Pieter Scheemaeckers the Elder

A sheet with various designs for altars and tabernacles

Pieter Scheemaeckers was born in Antwerp in 1652. He was taught by the sculptor Peter Verbruggen the Elder and was recorded as an apprentice in the local guild of St Luke in 1661-62. He became a master of the guild in 1674/5; in 1699 he became dean of the guild. Pieter Scheemaeckers was active as a sculptor, who received a great number of commissions for church decorations in Antwerp as well as in the Duchy of Brabant. Pieter had two sons – Pieter II and Hendrik – who both went on to become sculptors themselves and were primarily active in England. Scheemaeckers trained a great many pupils, including Jacob Rottiers and the German-born architect and sculptor Jan Pieter van Baurscheit the Elder, to name but a few of them.

Scheemaeckers mainly sculpted church sculpture and monumental tombs, although he is also known to have produced small-scale works in wood and ivory. His virtuoso style is a beautiful example of the late Flemish baroque idiom, tending towards the early rococo in his later works. The artist could be highly imaginative, as he amply demonstrated in his many (funerary) monuments, including those in the Cathedral of Our Lady and the Church of St James in Antwerp.

The present work depicts various designs for altar and tabernacles, in varying detail: from quick preliminary sketches to much more finished designs. It truly shows the artist in the first steps of his creative process. Although it is not always easy to firmly attribute sheets like these, there are in this case very clear comparisons with other works by the artist, currently kept in the Prentenkabinet at the Museum Plantin Moretus, Antwerp. Based on the design of the altars, the sheet can stylistically be dated to the last quarter of the seventeenth century.

Artist: Pieter Scheemaeckers the Elder (Antwerp 1652 - 1714 Arendonk)
Medium: pen and brown ink, black chalk on laid paper
Dimensions: 290 x 280 mm