As we know from much recent scholarship, artistic exchanges between the Northern and Southern Netherlands continued apace throughout the Eighty Years’ War (1568–1648), a period in which they were long thought to have greatly diminished in frequency.2 These include the physical movements of artists, dealers, collectors, and other travelers or immigrants as well the movement of such objects as paintings, prints, and various kinds of texts discussing them. The specifics of such cases of exchange between the Northern and Southern Netherlands are often revelatory not only of artistic processes but also of the evolving cultural identities, both personal and professional, of the inhabitants of the Low Countries during a period of intense political change.

This article asks how cultural identities formed and were maintained in this period by immigrant artists outside the geographical boundaries of the Northern and Southern Netherlands and how the perception of these identities – by the artists themselves and by their foreign audiences – affected the making and selling of their work. The case of immigrant artists from the Low Countries active in Madrid offers a particularly rich and distinctive context for exploring these intertwined questions.

The Madrid case differs from others because of the existence of a culturally-based royal organization, the Noble Guardia de Arqueros de Corps, which was the Spanish king’s Burgundian bodyguard.3 It served as a critical network, bringing into contact those from both the Northern and Southern Netherlands – not only guard members but also others closely associated with them – and undergirding their cultivation of a shared Netherlandish identity. The situation of the Noble Guardia at the Madrid court offers a quite different set of circumstances from those in other locales, such as Naples or Rome. No formal institution, not even a designated church, served as a single unifying locus for the Netherlandish immigrant painters in late sixteenth-century Naples.4 Whereas the Schildersbent in Rome was an informal organization, formed in the first quarter of the seventeenth century, which united Netherlandish painters in their struggles against the city’s official painters’ guild, the Accademia di San Luca, and provided these immigrants with social support and concomitant festivities, it lacked official status and was not formally affiliated with any governing apparatus.5 By contrast, the Noble Guardia was an entrenched element of the Spanish court, offering – at least in theory – a means for ascent within the court hierarchy, the connections to potential noble patrons, and most relevantly here, a title that conferred honor while at once recalling an individual’s geographical origins. Though not always strictly enforced, the cultural qualifications for entrance stipulated origins in the Low Countries or Burgundy, and thus the guard remained an official means of uniting those of Northern and Southern Netherlandish origins in Madrid throughout this period. Moreover, the broadcasting of geographical origins that guard membership engendered encouraged many painters to capitalize on their shared Netherlandish heritage, or ‘Flemishness’. The status of these painters as archers was not lost on observers of their time. The opportunity to seek membership in the guard – and with that an entrée into court circles – must have been a powerful incentive for many painters to emigrate to Madrid rather than other locales.6

Spaniards had a variety of entrenched associations with the visual qualities of ‘Flemishness’, resulting from the centuries-long presence of Netherlandish painters and paintings in Spain. As in Italy, Spaniards noted the ‘Flemish’ talent for landscape painting, and Spanish collection inventories at all social levels manifest a hearty taste for such works.7 Another genre of painting that Spaniards perceived as distinctly Netherlandish seems to have been still lifes and particularly those depicting flowers.8 This article argues not only for the strength of these associations, but for the self-conscious decision by certain Northern and Southern Netherlandish painters associated with the Noble Guardia to capitalize on these associations by marketing their still lifes and flower paintings as ‘Flemish’, even those works that may look more ‘Spanish’ than ‘Flemish’ to modern eyes. This case study reveals that three traditions often considered separately – Spanish, Dutch, and Flemish still life and flower painting – were indeed professionally and visually interwoven in the Madrid artistic circles centred on the Noble Guardia.

