FRANS FLORIS, Or more correctly Frans De Vriendt, called Floris (1520-1570), Flemish painter, was one of a large family trained to the study of art in Flanders. Son of a stonecutter, Cornelis de Vriendt, who died at Antwerp in 1538, he began life as a student of sculpture, but afterwards gave up carving for painting. At the age of twenty he went to Liege and took lessons from Lambert Lombard, a pupil of Mabuse, whose travels in Italy had transformed a style truly Flemish into that of a mongrel Leonardesque. Following in the footsteps of Mabuse, Lambert Lombard had visited Florence, and caught the manner of Salviati and other pupils of Michelangelo and Del Sarto. It was about the time when Schoreel, Coxcie and Heemskerk, after migrating to Rome and imitating the masterpieces of Raphael and Buonarroti, came home to execute DutchItalian works beneath the level of those produced in the peninsula itself by Leonardo da Pistoia, Nanaccio and Rinaldo of Mantua. Fired by these examples, Floris in his turn wandered across the Alps, and appropriated without assimilation the various mannerisms of the schools of Lombardy, Florence and Rome. Bold, quick and resolute, he saw how easy it would be to earn a livelihood and acquire a name by drawing for engravers and painting on a large scale after the fashion of Vasari. He came home, joined the gild of Antwerp in 1540, and quickly opened a school from which 1 20 disciples are stated to have issued. Floris painted strings of large pictures for the country houses of Spanish nobles and the villas of Antwerp patricians. He is known to have illustrated the fable of Hercules in ten compositions, and the liberal arts in seven, for Claes Jongeling, a merchant of Antwerp, and adorned the duke of Arschot's palace of Beaumont with fourteen colossal panels. Comparatively few of his works have descended to us, partly because they came to be contemned for their inherent defects, and so were suffered to perish, partly because they were soon judged by a different standard from that of the Flemings of the 16th century. The earliest extant canvas by Floris is the "Mars and Venus ensnared by Vulcan" in the Berlin Museum (1547), the latest a "Last Judgment" (1566) in the Brussels gallery. Neither these nor any of the intermediate works at Alost, Antwerp, Copenhagen, Dresden, Florence, Leau, Madrid, St Petersburg and Vienna display any charm of originality in composition or in form. Whatever boldness and force they may possess, or whatever principles they may embody, they are mere appropriations of Italian models spoiled in translation or adaptation. Their technical execution reveals a rapid hand, but none of the lustre of bright colouring; and Floris owed much of his repute to the cleverness with which his works were transferred to copper by Jerome Cock and Theodore de Galle. Whilst Floris was engaged on a Crucifixion of 27 ft., and a Resurrection of equal size, for the grand prior of Spain, he was seized with illness, and died on the 1st of October 1570 at Antwerp.
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