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Western art

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Portraits of Cornelius Duplicius de Scheppere and his wife Elizabeth Donche

circa 1540


Ambrosius Benson

Flanders, Belgium

late 15th century, before 1500 - pre 12 Jan 1550


Although born in Lombardy, the principal activity of this Netherlandish painter and portraitist was in Bruges, the northern city which supplied his audience and his livelihood. A prolific author of devotional panels in the tradition of Jan van Eyck, Gerard David and even Hugo van der Goes, Benson had a miniaturist's capability and love of detail. His religious images - by far the bulk of his output and frequently made for export to France and Italy - possess a note of introspection which carries over to his secular efforts. In the case of this flawlessly preserved pair of pendant portraits, the sitters seem as alert to their own interior imaginings as to any dialogue with each other or the external world. Small in scale, they were designed primarily for ease of storage, transport and display. Benson's typically warm palette is well demonstrated, especially in the clothing.

AGNSW Handbook, 1999.



circa 1540

Media category


Materials used

diptych: oil on panel


30.1 x 54.0 cm overall :

a - portrait of Cornelius Duplicius de Scheppere, 21.6 x 18.5 cm, sight

a - portrait of Cornelius Duplicius de Scheppere, 30.1 x 27 cm, panel

b - portait of Elizabeth Donche, 21.2 x 18.6 cm, sight

b - portait of Elizabeth Donche, 30.1 x 27 cm, panel

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Gift of James Fairfax AC 1994

Accession number


Artist information

Ambrosius Benson

Works in the collection


Shown in 5 exhibitions

Exhibition history


Baron Albert von Oppenheim, circa 1898-19 Mar 1918, Cologne/North Rhine-Westphalia/Germany, as Hans Holbein the younger

Rudolph Lepke's Kunst-Auctions-Haus, 19 Mar 1918, Berlin/Germany, Oppenheim sale, announced for 27 October 1914 but postponed until 19 March 1918, nos.1 and 2, reproduced in catalogue as 'Hans Holbein d.j. oder Ambrosius Benson'.

Koninklijke Kunstzaal Kleykamp, 10 Jun 1924, The Hague/Netherlands, anon. (Kirchner) sale, lot no.1 as by Benson

Ralph Harman Booth, 1929-1931, Detroit/Michigan/United States of America, by 1929, Exhibited in 'Flemish primitives' Kleinberger Galleries, New York 1929, nos. 63 and 64 - lent by Ralph H. Booth, Esq.

Mary Booth, 1931-1951, Detroit/Michigan/United States of America, Mrs Ralph Harman Booth

Booth Family Collection, 1951-1988, Detroit/Michigan/United States of America, by descent to a granddaughter of Ralph and Mary Booth by 1957, remaining in her collection until 1988 when Robert Holden Ltd, London was asked to sell the paintings.

Dover Street Gallery, London, 1988-Jul 1989, London/England, Purchased by David Fyfe-Jamieson, Dover Street Gallery, through Robert Holden Ltd, London 1988. Sold to James Fairfax, July 1989 through Consultart, A.G., Geneva

James Oswald Fairfax AC, Jul 1989-30 Jun 1994, Bowral/New South Wales/Australia, Gift of James Fairfax 1994. Purchased by James Fairfax 1989 through Consultart, A.G., Geneva.

Referenced in 20 publications


Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales Annual Report 1994, Sydney, 1994, 44.

Art Gallery of New South Wales, The James Fairfax collection of old masters, Sydney, 1992. no catalogue numbers

Jerzy Axer and Anna Skolimowska (Editors), Corpus Epistularum Ioannis Dantisci. Part II Amicorum Sermones Mutui. Volume 2 Ionnes Dantiscus' correspondence with Cornelis De Schepper, Warsaw, 2015, p 9, col illus p [3, after title page]. illustration of Cornelius Duplicius de Scheppere only.

Richard Beresford and Peter Raissis, The James Fairfax collection of old master paintings, drawings and prints, Sydney, 2003, 22-23 (colour illus.), 24 (colour illus.), 25-27, 27 (illus.). 4, fig.4.5

Cornelis Hofstede de Groot, Vente, collection importante, tableaux et sculptures des XVe, XVIe et XVIIE siècles, appartenant à un amateur, The Hague, 10 Jun 1924, 29, (illus.). 1

Pieter Donche, Historians of Netherlandish Art Newsletter, 'Search for lost portraits', Unknown, Nov 1997, 5 (illus.), 6 (illus.). figures 5, 6 and 7. Illustration on page 6 is of Elizabeth Donche

Dover Street Gallery, London, Dover Street Gallery catalogue, London, circa 1990, (colour illus.). illustration of both panels, no pagination

Angelica Dülberg, Privatporträts: Geschichte und Ikonologie einer Gattung im 15. und 16. Jahrhundert, Berlin, 1990, 183. nos.20 and 21, figs. 395-6

Max J. Friedlander, Early Netherlandish Painting, Volume XI, Leiden, 1974, 101 (illus.). no. 295, pl.182

Max J. Friedlander, Die altniederländische Malerei, Berlin, 1924-1937, vol.11, 1933: 147. no. 295

Max J. Friedlander, Jahrbuch der Königlich Preuszischen Kunstsammlungen [vol.XXXI], 'Ambrosius Benson als Bildnismaler', pg.139-48, Berlin, 1910, 144-7. figs. 6 and 7

John Oliver Hand, Catherine A. Metzger and Ron Spronk, Prayers and portraits: unfolding the Netherlandish diptych, 2006, 36, 37 (illus.), 38-39 (colour illus.).

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Western Collection: Paintings and Sculpture', pg. 17-77, Sydney, 1999, 20 (colour illus.).

Georges Marlier, Ambrosius Benson et la peinture à Bruges au temps de Charles-Quint, Belgium, 1957, 254-256, 319. pl. LXXIII, no. 141

Maximiliaan Martens (Art Editor), Bruges and the Renaissance: Memling to Pourbus, Belgium, 1998, vol.1, 144, note 4, 157 (illus.); vol.2, 95 (illus.). 64A-B

Emile Molinier, Collection du baron Albert Oppenheim, tableaux et objets d'art, Paris, 1904, 7-8 (illus.). nos.19 and 20, pls.16 and 17, as Hans Holbein the younger

Salomon Reinach, Répertoire de peintures du moyen âge et de la Renaissance (1280-1580), Paris, 1905-1923, vol. 5, 1922: 170 (illus.), 204 (illus.). nos.2 and 3

Rudolph Lepke's Kunst-Auctions-Haus, Collection Baron Albert Oppenheim Cöln, Berlin, 19 Mar 1918, 21 (illus.), 22 (illus.). nos.1 and 2, as 'Hans Holbein d.j. oder Ambrosius Benson'.

Louis Sicking, Neptune and the Netherlands, Leiden, 2004, (colour illus.). pl. 3, illustration of Cornelius Duplicius de Scheppere only

Harry G. Sperling, Catalogue of a loan exhibition of Flemish primitives in aid of the Free Milk Fund, New York, 1929, 188, 189 (illus.), 190, 191 (illus.). cat.nos. 63 and 64