Introduction

Studies of painters migrating from Antwerp to other cities outside the Southern Netherlands in the late sixteenth century tend to focus on the Dutch Republic, because of their role in the dawn of the Dutch Golden Age. This essay, however, introduces a migrant painter who moved beyond the Dutch Republic. Gilles Coignet (c. 1542–1599) left Antwerp for Amsterdam in 1586, but moved on to Hamburg about eight years later.2 The reasons for leaving his native city were the fall of Antwerp in 1585, the subsequent standstill of the art market, political instability, and religious intolerance. Gilles Coignet was a major disseminator of Italianate, especially Titianesque models in the North before 1600.3 He stood out for his rendering of night scenes, using special techniques for the creation of burning candles and torches. Karel van Mander (1548–1606) praises him as a good history painter and especially mentions his ‘subtle way of painting little night scenes very inventively, into which he frequently inserted embossed gilt lights of candles, torches or lamps which looked very real.’4 Van Mander continues that some people criticised this technique ‘because they believe that painters ought to represent everything with paint’, while others ‘think everything to the good which makes it look better and which best deceives the eyes of the beholder.’5 Van Mander, however, has a high opinion of Coignet’s work, and in his poem Den grondt der edel vry schilder-const, he even proclaims Coignet a second Prometheus, who brought the fire from heaven down to the people on earth.6

After a short introduction to Coignet’s work in Antwerp, Italy, and Amsterdam, I will concentrate on the last years of his life, which he spent in Hamburg. I shall analyse the conditions of his work with regard to his patrons and to his relations with other artists, who like him lived and worked in Hamburg as Flemish immigrants. The Flemish artists around 1600 exerted great influence on the local art production. This artistic exchange equals in many aspects the exchange between the Northern and the Southern provinces of the Netherlands.7 In the seventeenth century, painters from Hamburg usually turned to the Netherlands to perfect their art. In his book on the dissemination and the impact of Dutch painting of the seventeenth century, Horst Gerson (1907–1978) even describes Hamburg as a Dutch province of the arts.8 In order to understand the importance of this artistic transfer, it is necessary to look beyond concepts of national schools and to explore the movements of artists and artworks between the important commercial centres Antwerp, Amsterdam, and Hamburg.9

Early career in Antwerp and Italy

Coignet was born in Antwerp to a family of artists and scientists.10 He was an apprentice of Lambrecht Wenslyns and lived for some time in the house of the painter and art dealer Antonis Palermo, who like him was a Lutheran and owned a house on the Meir in the tenth wijk.11 In 1561, he became a free master of the Antwerp painters’ guild. Soon after this date he set off to Italy, probably via France. In 1568 his name appears in the list of artists present at a meeting of the Accademia del Disegno on 16 January 1569 (i.e. 1568 in the old Florentine style) as ‘Giulio Cognietta fiamingo P(ictor)’.12 He travelled further to Rome, Naples, and Sicily.13 Together with his fellow countryman Maarten Stellaert (died in Rome after 1568) he decorated the Palazzo Giocosi in Terni with grotesques in the style of the Fontainebleau school, and he was among the painters who decorated the Villa d’Este in Tivoli under the guidance of Federico Zuccari (1542–1609).14

Coignet was back in Antwerp by 1570, where he led his own workshop and had apprentices, among others around 1580 Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem (1562–1638).15 On 8 October 1583 he was elected dean of the St Luke’s guild and in 1585–1586 he was past-dean.16 In 1584 he received the prestigious commission of a large altar piece, possibly for the Franciscan friars in Antwerp, for which Cornelis de Molenaer (c. 1540-c. 1589) created the background landscapes (fig. 1).17 It is possible that it was commissioned to replace an altar piece, which was destroyed during the iconoclasm of 1566 or removed during the so-called silent iconoclasm in 1581.18

Fig. 1 

Gilles Coignet, Annunciation, 1584,detail of an altar piece, oil on panel, c. 105 × 75 cm, Concathedral St María de la Redonda, Logroño © Wikimedia commons/photograph: Manuel Gómez (Magopi).

