Massys, Quentin

Massys, Matsys, Messys, or Metsys, Quentin

(kvĕn`tĭn mäsīs`, mätsīs`, mĕ–, mĕt–), c.1466–1530, Flemish painter. After studying in Louvain, he moved to Antwerp by 1491, remaining in that city throughout his life. Influences of Italian art, especially of Leonardo da Vinci, may be seen in his work, particularly in the delicate modeling, the subtle nuances of tone, and in the adoption of Leonardo's grotesque head studies for such pictures as The Old Man (Jacquemart-André Mus., Paris) and Ugly Duchess (National Gall., London). Massys sought inspiration also in works of earlier Flemish artists, especially of Jan van Eyck. The combined Flemish and Italian influences aided Massys in evolving a calm and measured style, with solid figures and soft textures. He developed a type of portraiture in which the sitter was placed against an appropriate background, as in his painting of St. Erasmus surrounded by books and papers (National Gall., Rome). There are religious subjects and portraits by Massys in the museums of Munich, Brussels, Antwerp, Chicago, and Philadelphia. Quentin's son, Jan Massys, c.1509–1575, painted satirical and later more elegant works under French influence. Judith (Mus. of Fine Arts, Boston) is characteristic. Another son, Cornelis Massys, d. after 1560, was a landscape painter and engraver. His Arrival in Bethlehem is in the Metropolitan Museum.


See M. J. Friedländer, From Van Eyck to Bruegel (2 vol., 3d ed. 1969).

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Massys, Quentin


(also Q. Metsys). Born 1465 or 1466, in Louvain (?); died 1530, in Antwerp. Flemish painter.

Massys became a member of the Antwerp painters’ guild in 1491. He was influenced by Rogier van der Weyden, D. Bouts, and A. Dürer. In his triptychs, which made him famous—including the St. Anne Altarpiece (1507-09), Museum of Ancient Art, Brussels) and the Lamentation of Christ (1508-11, Royal Museum of Fine Art, Antwerp)—stiff and somewhat two-dimensional composition is combined with lively characterizations of persons and bright color schemes. Some of Massys’ works, for example, Virgin and Child (National Museum, Poznan) and the extremely grotesque Portrait of an Elderly Man (1513, Jacquemart André Museum, Paris), reveal his familiarity with the work of Leonardo da Vinci. His liking for realism, which at times conflicted with Late Gothic tendencies, led Massys to paint genre pictures with an implied moral content, for example, The Money Changer and His Wife (1514, the Louvre, Paris). In a similar vein, he painted portraits, some of which, such as the paired portraits of Erasmus of Rotterdam (1617, National Gallery [Palazzo Corsini], Rome) and of Petrus Egidius (1517, Longford Castle, England), bear witness to the master’s spiritual affinity with humanist circles.


Boon, K. G. Quinten Massys. Amsterdam, 1957.
Friedlander, M. Early Netherlandish Painting, vol. 6 (Quinten Massys). Leiden-Brussels, 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.