Jan van Scorel: Madonna with Wild Roses, c. 1530, Utrecht, Central Museum.
Despite the title the presence of Joseph and the Ass in the right background indicates a "Rest on the flight into Egypt."
Jan van Scorel, an artist born in the Netherlands around 1495, traveled to Venice to study around 1520, only ten years after the death of Giorgione. Scholars speculate that during his stay he became familiar with the work of Giorgione and Titian. He certainly would have seen the famous frescoes at the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, as well as Titian’s famous Assunta in he Frari.
In 1530 Marcantonio Michiel, a Venetian patrician, saw the painting that would become known as the “Tempest” in the home of Gabriel Vendramin. In his notes Michiel described the painting as the “little landscape on canvas, representing stormy weather and a gipsy woman with a soldier,” and said it was by Giorgio di Castelfranco. Coincidentally, right after the “Tempest” entry, Michiel noted a “picture representing Our Lady with St. Joseph in the desert,” and said it was by John Scorel of Holland. The painting would most likely be a version of the “Rest on the Flight into Egypt.”
One year later, Michiel noted another Scorel in the home of Giovanni Ram at S. Stefano. “The small picture representing the Flight into Egypt, is by John Scorel.” (121). Giovanni Ram’s collection also included two other small pictures representing the flight into Egypt by an unnamed Flemish painter. (122)* (Either one of these "Rests" might have looked like the Scorel on the left.)
[In my paper on the “Tempest” I have argued that it is also a version of the “Rest on the Flight into Egypt.”]
Northern painters of sacred subjects like Patenir, David, and Memling were very popular with Venetian collectors. The lesser-known Jan Scorel would appear to have been just as popular. In 1966 Max Friedlander wrote of the vagaries of Scorel’s fame:**
The opinions of the sixteenth century are unanimous on Jan van Scorel and proclaim his fame loudly and--the reasons for this fame….So unbounded is our admiration for Netherlandish painting that Scorel’s determined and conscious turning away from tradition seems at first sight to be a dangerous uprooting. In quite recent times, it is true, there is a dawning tendency to recognize the positive side of the Rome pilgrim’s achievement…
Scorel’s popularity probably stemmed from the influences that Giorgione and other Italian painters exerted on his work. Scorel illustrates the continued importance of sacred subjects like the “Rest on the Flight into Egypt” in Venice as well as the “naturalistic” treatments of Italian masters. Here is Friedlander’s account of Scorel’s artistic pilgrimage.
In that same year , the year of Raphael’s death, he probably crossed into Italy and stayed for some time at Venice. From there he made a journey to the Holy land, not merely as a pious pilgrim but also as a mentally alert traveler eager to see the places where Christ’s feet had trodden. This painter’s desire to interpret the biblical scene more ‘correctly’ than had been possible for his predecessors by expressing time and place of the action in the costume, landscape, and architecture could not, of course, lead to results that would satisfy our modern historical sense. Nevertheless,…he was able to offer his contemporaries plausible novelty. The town of Jerusalem, painted in the landscape backgrounds of his religious pictures after studies from nature, was viewed with awe and curiosity….
Scorel returned to Venice from the East, visited several other Italian towns and finally reached Rome…Short as his stay in Rome was, it made a decisive and lasting impression on his entire production.
Because of the Italian influence Scorel represents a break from Netherlandish tradition. In a way, his paintings should be regarded as a primary source for students of Giorgione. He was in Venice only ten years after Giorgione’s death. We know that he was a serious and attentive observer. Michiel’s sketchy notes were recorded two decades after Giorgione’s death. The young Vasari only visited Venice in 1541. Scorel left no written records but his paintings should provide students with visual clues to both the subject matter and manner of Giorgione. Max Friedlander noted that even though Scorel studied in Rome after his sojourn in Venice, the Venetian experience stayed with him.
As a result of his Dutch temperament when he tried to be a Roman he became a Venetian.
This finely dressed Mary Magdalene certainly looks Venetian.
*The Anonimo: Notes on Pictures and Works of Art in Italy, London, 1903.
**Max Friedlander, From Van Eyck to Bruegel, London, 1966, pp. 126-132.