Flamenco in Madrid

Before assessing the cultural identity – felt or perceived – of Low Countries immigrant artists in Madrid, a word might first be said about this question within the loose and dynamic boundaries of the Low Countries themselves. In an article as thorough and incisive as it is entertaining, Alistair Duke mapped not only the nominal ambiguities faced when describing the Low Countries and its inhabitants but also the linguistic and political circumstances that reinforced such imprecise and often malleable terminology.9 The coexistence not only of French and Dutch but also of dialects thereof hindered the sort of linguistic unity that contributed, for example, to the growth of a shared identity among speakers of German.10 Duke argues compellingly that the superfluity of names for the Low Countries and its denizens, far from simply a semantic issue, points to the comparatively ‘weak sense of identity’ among inhabitants of these parts in the sixteenth century.11

Although a variety of names were indeed used to describe the Low Countries and its inhabitants not only within but outside the region, various circumstances in Spain may have contributed to creating a shared ‘Netherlandish’ identity among immigrants to a greater extent than existed at home. The terminology used in Spain to describe Netherlandish origins, as has often been remarked of such descriptions in Italy, frequently elided precise distinctions in geographical origin. Flamenco, like fiammingho in Italy (both the Spanish and the Italian translate to Flemish or Fleming), served as a synecdoche and was used to describe those from any of the Netherlandish provinces and sometimes farther afield throughout the seventeenth century, even as boundaries shifted.12 Used as both adjectives and nouns to describe individuals, these words had the benefit of a direct linguistic link to the name of the region (Flandes, Fiandre).13

Immigrants themselves embraced these terms. The Utrecht-born painter and engraver Cornelis de Beer living in Madrid described himself as flamenco on various occasions.14 Yet conversely, the painter Rodrigo Diriksen, who hailed from Oudenberg, near Geraardsbergen, appears as Rodrigo de Holanda in many documents.15 However baseless the trace of a Northern Netherlandish association, it nonetheless persisted in the next two generations of Spanish-born painters in his family; Olanda appeared next to Rodrigo’s son Felipe’s name in an undated list enumerating family background,16 and likewise beside his grandson’s name in a 1662 list.17 Yet in a similar list from 1635, although the grandson Gabriel was correctly listed as a native of Madrid, the family’s origin was listed first as Utrecht, which was crossed out and replaced with Antwerp, which was indeed the origin of his maternal great-grandfather, Anton van den Wyngaerde.18 These examples help underscore not only the versatile uses of such terms as flamenco and holandés [Dutch, Dutchman], but also the extent to which they were both imposed on and also fully deployed by immigrants themselves.

Although holandés was used sporadically, as just noted, the Spanish preference for the term flamenco seems to have helped provide a sort of umbrella category within which to group immigrants from the Low Countries. It seems likely that these nominal elisions and at times misidentifications helped minimise the import of geographical distinctions – or simply reflected current perceptions – as immigrants from the northern and southern provinces united in and around the Noble Guardia at the Madrid court. Within the community surrounding the guard, these immigrants’ shared background superseded the political boundaries that were solidifying over the course of the century, and guard membership would importantly enable them to professionally emphasize their Netherlandish origins.19

The Noble Guardia de Arqueros de Corps

While cultural descriptors arguably helped shape the development of a Netherlandish identity in Spain, so too did structural factors. Perhaps the most important institution involved in cultivating the perception of a shared Netherlandish identity in Madrid was the king’s Burgundian Noble Guardia, with its members referred to as archers.20 During the seventeenth century, there were at least 40 painters in Madrid who were either immigrants from the Low Countries or their children; approximately half of this group either joined or sought to join the guard.21 Many Netherlandish painters arriving in Madrid throughout the century evidently viewed membership in the guard as the most promising route to success. The guard offered various professional and personal benefits for immigrants, including a salary, medical care, and housing.22 Further less concrete though equally significant advantages included the communal benefits of working with one’s countrymen in a foreign city and the potential access to patrons at court or, indeed, patronage by the crown.