1584 was a difficult year, since Alessandro Farnese (1545–1592) started the siege of Antwerp in July and thus isolated the city from its surroundings. He blocked the river Scheldt downstream, which had a fatal effect on the commerce. After one year the city’s situation had become so hopeless that the city authorities – a delegation led by the burgomaster Philips Marnix van Sint Aldegonde (1540–1598) – signed a reconciliation pact on 17 August 1585. When Farnese took the city, the Protestants were forced to either convert to Catholicism within a timespan of four years or to leave Antwerp.19 Thousands of people left in search of religious tolerance or a better life. The city’s population sank from estimated 80,000 in 1585 to merely 42,000 in 1589.20 Antwerp’s formerly thriving economy came to a standstill, and the art market collapsed.21

Amsterdam

In 1586 Coignet sold the lifelong tenancy, which he had acquired for a house in the Tapissierspand in Antwerp in 1580.22 Karel van Mander writes that he ‘left Antwerp on account of the war at the time of the Duke of Parma and went to live in Amsterdam’.23 He became a burgher of Amsterdam in 1589. Here, he led a workshop and had apprentices.24 In May 1593 he painted a night scene showing the lottery that took place in 1592 in aid of the lunatic asylum.25 It is very well possible that Karel van Mander saw the Lottery painting in the regent’s room of the lunatic asylum, where it hang until the middle of the seventeenth century, and that it was this painting that prompted him to praise Coignet’s night scenes.

In Amsterdam, Coignet was an active member of the group of Lutheran Protestants.26 This may be the reason for a conflict with the painter Adriaen van Conflans (c. 1535–1607), who was a Calvinist originally from Brussels. On 15 March 1590 Coignet and Conflans had a fist fight near the Sint Jans Bridge. Although reconciliation was arranged by their respective church representatives, it is possible that this incident or perhaps the general opposition against Lutherans in a mainly Calvinist city prompted Coignet to leave Amsterdam in 1594.27 Moreover, as both David van der Linden and Eric Jan Sluijter point out in this volume, Amsterdam was not a thriving art centre in that period. On the contrary, in the late sixteenth century there seem to have been few opportunities for young migrant painters coming from elsewhere. Hamburg might have offered more attractive prospects, especially for a Lutheran painter. In contrast to Calvinists, Lutherans were not entirely opposed to having paintings in their churches.

Hamburg

In 1595 Coignet settled in Hamburg. Like many other Hanseatic cities, Hamburg was a refuge for Netherlandish Protestants. The city expanded considerably during the last quarter of the sixteenth century. Between 1578 and 1583 a new quarter in the South of the city developed, where the main part of the Netherlanders settled. The streets Wandrahm and Holländischer Brook still exist, although nothing remains today from the canals with quays on both sides that followed the Antwerp and Amsterdam model of a city expansion. Around 1600 Hamburg had a population of about 40,000, of which c. 10,000 were Netherlanders. Dutch was the language spoken at the Hamburg stock exchange, which was established in 1558 and for which a new building was erected in 1583.28 The English Merchant Adventurers, who had given up their mart in Antwerp after 1586, transferred much of their commerce to Hamburg too.29 Apart from Netherlandish refugees, a large community of Portuguese Jews settled in Hamburg, who also had strong ties with merchants in Amsterdam.30 Among the Hanseatic cities, Hamburg established itself as the most important trading partner of Amsterdam and as a place of transshipment between the overseas trade, which was dominated by the Dutch, and the Central European hinterland.31 Coignet, who according to Van Mander, ‘worked for merchants a lot’,32 could expect to find in Hamburg a clientele of wealthy patrons, many of them being Protestant expatriates.

