Jan Gossaert's Renaissance

National Gallery

23 February – 30 May 2011

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Providing a bridge between the austerity of Jan van Eyck and the excess of Rubens, Jan Gossaert's innovative blend of techniques from Northern and Southern Europe place him among the most significant artists of his day.

Jan Gossaert, Hercules and Deianeira, 1517, at the National Gallery

Providing a bridge between the austerity of Jan van Eyck and the excess of Rubens, Jan Gossaert's innovative blend of techniques from Northern and Southern Europe place him among the most significant artists of his day. The first major exhibition of his work for over 45 years, Jan Gossaert's Renaissance features over 80 works by Gossaert himself, together with painting and sculpture from influential contemporaries such as Dürer and Lucas Van Leyden. It follows the artist from his origins in the Netherlands, through the stylistic influences of his time in Italy to their fruits on his return.In 1508, as part of a diplomatic mission, Gossaert travelled to Rome. Sketching not only the landscapes but the antique sculptures, he is credited with introducing these alien influences " mythic heroes and heroines, sensuous in their nakedness " to the North.This interest in the nude spans the breadth of Gossaert's career, taking a variety of forms. His earliest Adam and Eve, based on Durer's 1504 engraving, swathes the pair in prominent musculature and curving flesh. The result, though nominally modest, has a tender eroticism. Gossaert's mythical works " many commissioned by his patron, Philip of Burgundy " share this same sophisticated sensuality, notably his Hercules and Deianira, in which the couple's legs are coiled together with anticipatory urgency.

Don't miss

Acquired with the aid of an Art Fund grant, The Adoration of the Kings is a large work in the traditional 15th-century Flemish style, distinguished by intricacy of its visual detail. The painting's layered arches (through which the angels gather) create a sense of depth, framing the Virgin and Child in the centre. While the colours and technique may be traditional, Gossaert demonstrates a contemporary sensibility. The metalwork gifts presented to Christ are in the latest style, and the dog in the right foreground pays homage to Dürer's engraving of Saint Eustace.In A Young Princess, Gossaert places his subject (thought to be Princess Dorothea, eldest daughter of the deposed King Christian II of Denmark) in front of a trompe-l'oeil frame, creating the illusion of three-dimensional reality. The textures and colours of the portrait are naturalistic, but the pose is symbolic; the armillary sphere held by the Princess is upside down, thought to be a reference to the loss of her father's kingdom.Related storiesCurator Susan Foister's article about Gossaert in History TodayYouTube video by the Currier Museum about conservation discoveries and Gossaert

Venue information

Opening times

Daily, 10am – 6pm (Fri, 10am – 9pm)

Closed 24 – 26 Dec and 1 Jan

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