Guard membership was officially open only to nobles or those from honourable families who, as noted above, had been born in the Low Countries or Burgundy, as well as their descendants.23 Those from the northern provinces were never barred from membership.24 However, it was stipulated that neither the archer applicant nor his family should ever have taken up arms against the Spanish king, and archers were, of course, required to be Catholic.25 Various guard lists provide snapshots of members’ origins at different moments throughout the seventeenth century. Unsurprisingly, archers hailed predominantly from the Southern Netherlands, but it is noteworthy that immigrants from the Northern Netherlands joined the guard both before and after Spain’s recognition of the Dutch Republic in 1648.26 A list compiled in 1645 of 45 archers who had joined the guard in the previous decade includes just one member from the north.27 A 1662 roster of the full 115-member guard included seven archers who either came from the Northern Netherlands or cited it as the origin of their families.28 And a 1695 roster of 104 archers listed four with Northern Netherlandish origins.29

Perhaps the most professionally successful and socially-engaged Northern Netherlandish immigrant artist in Madrid was Cornelis de Beer, who had close connections to a number of archers.30 A great deal of information about De Beer has come to light, due principally to the work of Peter Cherry and Marián Kruijer Fernández. The son of the Utrecht-born painter Joost de Beer – who had studied in Antwerp with Frans Floris before returning to Utrecht, where he trained Joachim Wtewael and Abraham Bloemaert, among others – Cornelis was born around 1585, trained in Utrecht, likely after his father’s death,31 and had arrived in Madrid by about 1608.32 Although the family seems to have been Catholic,33 Utrecht’s comparative tolerance of Catholicism in the first decades of the century – provided it was not practiced publicly – argues against supposing that religious motives prompted De Beer’s move to Madrid.34 It is not known what precisely motivated him to emigrate, and it has not yet proved possible to trace any connections he may have had with Low Countries immigrants who had settled in Madrid prior to his arrival and who might have encouraged him to come.35 In any event, once in Madrid, De Beer developed relationships with a number of Flemish immigrant families.

He would serve as teacher or mentor to at least four painters of Flemish background, two of whom were from archer families. From his earliest days in Madrid, he seems to have developed a close relationship with the Perret family. Pieter Perret of Antwerp had been summoned from Rome to Spain in 1583 to engrave images of Philip II’s new monastery and palace, El Escorial, and Perret was subsequently appointed royal engraver.36 When Perret’s son applied to join the guard in 1632, he received a testimonial from De Beer noting that De Beer had known Perret the elder for 24 years and that Perret the younger – who used a hispanised form of his name, Pedro Perete – had lived for five years in De Beer’s home, presumably as part of his artistic training, since he too became a painter and engraver.37 During this period, Perete and De Beer collaborated on several prints, with De Beer publishing a print seemingly designed by his protégé, and the pupil also engraved a design after his teacher (fig. 1).38

Fig. 1 

Pedro Perete after Cornelis de Beer, Portraits of Phillip I, Charles V, and Phillip II, 1628, engraving, 26.8 × 18.8 cm, Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional de España, no. IH-2946–44.

Another pupil of De Beer was Francisco van der Hamen y León, the grandson of a Flemish immigrant archer and his half-Flemish wife,39 and the son of the painter-archer Juan van der Hamen y León, who died in 1631, not long before his son’s apprenticeship to De Beer began.40 Thus, it was presumably in keeping with Van der Hamen’s wishes that his son Francisco train with a painter from the Low Countries. Indeed the Van der Hamen family traced its roots originally to Utrecht and hence may well have felt a particular connection to De Beer. De Beer’s third Netherlandish apprentice was an immigrant from Brussels, Juan Tío, whom he seems to have taken on more as a workshop assistant than a pupil, since the contract stipulated that Tío would be paid.41 His fourth known apprentice of northern background was Simon Barquín, an archer aspirant and the son of a Burgundian immigrant who served as mace-bearer to the king.42

In addition to his activities as a teacher, De Beer had further professional connections with Flemish immigrant painter-archers. Along with the Antwerp-born painter-archer Francisco de la Corte, De Beer was among 26 signatories of a document in a dispute involving the Madrid painters’ academy in 1622.43 Juan Appelmans from Brussels, another painter-archer, appraised De Beer’s goods upon his death in 1651.44 Unfortunately, we lack extant paintings from quite a few of these immigrants, although De Beer’s known oeuvre is comparatively well-documented, both in terms of his paintings and his prints. The eight paintings securely attributed to him all depict religious subjects, drawn from both the Old and New Testament, with a relatively small number of figures presented full-length, close to the picture plane, in well-saturated colors and often set in landscapes delineated with greater precision than was common among his Spanish colleagues.

