Quentin Matsys
Flemish painter (1466-1530)



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Quentin Matsys
Flemish painter (1466-1530)
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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Also known as Quintin, Metsys, Messys or Matsijs, but we'll stick with Quentin Matsys for now.

Matsys was born in Leuven, which is now a popular student city in the north of Belgium. Very little is known of his early life or training. At first researchers thought his dad taught him to paint, nowadays we believe he didn't have any training at all and was autodidactic. If we believe Johannes Molanus' Historiae Lovaniensium (book containing stories about the city of Leuven) Matsys was a humble iron smith for a while. Until he met a girl he tried to impress her, being a romantic, mysterious painter was the way to go. Flemish painter, art historian and theoretician Karel Mander begs to differ though. He says Matsys started decorating prints for the carnival celebrations because he was too sick to work in the smithy. I like Molanus’ story better.

Anyway, we do know Matsys painted for over 20 years. If he really was a self-taught painter, that’s pretty amazing. Some of his paintings have features recalling the famous Jan van Eyck. Scholars also thought his super famous painting of a monstrous women wearing a funny hat, was a lost painting by Leonardo da Vinci! All because of the striking resemblance to the caricature drawings of heads Leonardo used to make. Now we know it was Matsys who painted the lady. Both guys did exchange a lot of drawings throughout the years, so you could say the painting was kind of a joint effort.

Matsys was also a prominent member of the Antwerp school, a term for the artists active in Antwerp in both the 16th and 17th century. Other famous members were the Breughels (young Jan, old Jan and old Pieter) and Peter Paul Rubens. While these guys are well known as big influences to other painters, Matsys has some following too. German painter Wilhelm von Kaulbach wrote he felt inspired after reading Matsys’s life story. Especially the part where he gets married and becomes rich and happy. Wilhelm “saw the light” and decided to become a painter himself. Centuries later, nothing has changed in terms of many dudes trying really hard to be a flaky, mysterious artsy weirdo to get laid.




  1. Brown, Mark. "Solved: mystery of The Ugly Duchess - and the Da Vinci connection". The Guardian., 2008.
  2. Nicholson Wornum, Ralph, "The epochs of painting : a biographical and critical essay on painting and painters of all times and many places, (London: Chapman and Hall, 1864.)
  3. Molanus, Johnnes, "Historiae Lovaniensium", (1861)
  4. Kruseman & Tjeenk Willink, Wilhelm von Kaulbach, (1875)

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Quentin Matsys

Quentin Massys (Dutch: Quinten Matsijs) (1466–1530) was a Flemish painter in the Early Netherlandish tradition and a founder of the Antwerp school. He was born in Leuven. There is a tradition alleging that he was trained as an ironsmith before becoming a painter. Matsys was active in Antwerp for over 20 years, creating numerous works with religious roots and satirical tendencies.

Early life

Most early accounts of Massys' life are composed primarily of legend and very little contemporary accounts exist of the nature of his activities or character. According to J. Molanus' Historiae Lovaniensium Massys is known to be a native of Leuven with humble beginnings as an ironsmith. One of four children, Massys was born to Joost Matsys (d. 1483) and Catherine van Kincken sometime between 4 April and 10 September 1466. Legend states that Matsys abandoned his career as a blacksmith to woo his wife, who found painting to be a more romantic profession, though Karel van Mander claimed this to be false, and the real reason was a sickness during which he was too weak to work at the smithy and instead decorated prints for the carnival celebrations. Documented donations and possessions of Joost Matsys indicate that the family had a respectable income and that financial need was most likely not the reason Matsys turned to painting. During the period in which Matsys was active in Antwerp he took only four apprentices: Arian van Overbeke (master 1501, inscribed 1495), Willem Muelenbroec (inscribed 1501), Eduart Portugalois (master 1506, inscribed 1504), and Hennen Boeckmakere (inscribed 1510). It is widely believed that Joachim Patinir studied with Matsys at some point during his career and contributed to several of his landscapes. Lack of guild records during this time leaves Matsys' travels to Italy and other parts of the Low Countries as part of his training open to question. For the most part, foreign influences on Matsys are inferred from his paintings and are considered to be a large portion of the artist's training during the 16th century.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Quentin Matsys.