Cornelis Schut

A bozzetto for a Pièta with St John the Evangelist

Cornelis Schut was born in Antwerp in 1597. After training and working for a few years in the workshop op Peter Paul Rubens, he became a member of the guild of St Luke in 1618. Between 1624 and 1627 he lived in Rome, where he was one of the founding members of the Bentvueghels, a society of Flemish and Dutch artists who worked in Rome. His nickname or “bentnaam” was ‘Brootsaken’ (‘bread bags’). In 1627-1628 the artist was in Florence, where he designed tapestries for the Arrazeria Medicea, the tapestry factory founded by Cosimo I de Medici. In the early 1630’s he returned to Antwerp.

In 1635 Schut collaborated on the decorations for the Royal Entry of the Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand in Antwerp, a project that was overseen by his former master Rubens. That same year, he was also commissioned to work on preparations for the Joyous Entry in Ghent. Schut collaborated on many other projects, alongside artists such as Gaspar de Crayer and Theodoor Rombouts. He painted the figures in many of Jan van Kessel’s flower garlands. Schut was regularly commissioned for altarpieces in churches and monasteries across the Southern Netherlands, but also further afield, such as in Cologne. In the Antwerp cathedral of Our Lady he painted the ceiling decoration of the dome, which depicts the Assumption of Mary; for the Antwerp Jesuit church he painted one of the four alternating altarpieces, the Ascension of Mary.

Stylistically, Schut was influenced by his contemporary Abraham Janssens, as well as by several Italian painters, such as Guercino and Guido Reni. Although he certainly borrowed motifs and stylistic elements from his master Rubens, the latter’s stylistic influence on Schut varied throughout Schut’s career, being strongest when Schut was in Antwerp for a longer period of time. The present work certainly contains stylistic echoes of Rubens, who painted a number of Lamentations and Pièta’s. Schut painted this modello in preparation for a “Pièta with St John the Evangelist” commissioned by his sister-in-law Maria Geensins, who was the so-called “spiritual daughter” of a Jesuit priest. Geensins, who died in 1645, instructed in 1644 that the painting should be hung in Antwerp’s St James’ Church, where she wished to be buried. (The finished painting still hangs there today.) It was to be furnished with a fine frame, which Schut probably also designed (see illustration 2). The composition was later engraved by Franciscus van den Wijngaerde, one of the leading engravers and print-publishers in 17th-century Antwerp (see illustration 3).

The highly emotionally charged painting, with the dramatically lit foreshortened body of Christ, is a beautiful example of Schut’s mature style and of the counter-reformative art of the Flemish high baroque. As it can be linked to a final commissioned piece, it gives us a great insight in the working practice of the artist, as well as being a fine piece of art in its own right.


Artist: Cornelis Schut (Antwerp 1597 - 1655)
Medium: oil on oak panel
Dimensions: 36,5 x 29,5 cm