De Beer himself sought unsuccessfully to join the Noble Guardia in 1637.45 His rejection was perhaps due to his age46 – he would have been about 52 at that time – but it was almost certainly not due to his Utrecht origins, since other members of the guard in this period were from various northern provinces.47 Yet the fact that De Beer was not a member of the guard clearly did not prevent him from forming close relationships with many archers.

The evidence of Netherlandish immigrant artists participating in the Noble Guardia and their interactions with one another outside the aegis of this organisation suggests that the community of Netherlandish immigrants in Madrid welcomed immigrants from the northern and southern provinces with little distinction; their shared linguistic and religious roots, reinforced by the Noble Guardia’s linguistic demands – knowledge of Dutch or French – and participation in religious confraternities affiliated with the guard, must all have strengthened the unity of this community. One implication of this group’s touting of Netherlandish – or Flemish, to use the more common seventeenth-century term – background is that it heightened awareness of the distinction of being a flamenco artist in Madrid. ‘Flemishness’, for the archers and those close to them, became a quality with which they might not only infuse their art but also with which they might gain an edge in marketing it, both to Spaniards and to other Netherlandish transplants in Madrid. What this quality or qualities might be, however, was necessarily conditioned by the particular context of seventeenth-century Madrid.

Selling ‘Flemishness’

A number of artists who routinely sent works to foreign patrons and markets or who lived and worked in regions distant from their own seem to have sought to emphasize their geographical origins as a selling point. At times such assertions took literal form in the signatures inscribed on paintings. Albrecht Dürer, for example, bound himself via his signature variously to his native city of Nuremberg and to a more abstract German identity, using GERMANVS or ALEMANVS, particularly when a work was destined for a foreign locale.48 Likewise, the Spanish artist Jusepe de Ribera, who was born in the town of Játiva in the province of Valencia and who spent much of his career in Naples, signed many paintings with his name and the date, often appending an adjective for Spanish and sometimes also Valencia; this may have helped him market himself to a continuously changing stream of Spanish viceroys in Naples.49 Not only the eventual destination of a work but also the location of the artist seem to have contributed to a heightened desire to convey an artist’s geographical origins, which seem to have been viewed as one element affecting a painting’s substance and, in turn, its value.

Although few seventeenth-century paintings by Low Countries immigrants in Spain include signatures expressly invoking their geographical origins,50 artistic choices could serve as equally decisive ways of expressing and marketing one’s ‘Flemishness’. There is much evidence to suggest that various artistic genres were particularly associated with the Low Countries – without any distinction between north and south – in seventeenth-century Madrid. The case I will focus on here is that of paintings of flowers and more broadly still lifes. Various Flemish immigrant painters in Madrid seem to have capitalised on the Spanish public’s association of these kinds of paintings with the Low Countries. Associations are of course difficult to gauge, but one measure appears in inventories of private collections. The word flores [flowers] appears in 311 entries in seventeenth-century Spanish inventories in the Getty’s database. Written in Spanish and compiled usually, though with exceptions, by Spaniards, these documents provide important evidence of Spaniards viewing still lifes as a quintessentially ‘Flemish’ genre. Although the vast majority of these entries include no mention of a particular painter or possible geographical origin of a work, 81 instances do reference a painter’s name or the inventory writer’s assessment of a painting’s geographical origins or perceived style. Fifty-seven percent of identifiable flower paintings were considered flamenco or were specifically attributed to a painter from the Southern Netherlands, compared with only 26 percent Italian, 11 percent Spanish, and two percent Dutch.51

