Christ on the Cross appearing before St Begge

This magnificently executed drawing is a remarkable example of the graphic work of Joannes Claudius de Cock (Brussels, 1667 – Antwerp, 1735). It also teaches us more about the genesis of the altarpiece in the Church of the Beguinage in Lier and about competition between various painters to secure its commission.

In 1708, Maria Lans, Grand Mistress of the Beguinage of Lier, commissioned a painting for the high altar in the apse of the choir of the church at the Beguinage. Jean-Érasme Quellin was given the commission and delivered the monumental canvas around 1711, much to the chagrin of Joannes Claudius de Cock. The fact that this drawing - both the scene represented and its composition – so closely resembles the finished painting confirms that de Cock was also a candidate for the commission.

On the lower left of the drawing, de Cock affixed his complete signature: « Joan. Claudius de Cock Statuarius et pictor/invenit et delineavit A D(omin)us 1707 ». By proclaiming himself pictor (peintre), he hoped to increase his chances of being awarded the commission, as he was known above all for his talents in sculpting, drawing and engraving and much less as a painter.

This large drawing represents Begge (615–693), daughter of Pépin de Landen, Mayor of the Palace, wearing the nun’s habit of the beguinage. Surrounded by angels, she looks towards the crucified Christ. A cherub, visible in the foreground at the side of the Brabant coat of arms, has seized her ducal crown. In the background can be seen a majestic classical façade, probably a reference to the palace where she lived for many years as the Duchess of Brabant. In the lower left corner, a small chest has been upturned, spilling out a crown, coins, jewellery and other precious objects. This is de Cock’s reference to Begge’s willingness to renounce all material wealth but in particular also to her rank as a duchess.

The Léon Courtin-Marcelle Bouché Fund acquired this drawing before entrusting it to the Wuyts-Van Campe & Baron Caroly Museum in Lier. The museum’s collection has therefore been enriched by a presentation drawing which provides important documentation relating to the commission of the altarpiece in the Church of the Beguinage.

Material / technique: 
Pen, brown ink and lead pencil on paper, grey wash
65 x 41 cm
Type of acquisition: 
Acquired by the Léon Courtin-Marcelle Bouché Fund
Year of acquisition: 
Depository institution: 
Wuyts-Van Campe & Baron Caroly Museum, Lier