Among the Netherlandish immigrants the Lutherans held the best positions. In contrast to their Calvinist or Mennonite countrymen, they were, for instance, allowed to bury their deceased family members on the city churchyards or inside the city churches, while the other confessions were forced to move outside of the city walls to Altona in the West or Stade in the South West of Hamburg. Coignet quickly found a patron in the pastor of St Peter’s church, Johann Schellhammer (1540–1620). Schellhammer was an ardent Lutheran, who frequently came into conflict with the Hamburg city council, because in his eyes the municipal government was too tolerant with other religious groups. In 1595 Schellhammer commissioned Coignet with the transformation of the medieval main altar of the St Peter’s church in order to accommodate it to Protestant needs.33 To this end, Coignet overpainted the side wings, which showed the creation of the world and the story of Noah, with the Last Supper, the Resurrection, and the Outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The altar was taken apart in the eighteenth century and the central shrine was given to St George’s church in Grabow, while the side panels remained in Hamburg. The separate pieces of the altar were purchased by the Hamburger Kunsthalle in 1903, and in 1904/05 Coignet’s paintings were removed, to regain the original medieval paintings underneath. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Coignet’s paintings were regarded as inferior works of art, as becomes clear from a statement by Gustav Pauli (1866–1938), who became the director of the Hamburger Kunsthalle in 1914. In a small guidebook on the altar, Pauli wrote that the works of the Antwerp painter had ‘no high artistic value’.34 These paintings are known today only from a nineteenth century description and two old photographs.35

The Last Supper

In his own times, Coignet gained a good reputation as a copyist of Titian (c. 1488/1490–1576). During his travels in Italy he must have seen Titian’s Last Supper, which is today part of the collections of the Escorial.36 When he was still in Amsterdam, he had created a version of Titian’s invention as a night scene in an etching, engraved by Jan Muller (1571–1628). Coignet added to Titian’s composition four big, burning candles on the table and two small background scenes showing Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane and the arrest of Christ (fig. 2).37 The large print of three plates is dedicated to Jacques Razet (died 1609), an Amsterdam lawyer, who was an important patron and collector of art.38 The print after Titian’s Last Supper is the direct model of the large canvas showing the Last Supper in Hamburg’s St Peter’s church – the only work by Gilles Coignet which is still in situ in Hamburg (fig. 3).39 Just like the print, the painting shows the Last Supper as a night scene, with three big candles standing on the table. Christ is handing a piece of bread to Judas. The apostles show surprise about his words, when he tells them that one of them will betray him. The two small background scenes showing Christ at Gethsemane and the arrest of Christ are placed at the top margin, above the right candle and near to the head of St Peter on the left. They are hardly visible because the painting is very dark and in a bad condition. Coignet used a special technique to render the candle flames. They are made of glass paste and stick out three-dimensionally from the canvas. Coignet also frequently used gold to highlight special parts in his paintings. In a smaller version of his Last Supper on panel, he carved the wood behind the candles and filled the hollow parts with gold foil. This technique adds a lively, three-dimensional effect to the candle flames.40

Fig. 2 

Jan Muller, after Gilles Coignet, The Last Supper, 1594, etching, c. 445 × 933 mm © The Trustees of the British Museum.

Fig. 3 

Gilles Coignet, The Last Supper, 1595,oil and glass paste on canvas, 163 × 333 cm, St Peter’s church, Hamburg © photograph: author.

The big candles of the Last Supper reflect a special, Protestant understanding of the subject. Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543) had created in a woodcut of 1523/24 an iconography that related Christ to the candle of the Gospel.41 In this woodcut, the risen Christ is pointing to a burning candle on a large candlestick in the centre of the composition. On the left, Protestant burghers and peasants, the so-called simple folk representing the laity, follow Christ’s gesture by looking at the candle. On the right, a monk, a priest, a bishop, a cardinal, and the Pope representing the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, turn away from the light and join Plato and Aristotle blindly into a dark pit. The candle is an allusion to the parable of the lamp under a bushel.42 In a Protestant understanding of this parable, the candle represents the Reformation and the light of Christian truth. The metaphor of darkness and light to contrast the right and wrong ways of worship became very popular during the second half of the sixteenth century in Protestant broadsheets, which sometimes even show the reformers of the church sitting around a table with lit candles while Catholics try to blow the lights out.43

