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  • CHRISTUS (CRISTUS), Petrus
    d.1472/3




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  • Petrus Christus (Cristus) was the major master in Bruges after the death of Jan van Eyck (1441). Christus was settled there in 1444, but he is sometimes said to have been Jan's pupil: two pictures - a St Jerome (1442: Detroit) and a Madonna (probaly finished 1443: New York, Frick Coll.) - have been claimed as works by Jan finished by Christus. His own dated works range from 1446 to 1452 (or 1457 - the date is not clear), the latter being a Madonna in Frankfurt (Stadel) which has some of the characteristics of a sacra conversazione in the manner of contemporary Italians such as Fra Angelico or Domenchino Veneziano. This is signed: there is also a portrait in Los Angeles which is very similar in style to Antonello da Messina, but it is not signed and may not be his. Certainly, however, Antonello was aware of contemporary Flemish painting, and these two pictures have been taken with a document in the Sforza archives in Milan, of March 1456, which refers to 'Antonellus siculianus' and 'Piero di Bruges' to endow Petrus with an Italian period and an influence on Antonello. However, the document does not specify them as painters (and may refer to soldiers), and 'Burges' may not mean 'Bruges' (the Italian for which is 'Bruggia'). It may be Burgus, or it has even been suggested that it refers to Pietro dal Borgo - i.e. Piero della Francesca. In any case, Antonello was certainly in Sicily in 1455 and 1457 and there is no evidence of Christus ever having left the Netherlands. His style is a simplification of Jan van Eyck's with very smooth, rounded forms, but he also painted two versions of the Lamentation (Brussels, New York, Met. Mus.) which both derive more or less from Roger van der Weyden's Escorial Deposition. The New York picture is simpler, and the two are put at opposite ends of Christus's career, early or late depending on individual choice of the moment of maximum Eyckian influence.

    There are other pictures by him in Berlin, Birmingham, Copenhagen Dessau, Kansas City, London (NG), Madrid (Prado) and Washington (NG).

  • Source: The Penguin Dictionary of Art and Artists (Penguin Reference Books)

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