Johann Boeckhorst was the second oldest of twelve children; his family belonged to Münster’s highly respected citizens (Honoratioren). The spelling of his name varies from Boichorst and Bockhorst in Münster;...
Johann Boeckhorst was the second oldest of twelve children; his family belonged to Münster’s highly respected citizens (Honoratioren). The spelling of his name varies from Boichorst and Bockhorst in Münster; to Boeckhorst (used in two of his testaments), Bronckhorst or van Boeckhorst in the Netherlands. Among artists he was known as “Lange Jan” (‘tall John’ due to his height). He is thought to have arrived in Antwerp around 1626 to start his artistic studies. (Before that time, Boeckhorst was a canon in the Jesuit order.) Nothing much about his education and training is known until 1633-1634, when he joins the guild of St. Luke in Antwerp as ‘Jan Borckhorst’ and paid the same 26 guilders as Van Dyck for example. It is believed Boeckhorst worked closely with Anthony van Dyck at some point, presumably between 1627 and 1632, as the two collaborated on several works and Boeckhorst also made copies after van Dyck. The latter’s influence on Boeckhorst was in any case substantial, as can also be seen in our drawing (cfr. infra).
According to De Bie he was also apprenticed under Jacob Jordaens for some time (Het gulden Cabinet, 1661, p. 257). Rubens’s nephew Philip mentions Johannes Bronchorst among Rubens’s pupils, which is somewhat puzzling since Rubens was absent often from Antwerp for diplomatic reasons during the late 1620s. However, Boeckhorst collaborated on the decorations for the Joyous Entry of the new governor of the Habsburg Netherlands, the Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand, known also as the Pompa Introitus Ferdinandi (1635), a project which was overseen by Rubens, and apparently also on Rubens’ Torre de la Parada commission (1637-38). He therefore worked as a painter on his own rather than as an apprentice. For the Pompa Introitus he contributed architectural elements on the Arch of Isabella and the figures of Securitas and Salus publica with Gerard Seghers and Jan Borchgraef.
Since he also collaborated with other artists associated with Rubens such as Frans Snyders and Jan Wildens he must have been in close contact with the Rubens studio. Unfortunately, his first large commission of c. 1635-36 from Lodewijk de Roomer, a rich merchant, for 26 paintings to decorate the St. Joseph’s chapel in the Antwerp convent of St. Augustine, dedicated in 1637 but closed 1683 under Emperor Josef II, is lost. In 1637 Boeckhorst returned to Antwerp from a trip to Northern Italy, just in time to contribute to the Torre de la Parada commission. His painting, Hercules Fighting Cerberus, however is lost. During a second trip in 1639 he reached Rome where he may have joined the Bentveughels - the Roman association of Northern artists - and took the nickname ‘Doctor Faustus’. The date of Boeckhorst’s return to Antwerp is uncertain; it is known however that he finished several of Rubens’ ‘tronies’ after the latter’s death in 1640. After his return to the city, he received various commissions for altarpieces from religious institutions, including the Saint James Church in Bruges and several churches in Ghent. Boeckhorst died in 1668 in Antwerp, where he was buried in the local Saint James Church - the same church which already housed Rubens’ remains. His considerable art collection, which included several drawings by Rubens, was sold in a six-day sale which raised a hefty sum.
Boeckhorst was a versatile artist, producing portraits, history paintings with mythological and religious subjects as well as genre scenes and allegories. He also produced designs for at least one set of tapestries, depicting the myths of Apollo, as well as several designs for publishers and printmakers. . Boeckhorst’s first known dated painting dates to 1646, twenty years after his arrival in Antwerp. As only very few signed and dated paintings exist, it has proved difficult to attribute works with certainty to the artist. However, it is known that he collaborated on numerous occasions with landscape painters such as Jan Wildens and Jan Brueghel the Younger or with the still-life painter Frans Snijders, providing often large-scale figures to their compositions.
The present drawing, a recent rediscovery depicting Christ in the Garden of Olives, can be attributed to Boeckhorst on the basis of stylistic comparison to other known drawings by the artist, such as Apollo and Artemis killing Niobe’s Children (Ghent University Library) and especially The Delivery of the Keys to Saint Peter (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), which show the same dynamism and the nervous yet skillful hand of the artist.
Henry Reveley, Bryn y Gwin, North Wales (L.1356); with Galerie Kurt Meissner, Hundert Zeichnungen, Zürich 1984, cat. no. 74, reproduced (as Cornelis Schut); Walter L. Strauss, New York (1922-1988), thence by descent.