Cornelis de Wael

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Cornelis de Wael
Anton van dyck-retrato doble de los hermanos lucas y cornelis wael.jpg
Portrait of the brothers Lucas and Cornelius de Wael by Anthony van Dyck.
Born Cornelis de Wael
Died 1667 (aged 74–75)
Nationality Flemish
Known for Painting, Engraving
Movement Baroque

Cornelis de Wael (1592 in Antwerp – 1667 in Rome) was a Flemish painter and engraver who was primarily active in Genoa in Italy and painted genre as well as history paintings.


Cornelis de Wael was born into an artistic family in Antwerp as the son of the painter Jan de Wael I (1558-1633). His mother Gertrude de Jode came from a family of artists: her father was the cartographer Gerard de Jode and her brother was the engraver Peter de Jode I.

He immigrated in 1619 to Italy, together with his brother Lucas de Wael (1591-1661), who was also a painter. The pair settled in Genoa, where Cornelis would reside for most of his life, whereas his brother Lucas returned to Antwerp in 1628.[1] [2] Genoa was at the time an attractive destination for artists since the competition between artists there was less intense than in the leading cultural centres Rome, Florence and Venice, while Genoa was a thriving port city where a large number of potential customers and collectors lived.[3]

The workshop of the brothers de Wael in Genoa became the centre of the colony of Flemish artists who resided in or passed through the city. These Flemish artists could take advantage of the work and artistic activity that their workshop attracted. The brothers provided a home, materials and tools, they assisted their compatriots with their local integration, passed on recommendations to clients and formulated competition rules. When Anthony van Dyck visited Genoa, he stayed with the brothers and Cornelis was one of his closest collaborators in the city.[4] Van Dyck painted a portrait of the brothers that was later engraved by Wenceslas Hollar. Cornelis was also involved in trading activities with his hometown dealing in a wide variety of goods. His brother Lucas returned to Antwerp and played a major role in these business activities.[2]

He also spent time in Rome where he came into contact with the members of the Bentvueghels, an association of mainly Dutch and Flemish artists working in Rome. In 1627 he became a member of the Accademia di San Luca, the prestigious association of artists in Rome which had very strict admission criteria. He settled permanently in Rome around the year 1656 to avoid an outbreak of the plague in Genoa.[2] Here he continued to paint and trade and from 1664 to 1666 he was prior of the congregation of San Giuliano dei Fiamminghi, which assisted Flemish residents of Rome.[5]

There was a great demand for the work of Cornelis de Wael and his patrons included the rich patricians of the Government of the Republic of Genoa as well as Philip III of Spain and Philippe-Charles, 3rd Count of Arenberg.[6]

Cornelis de Wael’s pupils included his cousin Jan Baptist de Wael (the son of Lucas), the Flemish painter Giovanni di Lamberto (also known as Jan Lambertsz Houwaert) and Antonio Rinaldi.[7]


Battle between Christians and Turks

De Wael was a versatile artist who produced etchings, paintings and drawings and may even have designed tapestries. De Wael worked in the most diverse genres.[6] His work can be divided along two main lines: the works in the so-called "grand manner", which were not shown to the general public and the works in the "small manner". The latter were of medium, small and very small size and were populated by a large number of figures and show the influence of the Flemish painting tradition and the genre paintings of the ‘Bamboccianti’. The Bamboccianti were a loose group of principally Dutch and Flemish genre painters residing in Rome who took the everyday life of the lower classes in Rome and its countryside as the preferred subject of their paintings. He also painted religious works, such as the series of paintings on the theme of the Seven works of mercy'.[8]

The early Dutch biographer Arnold Houbraken wrote that Cornelis de Wael was specialized in battle scenes. A number of these paintings depicting battles on land (such as the ‘’Siege of Ostend’’, in the Museo del Prado) and sea (such as the "Battle between Christians and Turks", in the Museo Poldi Pezzoli) have survived. He collaborated with van Dyck as well as with local artists such as the landscape painter Giovanni Battista Vicino for whom he or someone from his circle painted the staffage in his landscapes.[4][6]

In many of his battle scenes and harbour views his brother Lucas painted the landscapes while Cornelis in turn added the figures to Lucas' paintings.[9]

It is difficult to trace the evolution in his painting style since only one signed work of his has survived. On the other hand, a number of signed or inscribed drawings have been preserved.[6]


  1. ^ Kornelis de Waal biography in: Arnold Houbraken, De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen (1718) (Dutch)
  2. ^ a b c Lucas and Cornelis de Wael: Flemish artists and dealers in Antwerp, Genoa and Rome in the seventeenth century
  3. ^ Anversa & Genova: een hoogtepunt in de barokschilderkunst (Dutch)
  4. ^ a b Wael, Cornelis in: the Enciclopedia online of the Prado Museum (Spanish)
  5. ^ Pauline Rebel, De Vlaamse kunstenaar in het 17e -eeuwse Rome, Beschrijving van de economische, sociale en historische context, augustus 2010 (Dutch)
  6. ^ a b c d Jetty E. van der Sterre. "Cornelis de Wael Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 21 Feb. 2014
  7. ^ Biographical details at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (Dutch)
  8. ^ A. Stoesser-Johnston, 'Save my soul / save my image; The seven works of mercy by Cornelis de Wael', Desipientia 7 (2000), nr. 1, p. 47-56
  9. ^ Jetty E. van der Sterre. "Lucas de Wael. Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 26 May 2014

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