About Joachim Patinir [de Patiner]
Joachim Patinir, also called de Patiner (c. 1480 – October 5, 1524), was a Flemish Northern Renaissance history and landscape painter from the area of modern Wallonia. He was probably the uncle of Herri met de Bles, his follower in establishing a distinct style of panoramic northern Renaissance landscapes.
Originally from Dinant or Bouvignes in present-day Belgium, Patinir became registered as a member of Antwerp's painters’ guild Guild of Saint Luke in 1515, where he spent the rest of his life. He may have studied with Gerard David at Bruges, who had been registered as a guild member in the same year as Patinir. In 1511, Patinir is believed to have travelled to Genoa with David and Adrien Ysenbrandt.
In 1521, Patinir’s friend Albrecht Dürer attended his second wedding and painted his portrait. Dürer called Patinir "der gute Landschaftmaler" ("a good painter of landscapes"), thus creating a neologism translated later into the French. Patinir often let his landscapes dwarf his figures, which were often painted by other artists. Such specialisation was becoming common in Low Countries painting at the time. Many of his works are unusually large for Netherlandish panel paintings of the time, as are those of Hieronymus Bosch, another painter of large landscapes, from a generation earlier. Patenir's immense vistas combine observation of naturalistic detail with lyrical fantasy, the prime example of which is his The Flight into Egypt (Museum of Antwerp). The rocks in his landscapes are more spectacular versions of those around his native Dinant. The further landscape features are painted with a green and blue palette which expresses the dimming caused by distance. Other examples of his work include The Rest on the Flight into Egypt (Prado, who have four Patiners, including two signed ones), The Baptism of Christ (one of two in Vienna), St. John at Patmos (by or with his workshop, National Gallery, London), Landscape with the Shepherds (Antwerp), and the Rest on the Flight to Egypt (Minneapolis Institute of Arts). There is also a triptych attributed to him called The Penitence of St. Jerome.
There are only five paintings signed by Patinir, but many other works have been attributed to him or his workshop with varying degrees of probability. The ones that are signed read: (Opus) Joachim D. Patinier, the “D” in his signature signifying Dionantensis (“of Dinant”), which may attest to his provenance from this town. The exhibition at the Madrid Prado Museum contained 21 pictures listed as by Patiner or his workshop, and catalogued a further 8 which were not in the exhibition.
Patinir was a pioneer of landscape as an independent genre and he was the first Flemish painter to regard himself primarily as a landscape painter. Patinir was the friend of not only Dürer, but with Quentin Metsys as well, with whom he often collaborated. The Temptation of St Anthony (Prado) was done in collaboration with Metsys, who added the figures to Patiner's landscape. His career was nearly contemporary with that of the other major pioneer of paintings dominated by landscape, Albrecht Altdorfer, who worked in a very different style.
Patinir died in Antwerp in 1524, and Quentin Metsys became the guardian of his children.
Landscape with Charon Crossing the Styx
Joachim Patinir’s painting Landscape with Charon Crossing the Styx depicts the classical subject related by Virgil in his Aeneid (book 6, line 369) and Dante in the Inferno (book 3, line 78) at the centre of the picture within the Christian traditions of the Last Judgment and the Ars moriendi. The larger figure in the boat is Charon, who “ferries the souls of the dead to the gates of Hades” (Smith 320). The passenger in the boat, too minute to distinguish his expressions, is a human soul deciding between Heaven, to his right (the viewer's left), or Hell, to his left. The river Styx divides the painting down the centre. It is one of the four rivers of the underworld that passes through the deepest part of hell. On the painting's left side is the fountain of Paradise, the spring from which the river Lethe flows through Heaven: "the water of Lethe has the power to make one forget the past and to grant eternal youth” (Battistini 210). On the right side of the composition is Patinir's vision of Hell, drawing largely on Boschian influences. He adapts a description of Hades, in which, “according to the Greek writer Pausanias, one of the gates was located at the southern end of the Peloponnesus, in an inlet still visible on the Cape Matapan” (Battistini 213). In front of the gates is Cerberus, a three-headed dog, who guards the entrance of the gate and frightens all the potential souls who enter into Hades. The soul in the boat ultimately chooses his destiny by looking toward Hell and ignoring the angel on the river-bank in Paradise that beckons him to the more difficult path to Heaven (Devisscher).
Composition and Colour
Patinir utilises a Weltlandschaft ("world landscape") composition with a three-colour scheme typical of the Mannerist art—from brown in the foreground, to bluish-green, to pale blue in the background (Devisscher). This format, which Patiner is widely acknowledged as popularising, provides a bird's-eye view over an expansive landscape (Devisscher). Furthermore, the painting uses colour to visibly depict heaven and hell, good and evil. To the viewer's left is a heavenly place with bright blue skies, crystal blue rivers with a luminous fountain and angels accenting the grassy hills. On the far right of the painting is a dark sky engulfing Hell and the hanged figures on its gate. Fires blaze in the hills. The foreground of the painting consists of brown rocks in Heaven and brown burnt trees in Hell. In the middle-ground is the river and the grasslands in bright hues of blue and green. The background, which is cut off by the horizon line of the darker blue river, is a pale blue sky highlighted with white and gray clouds. “Patinir used a repoussoir device to suggest depth, such as distancing effect of certain objects, areas of ground or groups of rocks” (Devisscher). This compositional form is applied here by the crowded left and right sides bracketed by hills, which pushes the viewer's eye into the open space in the middle and reinforces that the men in the boat are the main focus of the painting.
Landscape with Charon Crossing Styx fits into common Northern Renaissance and early Mannerist trends of art. The 16th century witnessed a new era for painting in Germany and the Netherlands that combined influences from local traditions and foreign influences. Many artists, including Patinir, traveled to Italy to study and these travels to the south provided new ideas, particular concerning representations of the natural world. Patinir's religious subjects, therefore, incorporate precise observation and naturalism with fantastic landscapes inspired by the northern traditions of Bosch.
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