Jan de Caumont
Louvain/Leuven, Belgium, 1618
Earliest known stained glass work of the artist
60,0 x 42,5 cm
Polychrome moulded and flashed glasses; black and brown vitreous paint; silver stain in a variety of hues; blue, red and green enamels; painted on the internal and external faces; exquisite fine paintwork on the clothing of the donors; nineteenth-century leading
M-Museum in Leuven, Belgium
This part panel shows two kneeling women, Margareta Vekemans and probably her daughter, in the sumptuous, contemporary clothing of the patrician class: The mother wears a woven cap with side flaps over her tightly combed-back grey hair; an opulently ruched ruff; earrings; an elegant necklace of golden links; a long dress of dark brocade with an ermine sash; lace cuffs; and a ring on the index finger of her left hand, which she has placed together with her right hand in prayer. Next to her, set back very slightly, kneels her daughter. She reads her book with downcast eyes. Her blond hair is combed back and disappears into a cap woven with gold that sits on the back of her head. Above the slashed upper part of her dress floats a wonderful, white, many-layered lace ruff that provides a majestic frame for her face, which is made up. Around her neck she wears a fine pearl necklace, and on the index finger of her left hand a ring.
Two crowned female saints stand behind the women as protectors, seemingly chosen as the patron saints for the two women, St Agnes of Rome and Elisabeth of Hungary (also known as Elisabeth of Thuringia). St Angnes wears a magnificent, slightly open-necked, blue-green dress with dark-violet sleeves, around which a mallow-coloured cloth is wrapped, with her left hand resting on the shoulder of her protégée, the right hand raised in greeting, looking out directly into the eyes of the beholder, as she were wanting to underline the significance of the person entrusted to her. Her attribute, a lamb, peeks through a gap between the two kneeling women. In contrast to the expressive depiction of St Agnes, St Elisabeth seems introverted, with her simple, grey habit, veiled head, and downcast gaze. Her attribute here consists of three crowns: one on her head and two on a book in her right hand; in her left hand she holds a golden crook. Her undyed grey habit is worn as a sign of the poverty to which she devoted herself freely and willingly after the death of her husband: from that point on she dedicated herself to the poor and the care of the sick. The three crowns are derived from Cäsarius von Heisterbach’s life of the saint (1237) and symbolize her status as virgin, then wife, then widow. The crook may be intended to distinguish the figure. She looks upon the kneeling daughter with lowered head.
Margareta Vekemans and Alexander van den Broeck are identified as a married couple in Antwerp.
In 1589 van den Broeck had bought the famous house De Groote Spiegel, one of the most splendorous residential buildings in the city, situated at the Groote Markt 9.
Prior to him the Flemish humanist Peter Gillis (1486-1533) and his family lived in that house. Gillis has been a close friend to Erasmus of Rotterdam (1486-1533) and Thomas Morus (1478-1535).
Furthermore Alexander van den Broeck was one of the sponsors of the Joyous Entry of Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand of Spain (1609-1641) into the City of Antwerp, in which Peter Paul Rubens was involved in 1635, so that both men might have been friends.
The donor Margareta Vekemans could be identified by means of a photograph from 1956. At that time the original inscription was still associated with the figure. The corresponding panel of her husband, Alexander van den Broeck, is in England at the Church of St Gwenllwyfo, Llanwenllwyfo (Anglesey, Wales).