Herri de Patinir, called Herri Met de Bles, is one of the most mysterious characters in the Flemish art. He is considered to be a kinsman, probably a nephew, of Joachim Patinir. Karel van Mander, author of the Book about Artists, published in 1604, wrote about him: “… his works… witness that he was a master of great patience, who used to spend much time and labor on his paintings, which were mostly of small size and had landscapes with tiny trees, rocks, towns, lots of little figures of people and various items. Bles was called ‘the painter of owls’, because on nearly all his pictures he put a small owl, which mostly was so well hidden that spectators often bade who would find it first and spent hours looking for an owl.” This description of van Mander is also interesting for us as it gives the characteristics of comprehension of paintings by the spectators of the 16th century.
Bles followed Leonardo da Vinci’s intructions on how to create depth in the landscape: objects in the distance disappear in a light mist, e.g. St. John on Patmos. Procession to Golgotha, one of the most tragical gospel episodes, is presented by Bles as a ceremonial and splendid procession of Adoration of the Magi. The picture is mystifying, it looks as if the evangelistic subject is used only for the sake of landscape.
Herri Met de Bles. Studies and Explorations of the World Landscape Tradition by J. Marrow, B. Rosasco, N. Muller. Brepols Publishers, 1998.