A gracious fusion of classicism and baroque. Controlled emotion in the face, yet unmistakable mourning for a loved one. This large-scale bozzetto is all that remains of a funerary monument that was perhaps never even executed.
Michiel van der Voort the Elder was born in Antwerp in 1667. His father, Pieter, was a gilder. While he is believed to have been apprenticed to the further relatively unknown Jan Cosyns, he was later certainly a pupil of the Antwerp sculptor Peeter Scheemaekers. In 1689/90 he became a member of the Antwerp Guild of St Luke. Shortly thereafter, he left for the customary study trip to Italy. In Rome, he joined the society of the Bentvueghels, an association of Dutch and Flemish artists who worked and lived there. His 'bentnaam' (nickname) was 'Welgemaeckt' (well-made). By 1693 he had probably returned to Antwerp, as his first pupils were registered in the local guild by 1694/5. They include, amongst many others, the well-known sculptor Jan Baptist Xavery.
Van der Voort was able to secure many religious commissions including for funerary monuments, pulpits, confessionals and statutes of saints. He did a lot of work on Antwerp's St James Church, as well as on the interior of Antwerp's baroque St Carolus Borromeus Church, which was almost completely lost in a fire at the beginning of the eighteenth century. However, van der Voort also produced secular work, mostly allegorical and mythological works. He is also known to have made designs for silversmiths.
Van der Voort was a versatile and prolific sculptor who worked in many materials including marble, terracotta, wood and stucco. Stylistically, he fused elements of the exuberant late baroque with the search for simpler forms of classicism. Michelangelo, Duquesnoy as well as Rubens were hugely influential on his work, as were the examples of classical sculpture he had seen and studied in Rome.
The present work is a beautiful example of how van der Voort fused baroque and classicist elements in one harmonious whole. It is probably a modello or bozzetto - albeit a large-scale one - for a funerary monument. As the figure is clearly lamenting someone, it could be that it represents Mary Magdalena, although as there are no further attributes it could just as well be a non-identied mourner. It is not known whether the model was executed. A comparable, smaller work by van der Voort was recently offered at Tomasso Brothers Fine Art (TBFA, "Important European Terracottas", New York, 2018, cat. no. 12).