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Portrait of Abbot Nicholas à Spira
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Portrait of Abbot Nicholas à Spira

Description Conservation Exhibitions Provenance Inscription Credit
Description In 1543, Nicholas à Spira (1510-1568) was elected abbot of the abbey of the Norbertine Order at Grimbergen in the southern Netherlands (modern Belgium). He commissioned an altarpiece with his portrait on one wing and that of his patron saint, St. Nicholas, (37.2615) on the other. the painter, the little-known Jacob de Punder (or Jacques de Poindre), portrayed his client with unflinching realism. Xrays of the two panels reveal the traces of an Annunciation scene that initially would would be seen by the worshipper when the altarpiece was closed. It is now overpainted. In 1566, the abbey, like many Catholic churches and institutions in the Netherlands, was set on fire by bands of Protestant reformers bent on purging the land of idolatrous images. However, the altarpiece survived until the anticlerical campaigns of the 1790s that swept through much of western Europe with the reverberations of the French Revolution. The altarpiece was apparently dismantled then, probably in order to separate the portraits from the central panel featuring a religious subject, which was very likely destroyed.
Date Description Narrative
Examinationexamined for condition
11/16/1941Treatmentloss compensation; coated; repaired; other
12/16/1941Treatmentcoated; inpainted; other; varnish removed or reduced
1/01/1975Examinationexamined for condition
1/20/1975Treatmentcoated; varnish removed or reduced
2/20/1975Treatmentcleaned; coated
7/02/1984Examinationexamined for condition
7/02/1984Treatmentcoated; inpainted; loss compensation; varnish removed or reduced
8/27/1985Technical Reportother
8/27/1985Technical Reportchemical analysis; examined for technical study
1/20/1987Treatmentcleaned; coated; loss compensation
7/13/1988Examinationexamined for condition
8/28/1990Technical Reportother
8/28/1990Technical Reportchemical analysis; examined for technical study
  • Salute to Belgium. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1980.
Provenance Abbey of Grimbergen, Brabant, 1563-late 18th century; de Malherbe Collection, Valenciennes; Sale, October 17-18, 1883, no. 46; Comte Jacques de Béraudière, Paris; Sale, Cabinet Foucart, October 10-12, 1898, no. 65; de Somzée Collection; Sale, Brussels, May 24, 1904, no. 565; Henry Walters, Baltimore, ca. 1905 [mode of acquisition unknown]; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Inscriptions Signed at the left: (J)ABOBVS (D)EPUNDER FECIT; Inscribed and dated to the left: SPIRTVM RECTV INSPIRA / ANNO ETATIS SUE 53 / ANNO 1563
Credit Acquired by Henry Walters, ca. 1905

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1563 (Renaissance)
oil on panel
(Painting & Drawing)
Accession Number
34 x 23 5/8 in. (86.4 x 60 cm)
  • Belgium, Mechelen (Place of Origin)
  • Belgium, Brabant, Abbey of Grimbergen (Place of Discovery)


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