Netherlandish artists and their patrons in Hamburg

Coignet was neither the first nor the only Netherlandish artist who settled in Hamburg. As early as 1566, the year of the iconoclasm, a painter called Joachim van Schwoll (Joachim van Zwolle, died 1575 or 1586), became a member of the Hamburg painters’ guild.44 In 1571, Cornelius Crommeny (died 1599), who probably came from Krommenie in North Holland, is listed as a member of the painters guild in Hamburg. In 1576 he moved on to become a court painter at the court of Duke Ulrich of Mecklenburg (1527–1603) in Güstrow.45 The painters Johann de Kempener (died 1594) from Brabant and Johann Kindt (Jan t’Kint, died 1608) from Kortrijk both reached Hamburg in 1580 and became members of the painters’ guild in 1587. De Kempener became an elderman of the guild in 1592.46 Johann Kindt’s son David Kindt (1580–1652), who was born in Hamburg, became a member of the guild in 1605 and an elderman in 1629. He was the city’s leading portraitist of the seventeenth century.47 Hans (1526–1609) and Paul (1567–1617) Vredeman de Vries spent several years in Hamburg, between 1591 and 1600. The Vredeman de Vries family had moved from Antwerp to Frankfurt in 1586 and further to Wolfenbüttel in 1587. In 1587, Duke Julius of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel (1528–1589) sent Hans Vredeman de Vries to Hamburg as an agent to negotiate plans for the foundation of a trading company, with the participation of Netherlandish and English merchants.48 After the Duke’s death, Vredeman spent two years in the city of Braunschweig, before he settled in Hamburg in 1591. In 1592 he moved to Gdańsk, together with his wife Sarah van der Elsmaer and his two sons Paul and Salomon. In 1596, he was back in Hamburg, but moved on to Prague, where Paul already worked as a court artist for Rudolph II (1552–1612). The family returned to Hamburg in 1598. Van Mander reports that it was Gilles Coignet who advised the Vredeman de Vries family to move from Hamburg to Amsterdam in 1599.49 In 1605, however, Hans Vredeman de Vries returned to Hamburg, where he died probably in 1609. During his last years in Hamburg, Hans Vredeman de Vries apprenticed Gabriel Engels (1592–1654). Engels was the son of a merchant, who had migrated from Brussels to Hamburg before 1588.50 He belongs to the second generation of Netherlandish artists, who were born in Hamburg and apprenticed by Netherlanders. Paul Vredeman de Vries remained in Amsterdam, where he collaborated, among others, with Pieter Isaacsz (1568–1625) and Adriaen van Nieulandt (1587–1658).51

In Hamburg, the painters and glassworkers were organised in one guild (Maler- und Glaseramt).52 To become a member of the guild, a painter had to be a burgher of the city and marry the widow or the daughter of a deceased guild member. Artists and artisans, who were not members of the guild, the so-called Bönhasen, confronted difficulties to acquire official commissions. However, only very few of the Netherlandish immigrants became painters of the guild. This is understandable if we look at the conditions of the guild, since most of the expatriates, like Gilles Coignet and Hans Vredeman de Vries, were married and had children, when they arrived in Hamburg. The Bönhasen worked almost exclusively for private patrons, who they found primarily among their compatriots.53 Gilles Coignet may have been an exception for his prestigious commissions from the church because of his Lutheran confession.

We may imagine Gilles Coignet as a member of a larger community of painters, goldsmiths, engravers, and confectioners from Netherlandish origins, who successfully settled in Hamburg. The wealthy Netherlandish immigrants were famous for their lifestyle. The display of conspicuous consumption was an important means to show their creditworthiness to the established Hamburg merchants. Many of the Netherlanders had houses in the Southwest part of the city close to the harbour and also maintained summer houses at the outskirts of the city.54 One of the most important patrons and collectors of art was the rich sugar refiner Hans L’Hommel (died 1597).55 L’Hommel owned a house at the street Wandrahm, which he had decorated with perspective wall and ceiling paintings by Hans Vredeman de Vries.56 The son of Hans L’Hommel, Hans de l’Hommel II, was probably born in Antwerp before the family settled in Hamburg. He was equally a sugar refiner and an important, early investor in VOC bonds. He died in Amsterdam in 1632. His death inventory, which was drawn up on 20 October 1632, lists 25 works of art. Among the paintings a church interior by Paul Vredeman de Vries is listed under number 5: ‘item een prospectyff van Jan [crossed out: Vr Pau] de Vries, op paneel’.57 In contrast to Coignet, no works by Hans or Paul Vredeman de Vries survive in Hamburg. A trace of their Hamburg sojourn may be found in a church interior by Paul Vredeman de Vries, which features prominently the unique, late Gothic baldachin of the pulpit of the St Peter’s Church.58 This painting, however, may not be identified with the church interior from the collection of Hans de l’Hommel II named above, since it is painted on canvas and not on wood.

