Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem

(Haarlem, 1562-1638)

The Resurrection of Christ

71 7/8 x 54 3/8 in. (49.8 x 34 cm.)
oil on panel, shaped top
signed in monogram and dated ‘CH.1632’ (lower centre)


Anonymous sale, (“The Property of a Gentleman”), Sotheby’s London, 1 November 1972, lot 172.

Private collection.

Sale, (“Property from a Belgian private collection”), Sotheby’s Amsterdam, 11 November 2008, lot 9, when acquired by the present owner.


P. J. J. van Thiel, Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem 1562-1638, Doornspijk 1999, p. 140, cat. no. 84, p. 324 (reproduced plate 334).

Catalogue Entry

Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem is considered as one of the major figures in Netherlandish Mannerism. Born in Haarlem in 1562 into a well-off Catholic family, he worked and lived in the city until his death in 1638. After his parents fled the city during the Spanish siege of 1573, van Haarlem was raised by the painter Pieter Pietersz (1540-1603), who became his first master. After travelling to Rouen and studying in Amsterdam with Gillis Coignet (1542-1599) between 1580 and 1581, the artist returned to his native town, becoming one of its leading painters. In Haarlem, he worked closely with Karel van Mander (1548-1606), who became his first biographer, and Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617) for over twenty years. In 1583, the three artists founded the Haarlem Academy – an informal academy believed to have fostered the practice of drawing from real models – and together developed a Northern Mannerist style, informed by both the art of Bartholomeus Spranger (1546-1611) and Italian Mannerism. Throughout his long and successful career, van Haarlem painted numerous mythological scenes, featuring nudes in twisted poses and intricate compositions, along with religious works, portraits and, more rarely, genre scenes. His about three-hundred attributed works are today in international private collections, and in those of some of the most important museums worldwide, including the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Musée du Louvre in Paris and the National Gallery in London.

Fig. 1. Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem, The Resurrection of Christ, 85 x 68.5 cm., 1598, Private collection, France.

Fig. 2. Hendrick Goltzius, The Resurrection, from The Passion of Christ series, 20 x 13.3 cm., 1598, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Fig. 3b. Hendrick Goltzius, The Resurrection, detail.

Fig. 3a. Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem, The Resurrection, detail.

The present work depicting Christ’s Resurrection attests van Haarlem’s activity as a painter of religious images during a time of revival of Catholic art in Haarlem. Christ figure dominates the central and upper sections of the panel, arising from a sealed, stone coffin on a luminous beam of clouds. His naked body is wrapped in a red mantle and his gaze lifts up towards heaven. He holds a white banner with a red cross – the symbol par excellence of his victory over death – in his left hand, while his other hand is captured while blessing. Disposed in a circular way around the tomb are six soldiers, reacting to the event in different ways. Three of them, gripped in fear, seem to run out of the panel, while the other two are about to defend themselves with lances. On the left, one soldier remains asleep, unaware of what is happening. Van Haarlem signed the work on Christ’s tomb with one of his distinctive monograms in block letters, ‘CH’, dating it to 1632.

Fig. 4. Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem, Christ Triumphant, oil on panel, 43 x 27.5 cm., Present whereabouts unknown.

The Resurrection can be closely compared to an earlier depiction of the same subject dating to 1598 (Private collection, France, Fig. 1), showing Christ in a very similar posture. A visual comparison between the two figures provides evidence for van Haarlem’s change of style, which occurred in the early 1600s. At that time, the artist progressively moved away from his Mannerist style towards a more classical, Italianate manner. Bravura and dynamism gave way to grace, harmony, and a pleasing colour palette. The slightly elongated figure of Christ in the 1598 Resurrection has turned in the present work into a classicising, more naturalistic body. In comparison to earlier paintings, Van Haarlem has here paid more attention to rendering natural flesh colours. In this regard, Karel Van Mander wrote that the artist had “begun more than ever to give consideration to the colouring of the flesh-parts in which he is now astonishingly transformed so that…a notably great difference is to be observed…when his present works are placed next to his earlier ones.” Van Haarlem developed such a new naturalism mostly by looking at Goltzius’ work, which had started to show the influence of Italian Renaissance painting after his sojourn in Italy from 1590 to 1591. From Goltzius, van Haarlem might also have derived the figure of the soldier with his back to the viewer, which seems to draw upon a similar soldier in Goltzius’ Resurrection (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Fig. 2, 3a and 3b), from his famous series of prints illustrating the Passion of Christ.


Fig. 6. Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem, The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian, oil on canvas,
138.5 x 96.5 cm., Private collection.

Fig. 5. Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem, The Baptism of Christ, oil on panel, 90 x 50 cm., Musée de la Chartreuse, Douai.

Van Haarlem’s late stylistic changes can also be discerned in works coeval to the present panel, such as his Christ Triumphant (Fig. 4), also dating to 1632. The two Christ figures do not only share stylistic features alike, but also a very similar disposition of their torsos, blessing arms, and mantle surrounding their bodies. The motif of Christ’s heaven-raised head appears in these two works, as it does in several other paintings by the artist, such as The Baptism of Christ (Musée de la Chartreuse, Douai, Fig. 5) and The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian (Private collection, Fig. 6), being a distinctively recurrent feature of his oeuvre (Fig. 7). Alike these three paintings, the present Resurrection reveals van Haarlem’s tendency, evolved over the last thirty years of his career, to create clear images dominated by the human figure. The intricate number of bodies characterising his earlier compositions has left space to few clearly recognisable figures. In the Resurrection, van Haarlem draws one’s attention to the heart of the matter by employing a restricted number of figures over a dark, monochromatic background, omitting any redundant accessory. Christ dominates the scene, his pierced feet still overlapping to evoke his death on the cross. The red of his mantle, along with his luminous body and halo stand out against the earthly colours dominating the panel. Such a straightforward depiction of the Resurrection would have particularly suited a private altar, of which the present work was likely the top part, encouraging viewers to devotedly meditate upon the sacred scene.


Fig. 7. Left: van Haarlem, The Resurrection, detail. Center: van Haarlem, The Baptism of Christ, detail.
Right: van Haarlem, The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian, detail.

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The painting is in good condition, and is flat and stable. It has an arched shaped top and is bevelled on the lower and left sides. No major damages or repairs are visible. A recent cleaning of the panel has revealed the figure of the soldier to Christ’s right, which had long been covered by dirt, and has returned the panel its original, luminous colours. Inspection under UV light has revealed spots of retouching in the lower centre left, in the figure lower right, around the flag upper right, in the right hand and face of Christ, in the figures on the right, and in the standing figure on the left.

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