Immigrant artists from both the Northern and Southern Netherlands seem to have capitalised on the representation of flowers and other kinds of still life as a particularly good strategy for marketing their work as ‘Flemish’ in Madrid. Although no independent flower paintings or still lifes by Cornelis de Beer have yet been identified, he produced at least one floral print based closely on a print by Theodor de Bry (figs. 2 and 3).52 De Beer included three framed floral prints – perhaps his own or those of De Bry – in the dowry for his daughter Maria Eugenia’s marriage in 1642.53 In his print, adhering quite closely to his model, De Beer nonetheless dispensed with the Latin inscription and added a bee hovering over the bouquet as well as two birds; the birds recall those that his daughter designed and engraved in a volume of bird prints that she dedicated in about 1637 to the Spanish prince, Baltasar Carlos, and it has been suggested that she participated in the design of her father’s floral print.54 In his painting of the death of Abel, from a series of works in Murcia, the lower left corner betrays De Beer’s interest in the close depiction of plants (fig. 4). Perhaps most tellingly, however, the inventory of De Beer’s possessions, made after his death in 1651, contains ten floral paintings, including a floral garland encircling the Virgin and Child, as well as paintings of such foods as grapes and meat, and scenes of dogs, fish, and fowl.55

Fig. 2 

Cornelis de Beer, Vase of flowers, c. 1637, engraving, 29.2 × 20.7 cm, Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional de España, no. 12927.

Fig. 3 

Jan Sadeler I after Theodor de Bry, from Bunches of flowers in vases, c. 1600, engraving, 29.8 × 22.9 cm, London, British Museum© Trustees of the British Museum.

Fig. 4 

Cornelis de Beer, The death of Abel, oil on canvas, approx. 245 × 190 cm, Lorca (Murcia), Colegial de San Patricio (photo courtesy of Marián Kruijer Fernández).

A contemporary of De Beer from the Southern Netherlands, the Antwerp immigrant and painter-archer Miguel de Pret seems to have specialised to a large extent in still lifes.56 De Pret died in 1644 in Zaragoza while accompanying the king on a journey.57 In his post-mortem inventory, 68 of the 79 paintings listed contained fruit or flowers, suggesting that this occupied the bulk of his Madrid production.58 The appraisal of De Pret’s paintings was done, interestingly, by the painter Juan de la Corte, who, although not a flower painter himself, was also a specialist, producing in his words, ‘architectures, battles, and landscapes’.59 De la Corte’s grandson Gabriel became well-known not in the same genres as his grandfather but rather as yet another still-life painter, particularly of flowers.60

Thus far, two paintings with De Pret’s signature have come to light and three more have been convincingly attributed to him; all depict fruit.61 Of the two signed paintings, the first discovered presents a meticulously balanced assortment of peppers and various fruits – hanging from string, arranged in two wicker baskets, and lying on a ledge – lit from the left and set against a dark background (fig. 5). The second, like the three remaining attributions, depicts hanging grapes against a black background (fig. 6). Three of these paintings of grapes were previously attributed to De Pret’s Spanish contemporary, Juan Fernández el Labrador.62 Although De Pret’s still lifes may stylistically and compositionally bear more resemblance to those of his Spanish colleagues – not only el Labrador but also Juan Sánchez Cotán – than to even his closest counterparts in Antwerp, such as Osias Beert, it nonetheless appears possible that he sought to market such works as authentic ‘Flemish’ still lifes by a member of the guard. While De Pret’s carefully ordered composition, with its discrete presentation of each item and avoidance of overlapping bodies in space, calls Beert’s compositions to mind, other elements are more evocative of works by the Spaniards, such as the inclusion of hanging objects and the selection of fewer items presented in relatively larger scale, sometimes pared down to a single bunch of grapes. It is worth underscoring that what may look markedly ‘Spanish’ to modern eyes might have lent itself well – in the context of seventeenth-century Madrid and with the added imprimatur of a Flemish immigrant maker and guard member – to marketing as a ‘Flemish’ still life.

