Michiel Coxcie I - The Last Supper - image-1

Lot 2016 Dα

Michiel Coxcie I - The Last Supper

Auction 1231 - overview Cologne
18.11.2023, 11:00 - Old Masters and 19th Century, Part I
Estimate: 120.000 € - 140.000 €
Result: 201.600 € (incl. premium)

Michiel Coxcie I

The Last Supper

Oil on panel. 165.5 x 222.2 cm.
Signed and dated lower left on the chair: MICHIEL COXCIE ... FIAT 15(7?).

His contemporaries referred to Michiel Coxcie as the “Flemish Raphael,” which shows how highly they valued his talent. In fact, he was one of the most influential painters of the 16th century, carrying out numerous prestigious commissions for important clients. He spent ten years in Rome, where he studied classical antiquity and the art of the great masters of the Renaissance, Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. After returning to Flanders, he designed altarpieces, stained glass windows and tapestries for important clients in Brussels, Antwerp and Mechelen. The highlight of his career was his appointment as court painter to Emperor Charles V and King Philip II. This position, comparable to the status enjoyed by Peter Paul Rubens a hundred years later, brought Coxcie commissions from prominent personalities and institutions. His contemporaries were inspired by his Italianate style and his innovative compositions. Coxcie's influence continued in the centuries after his death. However, the artist only experienced his first major retrospective in 2014 in an exhibition at the M-Museum in Leuven ("Michiel Coxcie, De Vlaamse Rafael").
In his workshop, Coxcie created large-format religious panel paintings for churches and monasteries, many of which are still in their original destination or have since been moved to museums. It is therefore extraordinary that the present “Last Supper” can be offered at auction here. The work comes from the collection of Victor Schepper (Mechelen 1802-1877), canon and founder of the religious community of the "Broeders van Onze-Lieve-Vrouw van Barmhertigkeit" in Mechelen and has been in the possession of the religious community ever since. The possible patron of the painting is shown in the background on the far right. The family coat of arms above the sideboard is that of the Crabbé family. It could be Jean Crabbé, who was prior in Dordrecht, Leuven (1579-1589) and Brussels (1589-1593). In his detailed publication of the painting from 1959, Frans van Molle assumes that the Last Supper was painted for a refectory (F. Van Molle, in: Bulletin du Patrimoine Artistique: Une dernière cène inconnue de Michiel Coxcie, pp. 60-66, 1959). This is also supported by the landscape format, which suggests that the painting was not part of a triptych. In his report from 2018, Jan de Maere interpreted the indistinct date on the painting as 15(7)..., which suggests a date of creation in the 1570s.
Coxcie created a triptych with a central depiction of the Last Supper (279 x 250 cm) for the sacrament chapel of the Brussels Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula as early as 1567. This work is now housed in the Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels (fig. 1). Here, as in another triptych still kept in the cathedral today, Coxcie used a portrait format for the central panel with the Last Supper, as was commonly used for triptychs at the time. According to Jan de Maere, a stylistic comparison with other depictions of the Last Supper by the artist in Leuven, Antwerp and Mechelen leads to the conclusion that the work is “largely original”.
Coxcie presents The Last Supper in the classical interior of a magnificent hall decorated with marble columns. A window in the background offers a view of a square lined with Renaissance buildings. On a long, slightly slanted table, the twelve apostles sit symmetrically around the central figure of Christ. The choice of colour for the costumes, red, yellow, green and mauve, corresponds to Coxcie's style, which was influenced by Italian Renaissance painting. The quiet, composed scene is enlivened by the figure of Judas, who leaves the table under the gaze of Christ, and the figure of the apostle on the right with his back turned. Some pentimenti prove that Coxcie gave more space to the figure of Christ during the creative process in order to emphasize the gestures and expression of the main protagonist and thus his interaction with Judas. Coxcie presents the figure of Christ in a very similar manner in the earlier, Brussels Last Supper from 1567 mentioned above. Refreshing narrative elements that recur in Coxcie's work are the youthful cupbearer and the dog showing Judas its teeth.
In view of the large difference in colour between the present “Last Supper” and the two earlier triptychs from Brussels Cathedral, Jan de Maere suggests a date in the late 1570s. “At this moment Coxcie's colouring becomes more Venetian, favouring greys, purples and light tones, probably influenced by Tintoretto. The broader brushwork also corresponds to the Venetian habit. It creates a significantly coarser colour structure than in the artist’s earlier creative periods.”

The work was cleaned and restored by the Brussels Institut Irpa-Kik in 1954 to 1958. The painting would benefit greatly in appeal and colouration from a renewed professional restoration. The preparatory study is visible to the naked eye. Technical analysis (for example infra-red photography) could reveal the signature and enable better comparison with Coxcie's other depictions of the Last Supper.

Abb. 1 / Ill. 1:
Michiel Coxcie, Triptychon mit Szenen aus dem Leben Christi, zentrale Tafel: Das letzte Abendmahl / Triptych with scenes from the life of Christ, central panel: The Last Supper / Königliche Museen der schönen Künste von Belgien, Brüssel / Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels / Inv.-Nr. 42.
@Musée Royaux des Beaux Arts de Belgique, Bruxelles

Lempertz will be donating the commission for this work to the school in Gihosha, Bujumbura (Burundi), which was recently built by the Brotherhood De Broeders van Scheppers.


Dr. Jan de Maere, Rambrouch, 10th November 2018.


Collection of Victor Scheppers (Mechelen 1802-1877), canon and founder of the religious community "Broeders van Onze-Lieve-Vrouw van Barmhertigkeit" in Mechelen. - Since then in possession of the religious community De Broeders van Scheppers.


F. Van Molle, in: Bulletin du Patrimoine Artistique, 1959. Une dernière cène inconnue de Michiel Coxcie, p. 60-66, illus. p. 65. - Alain Jacobs: Les tableaux de Michiel Coxcie à la Cathédrale Saint Rombaut, in: Handelingen van de Koninklijke Kring voor Oudheidkunde, Letteren en Kunst van Mechelen, 26 vol., 2nd issue 1992: Michiel Coxcie pictor regis (1499-1592), p. 215-246, illus. p. 243.