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Rijksmuseum acquires Jan Mostaert Landscape with an Episode from the Conquest of America

Rijksmuseum has acquired Jan Mostaert’s Landscape with an Episode from the Conquest of America (c. 1535), the earliest known panel with an imaginary depiction of the Spanish conquest of the American continent. What is striking is that the painting does not glorify the conquest, but highlights the European invaders’ brutal disruption of the ‘heavenly New World’. The painting is of major significance to Western art history and will be on display from 4 July on the Middle Ages & Renaissance floor of the Rijksmuseum.

Landscape with an Episode from the Conquest of America , Jan Mostaert, c. 1535
Landscape with an Episode from the Conquest of America , Jan Mostaert, c. 1535

Landscape with an Episode from the Conquest of America was acquired with support from the BankGiro Loterij, the Rembrandt Association and the National Art Collections Fund, the Mondriaan Fonds and the Nationaal Aankoopfonds of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the VSBfonds, the SNS REAAL Fonds and the family of Jacques Goudstikker (in his memory). The initial financial contribution of Vereniging Rembrandt has significantly contributed to the success of this purchase.

Painted almost 40 years after the discovery of ‘America’ (by Columbus in 1492), this work of art was one of the earliest attempts by an artist to give an impression of the new continent. One striking detail is that the procession of indigenous people is depicted completely naked. There is fairly conclusive evidence that the indigenous people did not live naked at all, but that Mostaert portrayed them as such to contrast the violent Spaniards and the peaceful, heavenly landscape with its ‘unadulterated’ inhabitants. The landscape was drawn entirely from the artist’s imagination, but to convey its exotic location, Mostaert added some local details (animals and birds).

Jan Jansz Mostaert (c. 1474-1552/53) is one of best known 16th-century painters from the northern Netherlands. He is primarily known for his portraits and religious paintings. This painting is a complete one-off in his oeuvre. It forms the basis for North Netherlandish landscape painting and, as such, is a milestone in art history. The panel is a special canonical work in Western art history. Other famous works by Mostaert are on display at the Royal Museum in Brussels, the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum in Madrid and the Metropolitan Museum in New York. www.rijksmuseum.nl