It is possible that Hans L’Hommel and Hans Vredeman de Vries knew each other already from Antwerp, as they had both lived there in the sixth wijk.59 Vredeman and Coignet certainly had contact in Hamburg. Like Coignet, Hans Vredeman de Vries worked on several commissions in the church of St Peter’s. For instance, he decorated the funeral chapel of the goldsmith Jacob Mores (c. 1540/50–1609), who was active in Hamburg since about 1570. Like the L’Hommel family, the Mores family owned a large house at the street Wandrahm.60 Van Mander tells us that Hans Vredeman de Vries painted trompe l’oeil frescoes for Mores’s funeral chapel in the St Peter’s church. According to Van Mander the chapel dated from 1598 – several years before Jacob Mores actually died. The chapel was decorated with Christ triumphant over devil and death. Two caryatides on the sides looked like wood carving, and a painted lamp virtually looked as if it would burn.61 Two other paintings by Hans Vredeman de Vries showed Christ and the Pharisees and Christ driving the moneychangers from the Temple. In the seventeenth century, Conrad von Hövelen (1630–1689) describes both paintings as perspective church interiors.62 They remained in the church until at least 1789 and may have been looted by Napoleonic troops, who used the building as a stable for their horses.63

The inventory of Hans de l’Hommel II lists three paintings showing Venus, Pallas and Juno without naming their author, and several unidentified mythological scenes.64 Mythological scenes in the style of Titian were a specialty of Gilles Coignet. He painted several versions of Titian’s Venus with a mirror, Venus and an organ player, and the Venus of Urbino.65 It appears that Coignet’s mythological and allegorical paintings with Titianesque nudes were especially successful in Hamburg, and several paintings from the last four years of his life in a Titianesque style survive. I would like to draw attention to four particular paintings, which can firmly be situated in the Hamburg context.

The first painting is an allegory, which shows a satyr lifting Naked Truth from her fetters, while Envy is trying to pull her down (fig. 4).66 The background scenes show ruins with idols on the left, and on the right the Adoration of the shepherds and a man kneeling in prayer in front of the Resurrection. The central motif can be related to Francesco Marcolini’s (c. 1500–1559) printer’s mark Veritas filia Temporis. The strange rendering of Father Time as a satyr is probably a literal understanding of satyrs, who were identified with the genre of satire plays in contemporary art theory. They equally reveal the truth, although in coarse and comic words. It is tempting to relate the central figures and the background scenes of the painting to discussions about the right or wrong religion, which went on in Hamburg and played a critical role in the lives of most Netherlandish expatriates.

Fig. 4 

Gilles Coignet, Allegory of Time revealing Truth, 1596, oil on canvas, 181 × 141 cm, private collection, Europe © photograph: Bonhams Fine Art.

A similar painting, which was probably painted in Hamburg, also shows Time revealing Truth (fig. 5).67 The inscriptions on the two unfolded sheets of paper visible at the bottom of the painting comment that Truth may be knocked down but will never be completely oppressed, and that Truth will attract hatred. The background scenes may relate to the true interpretation of the Gospel and the sola scriptura principal.

Fig. 5 

Gilles Coignet, Time revealing Truth, oil on canvas, c. 170 × 190 cm, present whereabouts unknown © RKD Den Haag.

