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date: 29 September 2023

Orley, Bernard van also known as Barend van Orley, Barent Van Brussel, Bernardo Di Brusseles or D'orlich, D'ourlech, Orletfree

Orley, Bernard van also known as Barend van Orley, Barent Van Brussel, Bernardo Di Brusseles or D'orlich, D'ourlech, Orletfree

Flemish, 16th century, male.

Born probably c. 1492, in Brussels, between 1487 and 1488 according to some sources; died 6 January 1541, in Brussels.

Painter, glass painter. Religious subjects, portraits. Designs for tapestries.

Brussels School.

Bernard van ORLEY: signature or monogram

Bernard van Orley is presumed to be the son of Valentin d'Orley, under whom (or under whose son Philipp) he studied and with whom he collaborated over a long period. His engraved work betrays the influence of Raphael and Dürer.

Bernard van Orley graduated in Brussels in 1515 and went on to work for the Vicereine Marguerite of the Low Countries. He was commissioned by the king of Denmark to paint six portraits (of Charles V, Ferdinand I and his four sisters); these were followed by a Last Judgement triptych for the chapel of the Annunciation in Antwerp (1525) and a further triptych for the Brotherhood of the Holy Cross in the church of St-Walburge in Furnes (lost in 1807). In 1518, he was retained as court painter by the Infanta Marguerite for a token honorarium of one sou per day; he duly painted numerous portraits of his patron. In 1527, he and his family were embroiled - as were many of their fellow artists - in the persecution of those citizens of Brussels who had followed the teachings of Jacques van der Elst. Marguerite, alarmed at the prospects of 'her' artists being set upon by the Inquisition, made every effort to save van Orley and continued to retain his services. On her death, van Orley painted a composition for the church at Brou, as the late vicereine had wished; the painting was 'recovered' by Charles V over the protestations of the monks of Brou.

In 1532, Bernard van Orley was retained as court painter to Maria of Hungary (the 'huntress' of his numerous portraits). His acclaimed tapestries known as the Hunts of Maximilian were completed between 1521 and 1530 and are now in the Louvre. They attest to his predilection for grandiose landscapes which, despite a proliferation of innumerable picturesque details, achieve a certain unity by virtue of their broad-based groups of figures. They also demonstrate his particularly 'Flemish' mastery of colour - greens, reds, blue-greys and rust.

Bernard van Orley came into his own as a decorative artist. He completed a series of tapestries under the title Battle of Pavia (now in the Capodimonte Museum in Naples) and, between 1515 and 1519, he supervised the completion of a further series, Acts of the Apostles inspired by the cartoons of Raphael, whose style he clearly admired and emulated (without necessarily having travelled to Italy and/or seen the originals). Towards the end of his life, he created a number of stained glass windows for the collegiate church of Sts-Michel-et-Gudule.

Bernard van Orley married Anna Seghers and, shortly after her death, married Catherina Helluick in 1539. He had nine children, five boys who all became painters, including Michael (c. 1590), Jerome I (1567-1602), and Giles (c. 1535-53); Giles' son, Jerome II, had four sons of his own who perpetuated the van Orley dynasty. Van Orley's roster of pupils included Michiel Coxie, Pieter Cock, van Aelst (or Alost) and Arnoul van der Bruggen.

Examples of van Orley's stained glass include: Charles V and Elizabeth of Portugal and Louis of Hungary and his Wife (church of Ste-Gudule, Brussels); Joris van Egmont, Bishop of Utrecht and his Patron, St Martin (church of Sankt Bavon, Haarlem); Marguerite of Austria and Philip of Savoy and Christ Entering Jerusalem (both now destroyed).

Museum and Gallery Holdings

Aachen: Holy Family

Antwerp: Infant Jesus (uncertain); Patrician; Mater Dolorosa (uncertain); Last Judgement and the Seven Works of Misericordia; St Elizabeth and St Lawrence Distributing Alms

Berlin (Staatliche Mus.): Christ on the Cross

Besançon: 'N' (triptych)

Béziers: Virgin and Child

Bonn: Mary and the Infant Jesus; Visitation of the Virgin; Manneton Altarpiece

Brussels (Mus. royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique): Episodes from the Lives of Sts Thomas and Matthias; Adoration of the Magi; Trials and Patience of Job; Georges de Lille, Physician; Holy Family (c. 1521-2)

Chambéry: Adoration of the Magi

Cologne: Religious Triptych; Joseph of Arimathea

Detroit: Crucifixion; Nicomedes (old copies)

Douai: Virgin and Child

Dresden: Mary and Joseph Kneeling before the Infant Jesus; Bust of a Young Man

Glasgow: St Adrian

Kassel: Christ with Mary, Anne and Mary Magdalene

London (NG): A Female Head (c. 1525-1550, oil/wood, now thought to be from the workshop of the Master of the Female Half-lengths)

Madrid (Prado): Orations; Women Praying

Moscow (Rumiantsev Mus.): Holy Family

Munich: St Norbert; Archangel Michael; Adoration of the Magi

Oldenburg: Virgin and Child

Paris (Louvre): Holy Family

Rohrau (Schlossmus., Graf Harrach'sche Familiensammlung): Adoration of the Magi

Rotterdam: Crucifixion

St Petersburg (Hermitage): Descent from the Cross; