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Memling, Bouts can be considered the most important successor to Rogier
van der Weyden.
and trained in Haarlem, Dieric Bouts the Elder (also: Dirk, Dierick) spent
most of his life in Leuven working for Flemish aristocrats. Little is known
about his training and work. Even if not actually a pupil of Rogier himself,
Bouts was profoundly affected by his work. He continued and developed Rogier’s
style to an almost radical degree: his preference of vertical compositions,
of types instead of individual, exquisite, thoroughly detailed garments,
which conceal the body, looks like a return to the Gothic. Whether Bouts
was the founder of this ‘gothic revival’, a characteristic of Netherlandish
Northern Renaissance, or whether the painter was simply part of the more
general trend sweeping over Europe after the middle of the century, is
hard to decide. Whatever the case, the stylistic features already described
intensified after The Last Supper Altar
in Leuven (1464-1467) to the Justice panels in Brussels (begun 1468). The
Last Supper from Sankt Peter in Leuven forms the central panel
of a winged altarpiece commissioned by the confraternity of the Holy Sacrament.
The painter was bound by contract to execute the work himself and thereby
to follow the directions of two professors of theology.
In 1468, Bouts was commissioned to paint 4 panels
for the courtroom of the city of Leuven. By the time he died, however,
he had only finished one painting: The Empress's
Ordeal by Fire in front of Emperor Otto III. (c.1470-1475).
The episode related in the panel concerns calumny. The Empress is denouncing
the innocent Count, whom she attempted to seduce, to Otto III. She is subjected
to an ordeal by fire, which proves to the Count’s innocence. The story
is derived from the Biblical tale of Potiphar’s wife, who tried to seduce
Joseph in Egypt and who leveled false accusations at him when he refused
her. Bouts may have taken his inspiration from Rogier van der Weyden, who
painted similar subjects for the Town Hall in Brussels in 1436; however,
these were destroyed in 1695.
In 1465, Bouts married Katharina van der Brugghen, the daughter of a respectable
Leuven family. He remained based in Leuven enjoying an excellent reputation
as a painter. He is last mentioned in records dated 17 April 1475.
It is frequently difficult to draw a clear line between his own work and
that of his workshop, including his son Dieric Bouts the Younger. It is
therefore impossible to make a fair assessment of his art.
Thierry Bouts. By V. Deni. Bruxelles. 1957.
Painting of Europe. XIII-XX centuries. Encyclopedic Dictionary.
Moscow. Iskusstvo. 1999.
Bouts (ca. 1410-1475). Een Vlaams primitief te Leuven. by Dieric Bouts.
Studies: Proceedings of the International Colloquium, Leuven, 26-28 November
1998 by Bert Cardon. Peeters Bvba, 2001.