sir Anthonius Mor, also known as Anthonis Mor van Dashorst and Antonio Moro (c. 1517 - 1577) was a Netherlandish portrait painter, much in demand by the courts of Europe. He has also been referred to as Antoon, Anthonius, Anthonis or Mor van Dashorst, and as Antonio Moro, Anthony More, etc., but signed most of his portraits as Anthonis Mor" is how this Wikipedia entry begins.

As regular readers of this blog probably know by now, I seldom write about artists active before around 1850. That has to do with my interests, and I write about what interests me. Paintings done before the mid-19th century for the most part elicit a reaction of indifference. I don't hate them, but don't love them either. (Exceptions include Velazquez, Tiepolo, Hals, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Chardin and some others.)

Two reasons for this, among others, are (1) the settings are too "staged" or static or artificial for my taste, and (2) I don't love highly "finished" paintings. Plenty of exceptions here, but when both factors are present, I'll usually give the painting a once-over and move on. Which is why, when I'm in Paris next month, I might not get farther into the Louvre than its great book / gift store.

Portraits made before about 1700 usually strike me as offering a sense of what the sitter looked like, but seem contrived, somehow. Again there are exceptions. One such set of exceptions includes some portraits by Anthonius Mor, who I was unaware of until I saw a post on the Gandalf's Galley blog featuring his portrait of the Duchess of Parma. Mor's portraits include all the fancy costuming expected for important sitters. But it is the faces that strike me as being those of flesh-and-blood people -- not smoothly-painted diagrams of people's faces.


Duchess Margaret of Parma - 1562
Click on the image for a considerably enlarged version and examine Mor's treatment of her face.

Willem I van Nassau (William of Orange) - ca. 1554

Queen Mary Tudor of England - 1544
Painted before she gained the throne.

1 comment:

Hels said...

I have exactly the opposite issue - a lot of images painted before 1918 have monumentality and gravitas. Paintings done after WW1 finished might or might not be monumental, but I am always looking backwards for inspiration.

That a Dutch artist should be sent to England to paint Mary Tudor for a Spanish king suggests Mor was meeting Spanish courtly needs very nicely.