Memling, Teniers, Brouwer
While overseeing the Belgian attaches in London, Nick muses:
On the whole, a march-past of Belgian troops summoned up the Middle Ages or the Renaissance, emaciated, Memling-like men-at-arms on their way to supervise the Crucifixion or some lesser martyrdom, while beside them tramped the clowns of Teniers or Brouwer, round rubicund countenances, haled away from carousing to be mustered in the ranks. These latter types were even more to be associated with the Netherlands contingent—obviously a hard and fast line was not to be drawn between these Low Country peoples—Colonel Van der Voort himself an almost perfect example. [MP 93/88]
Hans Memling (1430-1494) was a German-born Flemish painter, the disciple of Rogier van der Weyden and a master of Rogier’s jewel-like early Renaissance realism. Memling was much adored in both the Low Countries and Italy for his many portrait paintings and his religious scenes, though not battle scenes in which one might expect to find the types to which Nick alludes. But sure enough, men-at-arms populate the odd Memling martyrdom, such as this one of St. Ursula in the Memling Museum in Bruges.
Whether or not the reader will find the Memling men-at-arms to be “emaciated,” they will certainly seem so in comparison to “the clowns of Teniers or Brouwer.” The Teniers whom Nick mentions is undoubtedly David Teniers the Younger (1610-1690), one of four generations of Flemish painters and the most universally admired. His work included, though was not limited to, scenes of village life populated by the gentry and the carousing peasantry.
An influence on Teniers’ imagination is believed to be Adriaen Brouwer (1605-1638), a Flemish painter who not only took the carousing of the peasantry as a subject but also as a lifestyle, and is thought to have died of its excesses. Brouwer’s types are rather less affectionately portrayed than Teniers’, but in the works of both painters, their “round rubicund countenances” are easy to spot. Apparently, the Belgian troops under Nick’s gaze are no more refined of countenance than their Renaissance forebears.