Fig. 5 

Miguel de Pret, Still life with baskets of fruit and melon, c. 1630–1644, oil on canvas, 57.5 × 90 cm, Madrid, Juan Abelló Collection.

Fig. 6 

Miguel de Pret, Bunch of grapes, c. 1630–1644, oil on canvas, 28 × 26 cm, Madrid, Museo Cerralbo, no. 3898.

Indeed, De Pret’s multi-object still life also seems related to those of his Madrid colleague, Juan van der Hamen y León, whom De Pret may have known; both were archers, although Van der Hamen died a decade before De Pret joined the guard.63 Born in Madrid, Van der Hamen came from a family that had roots in Utrecht, as noted above, although his father hailed from Brussels.64 Despite a wide-ranging production, including history paintings and portraits, Van der Hamen seems to have marketed his still lifes particularly successfully. The 19 references to his paintings in the Getty’s database of seventeenth-century Spanish inventories are exclusively to still lifes.65 The first documentary reference to his work as a painter concerns a lost ‘picture of fruit and game for the South Gallery in the Royal Palace of El Pardo’, commissioned in 1619 to accompany similar works already purchased by the crown.66 This would be one of several occasions on which Van der Hamen received commissions to create works to complement pre-existing, and in at least one instance probably Netherlandish, paintings.67 Throughout his career, he also independently sought out Netherlandish models, which he followed more or less closely, moulding them to his own tastes and, perhaps, to what he perceived as those of the Spanish public, as can be seen with his increasing elaborations upon a composition by Frans Snyders.68

Yet Van der Hamen did not need to be making direct adaptations of Netherlandish paintings for his works to be perceived as ‘Flemish’, as is clear from a pair of unusually formatted, strikingly vertical still lifes, which he painted for Jean de Croÿ, Count of Solre, who arrived in Madrid in about 1624 to assume the position of captain of the guard (fig. 7).69 As scholars have noted, De Croÿ was one of several noblemen close to the king who showed a decided preference for Netherlandish painting, and Van der Hamen’s guard membership and particular talent in producing so-called ‘Flemish’ still lifes likely contributed to his receiving this commission.70 Further evidence that these paintings were perceived as distinctly ‘Flemish’ appears in two inventories. The first is an appraisal of the collection taken at the time of De Croÿ’s death in 1638 and made by two painters, one of whom was Felipe Diriksen, who no doubt knew Van der Hamen in the guard.71 Diriksen was the first Spanish-born son in a four-generation family of Netherlandish painters in Spain, mentioned above. Few paintings are attributed in this document, but the description of these two works is unmistakable and noteworthy: ‘two paintings with some bouquets of flowers from Flanders and some glasses and sweets with some dogs’.72 Although the placement of the modification ‘de Flandes’ leaves ambiguous whether it is the flowers or the paintings themselves that are being described as ‘from Flanders’,73 clearly something about the depicted contents or visual qualities of the paintings triggered this association with Flanders. Indeed, Van der Hamen was certainly well-aware of the potential Flemish resonances of his floral imagery, and Peter Cherry has suggested that Van der Hamen embraced the veneer of authenticity that his Flemish name gave him in Madrid when he painted flowers and fruits.74 Both in his variations on Snyders’ compositions and also in his experimentations with the flower-garland format,75 Van der Hamen referenced not only the very things that might be associated with Flanders, such as flowers, but also ‘Flemish’ conventions for representing them. After the king’s purchase of the pair of paintings with flowers and dogs, the pair appear several decades later in an inventory of the Alcázar palace, with their authorship listed simply as flamenco.76 With the drift of just a few decades, the paintings had lost their attachment to a specific author, yet retained their connection – albeit attenuated, in actuality – to Flanders.

Fig. 7 

Juan van der Hamen y León, Still lifes with vases of flowers and a dog (left) and a puppy (right), c. 1625, oil on canvas, 228 × 95 cm each, Madrid, Prado © Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado.

