Peeter Baltens, Pieter Baltens or Pieter Custodis (c. 1527 in Antwerp – 1584 in Antwerp), was a Flemish Renaissance painter, draughtsman and engraver of religious works, village scenes and landscapes who was closely associated with Pieter Bruegel the Elder. He has been named Pieter Balten by scholars, but that spelling of his name is a mistake based upon the ignorance about naming. His father was called Balten Custodis, hence Baltens (Baltenszone of son of Balten).
Details on his life are scarce. Baltens was born in Antwerp c. 1527 as the son of Balten Custodis (or Balten Janszoon de Costere). He became a member of the local Guild of Saint Luke in 1540 and became a master in 1550. The early 17th-century art historian Karel van Mander stated in his 1604 Schilder-boeck that Baltens became a member of the Guild of St. Luke in 1559 and was a follower of Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Van Mander further wrote that Baltens was a good poet and rederijker and collaborated from time to time with the painter Cornelis Ketel.
It is now known that Van Mander was wrong on the date on which Baltens joined the local Guild as well as on Baltens’ relationship with Pieter Bruegel the Elder which he qualified as that of a follower. In 1550-1551 Bruegel in fact worked as an assistant of Peeter Baltens. Baltens is known to have collaborated with Brueghel and may even have influenced him. Bruegels two sons, too young to have known their father, in fact where followers of Baltens, an acquaintance of their grandmother and widow of the painter/publisher Hieronymus Cock.
Baltens painted religious works, village scenes and landscapes. Not many of his works have been preserved. His most famous composition is the St Martin’s Day Kermis of which there are two versions (Rijksmuseum and Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp). This work was previously believed to have been a copy after a lost work by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, but it is now considered equally likely that it was Baltens’ own creation. Bruegel and Baltens further collaborated on an altarpiece for Mechelen. Pieter Brueghel the Younger copied a detail of his work Ecce homo as an independent work.
Van Mander praised Baltens as a landscape painter. Originally no known independent landscapes by Baltens were known until the attribution to him of six landscape drawings. He was further active as an engraver and publisher. His engravings are copies of his own work and that of other artists of his time such as Marten de Vos, Hans Vredeman de Vries and Ambrosius Francken I. He made a series of engravings of the counts and countesses of Flanders as well as popular subjects such as village scenes and allegories.
- Pieter Balten at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (Dutch)
- Jan Van der Stock. "Baltens, Peeter." Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 30 July 2014
- Pieter Balten in: Karel van Mander, Schilder-boeck, 1604 (Dutch)
- Dominicus Custos at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (Dutch)
- Media related to Pieter Balten at Wikimedia Commons
- Pieter Bruegel the Elder: Drawings and Prints, a full text exhibition catalog from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which includes material on Pieter Balten (see index)
- Pieter Balten on Artnet