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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Gonzales Coques

Interior with Figures in a Picture Gallery,
ca. 1670,  Gonzales Coques
Photography from its birth around 1840 up to and including its various digital manifestations today has had a deeply profound effect on the painter's art. The first to suffer were the miniaturist painters, who's skill with a tiny brush and good eyesight, allowed people to carry with them portraits of their loved ones virtually everywhere they went (usually inside a locket or small case). Later painters began to use photographs as source material for their work as in the case of Edouard Manet (often none too skillfully). By around 1900 photography had assumed the burden of painted Realism in capturing nature and virtually ever kind of human activity. Expressionism, abstract or otherwise, was the direct result. Painters suffered again with the advent of color photography during the mid-20th-century, especially portrait artists. Digital photography and editing has made tremendous inroads into the creative efforts of artists worldwide, in the form of large scale, high-quality, reasonably priced printing. Add to that the profound changes in the ways artists market their work on the Internet. Moreover, just as photography wiped out the art of miniature painting, so too has it virtually eliminated yet another type of portraiture--painted group portraits.
Dinner of Artists, Gonzales Coques
One such artist who, if he were alive today, would have to find a new line of work was the Flemish painter Gonzales Coques (pronounced Cox). He, and most of his friends, as depicted in Dinner of Artists (above), all painted portraits. However, only the best were involved in the quite lucrative trade of rendering group portraits of social organizations, tradesmen, quasi-military groups (as in Rembrandt's Night Watch), and individual families (below). Coques' family portraits are never stereotypes although his clients may have been able to choose from models. This explains that identical poses which often appear in a series of diverse pictures. Yet, each background is different as seen in a family portrait composition A Family Group in a Landscape (below). The father decorously holds his wife’s hand while pointing to his sons returning from the hunt. The image conveys the privileged position of the family members since hunting was the exclusive privilege of the nobility. The well-tended garden is decorated with statuary and fountains and is a testimony to the sitters’ status and wealth. Although the family hierarchy is clearly staged, the setting remains informal due to the presence of children and pets. As was common practice at the time, the background in this painting may have been painted by another hand.
Notice that the tiny dogs frolicking in the foreground of the two lower paintings are identical.
A Sculptor, Gonzales Coques
Gonzales Coques was born in Antwerp sometime between 1614 and 1618. He was the son of Pieter Willemsen Cock and Anne Beys. Gonzales Coques was first registered in 1626 at the Antwerp Guild of Saint Luke as a pupil of Pieter Brueghel (the younger) or his son Pieter Brueghel III. David Rijckaert is named as his teacher under a portrait engraved by Joannes Meyssens, which was included in Meyssens' publication Image de divers hommes of 1649. Coques became a master in the Guild of Saint Luke in the Guild year 1641. He married Catharina Ryckaert in 1643. She was the daughter of David Rijckaert II, his presumed painting master. The prominent Antwerp painter David Ryckaert III was therefore his brother-in-law. It is inferred from stylistic analysis that Coques likely worked for Anthony van Dyck. Coques’ intimate knowledge of some of van Dyck’s later English compositions points to a possible stay of Coques in England during van Dyck’s final residence there.

Some records indicate that Coques' apprenticeship lasted as long as fifteen years (1626-41).
Gonzales Coques also worked in yet another painting genre which no longer exists--the art of 'gallery paintings'. The Gallery paintings are native to Antwerp where Frans Francken (the younger) and Jan Brueghel (the elder) were the first artists to create paintings of art and curiosity collections in the 1620s. Gallery paintings such as Coques' Interior with Figures in a Picture Gallery (top) from 1670, depict large rooms in which many paintings and other precious items are displayed in elegant surroundings. They my also have been used as a form of advertising by art dealers at the time. This was likely a collaboration with Dirck van Delen who painted the architectural setting. The painting may depict the Antwerp collector, Antoon van Leyden. Such work has been antiquated now for more than a hundred years, which again corresponds closely with the maturation of photography.

Coques produced at least three sets of this series. They may be found today in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp; in the Brukenthal National Museum in Sibiu, Romania; and the National Gallery in London.
Quite apart from his portraits, Gonzales Coques may be best remembered for a series of five painting depicting "The Five Senses" (above). The series was painted before 1661 when Sight was engraved. The sitters for the portraits were fellow Antwerp artists. The costumes suggest a date of about 1655-60. Each of the sitters is depicted engaging in an action which represents the particular sense after which the picture is named. For instance, in the portrait depicting Sight the painter, Robert van den Hoecke, is shown with a palette and brushes in one hand while he holds a completed landscape painting in the other hand. Very little is known about Coques’ workshop practices. The registers of the Guild of Saint Luke record two apprentices, Cornelis van den Bosch and Lenardus-Franciscus Verdussen, artists about whom nothing else is known. Gonzales Coques died in Antwerp in 1684. He was approximately seventy years old. 
A postage stamp commemorating
Gonzales Coques. If the image
is intended as a portrait, I could
find no reference to his ever
having played the violin.


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