The Ugly Duchess of Mussys

The modern viewer first of all draws attention to the deformity of the old woman. The people of the turn of the 15th-16th centuries caused more headwear to have more fun: sewn around the fashion of the middle of the 15th century, he gave out a fashionista as its owner, who, despite her old age, still tried to look like a young girl. The same can be said about her neckline, frankly showing faded charms.

The ugly duchess. (

Masonys supports his sarcasm with the language of symbols: in the hand of the old woman there is a rosebud, the symbol of engagement, which indicates the status of the girl to the issue and the desire to attract the groom. However, this bud, alas, no longer bloom.
It is possible that the picture was half a diptych: the second part (right) depicted an old man in profile facing the old woman.
Caricature genre will become popular closer to the XVII century. On him, as well as on erotic engravings will specialize brothers Karrachi. For the time of Mussys, this type of portrait was a novelty and especially tickled the nerves of the audience.
The picture of Maysys cannot be considered a portrait in the classical sense. This is a kind of fantasy of the artist on the topic of how a woman of a certain temper of character might look.

Margaret, Countess of Tirol and Duchess of Bavaria. (

There is an assumption that the heroine's prototype was Countess Margaret, who in 1335-1365 ruled an independent Tyrolean county. Personal life - Margaret expelled her first spouse from Tyrol in order to marry the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire Ludwig of Bavaria - was accompanied by scandals. Margaret and her husband were excommunicated, and an interdict was imposed on Tyrol. With the strengthening of Austria and the complication of the situation, Margarita renounced power in 1365 and spent the last 4 years of her life at the Austrian court.
Already after the refusal of power, it was called Multash, which literally translates as "dumpling" and can serve as a hint of a repulsive appearance. On the other hand, this word can be translated as “prostitute”, “vicious woman”, which refers to her progressive views on marriage for the XIV century. The lifetime images of the countess, by which one could judge her appearance, have not survived. Some contemporaries described her as beautiful, others as ugly.
A number of researchers do not exclude the fact that Mussys portrayed a simple woman who suffered from Paget's disease (in this case, the bones are deformed — they increase in size, change in structure, lose strength and often break).
The fate of the artist
Information about Matsys preserved very little. The exact date of birth is unknown. It is unclear exactly, and from whom he studied. He was first mentioned as an artist in 1491, when he became a member of the Antwerp Artists Guild.

Portrait of an old man. (

Quentin Mussys was born in the family of a blacksmith and had to continue the work of his father. But one day, a saint figurine carved out of wood came to him. They, according to the custom of Antwerp, the monks handed out to patients on the eve of Great Lent. Måssysu was advised by friends to paint the figures and thereby bring recovery closer. In this simple lesson, the beginnings of Mussys' talent as a painter appeared. According to another legend, he fell in love with the artist's daughter and, in order to be closer to her, went to the disciples to her father. Be that as it may, Massys no longer returned to the smithy, but devoted himself to the cause of the artist. At the age of 25, he joined the Antwerp Artists Guild and opened a workshop where he worked until his death in 1530.

D. Rossi, Portrait of Quentin Mussys, 1752−64. (

Basically, which was typical of his time, Mussys wrote on religious subjects. Orders came to him from guilds, religious fraternities, monasteries. Formed in the traditions of Flemish painting, his style, of course, was influenced by the geniuses of the Renaissance.

Pilate shows Christ to the people. (
Portrait of a Woman, 1520. (

A special place in the heritage of Massys is occupied by portraits and genre scenes. And if the first he wrote mostly seriously, then secondly, his talent as a satirist and sometimes a cartoonist was manifested. Plots familiar to contemporaries of the artist caused a smile, but also taught, forced to think about the frailty and vanity of the earthly world.

Changed with my wife. (
Perfect lovers. (

Creativity Mussys significantly influenced the Dutch and German painting. A master of color, he was loved for his lyrical images, which, although they represented the saints, seemed earthly, intimate, understandable to people.

  1. N.Vasilyeva "History of world painting. Netherlands painting of the XVI century"
  2. N.V. Vasilenko "Northern Renaissance"
  3. Encyclopedia Britannica
  4. National Gallery of Art
  5. The national gallery

Watch the video: An Old Woman 'The Ugly Duchess' (November 2019).