History of the sculpture:
Sold by us to an Amsterdam collector in the nineteen eighty’s.
In the nineteen ninety’s this collector planned to donate this sculpture to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the sculpture was examinated by the experts of the Rijksmuseum and accepted for a planned donation.
From circa 1999 till 2010 there was an extensive correspondence between the former owner and the Rijksmuseum about the sculpture and the plan was discussed to donate the sculpture to the Rijksmuseum. In this correspondence the Rijksmuseum clearly speaks about a group by Jan Borman and that this sculpture would be an enrichment for the medieval collection of the Rijksmuseum. ( this complete correspondence is in our position and will only be available for the buyer.)
Due to the economical financial world crisis the former owner decided not to donate the sculpture to the Rijksmuseum after all, but to sell it and the first he thought of was us, as the former sellers.
We bought the sculpture back from the collector and started a renewal research on the sculpture.
We compared again our sculpture with the famous St. Joris altar and again we came to the conclusion that our sculpture was made by the same sculptor, Jan Borman II, ( JAN BORMAN de jongere) who made the St. Joris altar for the town of Leuven in order of the crossbow guild for the chapel of Onze Lieve Vrouw van Ginderbuiten in 1493.
On this altar you can also find, several times the same figure, the man with the long beard, which you can see on our sculpture as well, described on the St. Joris altar as: Emperor Diocletianus.
The St. Joris altar is signed in fragments, one part only: JAN (on a sword)
and the date is carved on the belt.
Very striking is that the signature on our sculpture is also in fragments and carved on the belt as well:
” IH MAN I “
which stands for: JOHANNES (JAN) (BOR) MAN de jongere = JAN BORMAN II
This was also concluded by a well known Dutch curator, who gave us the explanation of the signature.
Many more details are also similar for example: the stones on the surface of the substrate, partly covered with grass and you’ll find this also by the St. Joris altar and in particularly the character heads clearly come from the same master hand and striking is that the eyes, the eye lids and the faces are carved on the same way and by the same hand.
Technical both altars were built up in the substrate from small blocks of oak.
By our sculpture the robe of Emperor Diocletianus is carved in the same way as the robe of Diocletianus of the St. Joris altar and also one knee with a boot is clearly visible and carved in the same way by both figures.
Striking is also that the rim of the robe exactly has the same ornament by both figures.
Also both hats are the same with on the hats a crown.
Over the last thirty five years we have also discovered that there is a great possibility that the second figure on the left could be: Desiderius Erasmus.
It is known that Desiderius Erasmus was already in 1502 very famous and respected in Leuven and the University offered him an appointment, but he refused.
It is also known that he lived in 1504 in Leuven and that he was for a very long period the guest of Jean Desmarais, Professor in the Rhetoric and Canon of the St. Pieters Church in Leuven and it is of course a co-incidence that Jan Borman II has made the second altar for this church in 1506/7, so it could very well be that there were contacts between Jan Borman II, Jean Desmarais and Desiderius Erasmus and because Erasmus was well respected in Leuven there is a possibility that Jan Borman also has used Erasmus out of respect as a figurant in this altar as one of the circa sixty other figures which are usually used to complete an altar decoration.
It is also known that Erasmus has lived in Anderlecht. ( Bruxelles ) where Jan Borman II lived as well.
That we think about Desiderius Erasmus is based on all this information and on his charismatic face, the long strait nose, the hollow cheeks with the S shaped line beside the nose going down to his lips and his protruding chin, all characteristic features.
That the figure of Erasmus on our sculpture has been carved in profile might come from an engraving of Erasmus, which was used as an example, because it is was known that Erasmus promoted himself with prints of engraved self-portraits.
This together with the clothes and the profile of the face completes the Erasmus characteristic look.
That we maybe can speak about the discovery of the first part known of the missing second altar carved in order of the brewers of Leuven, is also based on the substrate where the four figures are standing on, showing three water springs and it is known that there is a legend of the beer brewers of the Holy Arnold that the first water was used for the beer they made, so the legend of the Holy Arnold reflects on our sculpture, which could have been made for the Chapel of the Holy Arnold in the St. Pieters Church in Leuven in order of the beer brewers of Leuven. ( This information we received from a well- known Belgium curator.)
It is also known that the Holy Arnold was the patron saint of the beer brewers in Leuven.
A discovery of a magnificent and beautiful unknown, signed JAN BORMAN II sculpture.