The Titianesque model is also visible in an allegory of Vanity (fig. 6).68 I have mentioned earlier that the display of wealth was an important means to prove creditworthiness for the Netherlandish immigrants. On the other hand, going bankrupt for a lifestyle beyond one’s own means was regarded as a possible risk and as a great shame at the same time. It was by no means regarded as apt to show too much pride in worldly riches or to disregard the luxury regulations.69 Another peculiar painting by Gilles Coignet possibly belongs to this context of vanity, wealth, and its dangers. It shows Luxury as a reclining nude in the style of Titian’s Venus of Urbino (fig. 7).70 A winged evil spirit is filling her wine glass with burning liquid, and an old woman is hovering in the background in front of the scenery of the burning city of Sodom. To this painting, the young Georg Flegel (1563–1638) in Frankfurt contributed a still life in the foreground. The still life displays, among other precious objects, a plate with sugar confect and a chest with coins current in Hamburg around 1600. The chest appears to be made in Goa, the Portuguese commercial place in India. Other exotic objects are a porcelain bowl and a plate from China filled with fruit. These precious oriental objects may allude to the activities of the Netherlandish merchants in Hamburg active in the sugar trade and in the VOC. Flegel was a pupil of Lucas van Valckenborch (c. 1535–1597), who was originally from Mechelen and had worked in Aachen, Antwerp and Linz before he transferred his workshop to Frankfurt in 1592/93, where his brother Marten (1534–1612) already lived.71 Gilles Coignet knew the Valckenborch brothers from Antwerp, since in 1586 he had attested Marten van Valckenborch’s compliance.72

Fig. 6 

Gilles Coignet and Georg Flegel, Allegory of Vanity, 1595, oil on canvas, 200 × 158 cm, Musée Baron Gérard, Bayeux © bpk Berlin/RMN-Grand Palais/Benoît Touchard.

Fig. 7 

Gilles Coignet and Georg Flegel, Allegory of Vanitas: Luxuria and the Downfall of Mankind, c. 1599, oil on panel, 82.5 × 124.5 cm © Collection Lingenauber et des amis, Monaco.

It is very well possible that paintings, like these allegories of luxury and vanity, were commissioned by wealthy Lutheran or Calvinist expatriates in Hamburg. The rich sugar refiners like the L’Hommel family dominated the trade between Hamburg and Portugal.73 Their houses were filled with paintings according to the Dutch taste, as Conrad von Hövelen reported in 1668.74 It is interesting to know that at about the same time when the Allegory of Luxuria was created, the L’Hommel family and other sugar traders from Hamburg were involved in a lawsuit about a freight of sugar, which was brought in the imperial court in Frankfurt. In this process, the sugar traders David de l’Hommel, Peter van Leyen, Emmanuel Alvarez de Castro and Cornelius Beselaer complained about the suspending payment for three tons of sugar by Abraham Pelten, an agent from the Netherlands. The process lasted from 1595 to 1607.75 Besides this special case of a conflict in commerce, there was more conflict potential among the Netherlandish immigrants caused by their different confessions. It happened on several occasions that the Lutherans attacked the coaches of the Calvinists and Mennonites on Sundays, when they went to Altona for religious service.76 With regard to their legal status too, the Netherlanders did not form a homogeneous group. The group of wealthy merchants, to which Hans L’Hommel belonged as a Calvinist, was well organized and had a legal contract with the Hamburg senate. This contract granted them a certain grade of political power. Others, mostly Lutherans, were burghers of the city, and a third group was formed by individuals who were neither partners of the Netherlandish contract nor burghers of the city. But all Netherlanders were either contributors or beneficiaries of the Netherlandish poor box as their central institution.77