Even through mid-century, at a point when increasing numbers of Spanish painters, most notably Juan de Arellano, had begun to produce floral still lifes, the strength of the association of flower painting with Flanders endured in Spain, uniting artists and images from the Northern and Southern Netherlands under one banner. In his Arte de la Pintura of 1649, Francisco Pacheco wrote of flower painting that ‘some have attained eminence in this type [of painting], particularly in Flanders the famous Florencio, whose portrait may be seen among the illustrious Flemish painters’.77 It has been convincingly suggested that Pacheco is referring here to the Haarlem painter Floris van Dijck, whose portrait first appears in Hendrick Hondius’ 1610 edition of Lampsonius’ effigies, a text which Pacheco referred to on several occasions (fig. 8).78 Van Dijck appears surrounded by actual and painted flowers and with the accompanying text highlighting his ‘painted leaves and fragrant flowers’.79 Despite the clear declaration of this painter’s Haarlem and thereby Northern Netherlandish origins, Pacheco subsumes him within a shared ‘Flemish’ tradition. The only painter in Spain whom Pacheco here mentions as excelling in painting flowers is Van der Hamen, whom he notably describes as ‘archero del Rey’ [archer to the king], an implicit acknowledgement of the painter’s Netherlandish background and a potent reminder of the enduring significance of this title in Spanish perceptions of an artist’s identity. Yet Pacheco’s text underscores that the convergence of ‘Flemishness’ and a talent for still life, while often a successful marketing tool, could be deemed limiting. When he praises Van der Hamen’s paintings of fruit and sweets several pages later, he notes that the artist – much to his dismay – was best known for these, since they surpassed his figures and portraits.80

Fig. 8 

Hendrick Hondius I, Pictorum aliquot celebrium, præcipué Germaniæ Inferioris, The Hague, 1610, print 62: Portrait of Florentius Dikius, Antwerp, Museum Plantin-Moretus (collection Prentenkabinet) – UNESCO World Heritage, PK.OPB.0099.065.

The association of Van der Hamen with Flanders and with flower and still-life painting persisted with somewhat negative resonances into the eighteenth century, as is evident from Antonio Palomino’s comments in his biographies of painters in Spain, published in 1724. Despite lavishing praise upon Van der Hamen’s versatility – ranging from history paintings and portraits to ‘the painting of fruits, flowers, landscapes, and small still lifes’, Palomino nonetheless noted that the artist ‘still had some of the dryness of the old Flemish manner’. This, one might then surmise, could be related to the fact that, as Palomino wrote, ‘His father was Flemish and a painter, and it is believed that he learned from him the art of Painting’.81 There is, however, no evidence today to suggest that Van der Hamen’s father was in fact a painter, or that Van der Hamen trained with anyone of Netherlandish background in Madrid; his training is still purely a matter of speculation.82 Yet Palomino’s assertions are telling in what they reveal about how certain geographical assumptions about Netherlandish heritage might colour Spanish perceptions about an artist’s work.83

The view from Madrid, then, with its distinctive court institution of the Noble Guardia, may serve as yet another reminder of the many Northern and Southern Netherlandish interactions and collaborations occurring not only within but also beyond the Low Countries. These interactions helped shape what artists produced, how they presented themselves and their work to their potential audiences, and how their paintings were viewed. Immigrant artists from the Low Countries willingly identified as belonging to a shared Netherlandish heritage, and their professional and personal affiliations in Madrid reinforced this image for their Spanish audiences. Compared with the more than two-hundred seventeenth-century inventory references to Flandes and uses of the adjective flamenco, Olanda and olandés appear just eight times in the Getty’s database.84 It is not especially unexpected to find that the smaller numbers of Northern Netherlands immigrants sought out their southern compatriots in a foreign locale; yet it is perhaps still worth emphasising that the categories of ‘Dutch’ and ‘Flemish’ – or even ‘Northern’ and ‘Southern Netherlandish’ – as opposing poles carried scarcely any currency in artistic contexts in seventeenth-century Madrid.