Conclusion

To conclude, Coignet’s patrons in Hamburg possibly had a special interest in allegories that may be related to the trials and tribulations caused by different groups of Netherlandish Protestant expatriates. The Netherlanders probably also liked paintings that reflected their knowledge of antiquity and humanistic education. Paintings with mythological and allegorical scenes in the manner of Titian, which did not contradict their Protestant world view, may have been especially welcome. In the last five years of his life, Coignet created mythological and allegorical history paintings, but he was also active as a painter of religious themes. For Lutherans, the donation of religious historical paintings was a welcome means to show their wealth and their belonging to this group. Hamburg saw no iconoclasm, but the silent removal of relics and holy images, and the transformation of church interiors according to Protestant needs in the second half of the sixteenth century provided Coignet with major commissions. Apart from his paintings for the church of St Peter’s, a canvas showing St John at Patmos, which is dated 1598, is attributed to him.78 Obviously, Coignet never completely cut his ties to Antwerp, where his brother, the instrument maker and cartographer Michiel (1549–1623) still lived. Michiel had become a member of the St Luke’s guild in Antwerp in 1581 and a contributor to the guild’s poor box in 1583 during Gilles’s time as a dean.79 The St Petersburg painting with St. John at Patmos must have travelled between Antwerp and Hamburg, because Tobias Verhaecht (1561–1631), who became dean of the St Luke’s guild in 1594/95, painted the landscape and Coignet only added the figures.80 Like in his earlier career, Coignet worked for the market and cooperated with other painters.81

Coignet died in Hamburg in 1599 and was buried in St Jacob’s Church. His wife commissioned an epitaph giving a short summary of his life. This short text tells us that Gilles Coignet was an honorable and distinguished painter from Antwerp, who was highly esteemed among the artists of his time and renowned in the Belgian Provinces, in Germany, France, and Italy: ‘He died in piety in the year 1599 on December 27 in this city [Hamburg] and is buried in this church [St Jacob’s], leaving behind his widow and his only daughter Juliana in tears’.82 His daughter Juliana, who may have been c. 12–14 years old in 1599, later married Philips van der Veken, a merchant of Flemish origin, who owned a house in Hamburg and a country house in Trittau near Hamburg. The couple returned to Antwerp, where Juliana died in 1616.83 Philips van der Veken sold the Coignet family tomb in 1619 to the portraitist David Kindt, a member of the second generation of Flemish immigrants.84 Also in 1619, David Kindt bought the country house in Trittau from Philips van der Veken and apprenticed Juliana’s and Philip’s son as a painter.85

The influence of Netherlandish artists remained strong from the second half of the sixteenth century until the beginning of the eighteenth century. Only few of the Flemish painters appear in the accounts of the Hamburg painters’ guild. The Flemish artists held contact among each other and kept close ties with their former home land. The second generation of Netherlandish painters born in Hamburg, like David Kindt and Gabriel Engels, were trained by the immigrants of the first generation. Gilles Coignet’s grandson belonged to the third generation. Born probably in Hamburg to Coignet’s daughter Juliana and her husband Philips van der Veken, he lived for some time with his parents in Antwerp and was sent back to Hamburg as an apprentice to David Kindt in 1619.

It has become clear that an artist such as Gilles Coignet disrupts any notion of local schools. To recapitulate, Gilles Coignet was trained in Antwerp around 1555–1560. In Italy, he was successful as a decorative painter who worked in the style of the Fontainebleau school, which itself was an import from Italy. Also in Italy, the works of Titian became his main examples, like for many other painters from the North, who we might subsume under the term ‘Netherlandish Mannerism’.86 He developed his personal style, which is characterized by rapid brushstrokes and a Titianesque colorito. He applied special painting techniques by using gold and glass paste in his nocturnals. Van Mander notices that Coignet signed works of his pupils and sold them as his own.87 This was common workshop practice, and we can deduce that there was a demand for Coignet’s paintings in Antwerp and in Amsterdam, where he led workshops and had pupils. As far as we know today, Coignet was the only painter in Hamburg, who could supply Titianesque paintings, and it is difficult to assess in hindsight whether these paintings were esteemed for their Netherlandish or for their Italianate appeal. His clientele in Hamburg – apart from the Lutheran church – seems to have been internationally orientated merchants, who like him had left the Southern Netherlands for their confession. Most of these people remained in close contact with their relatives and with commercial partners in Antwerp and in Amsterdam, and the same seems to be true for Coignet and his family.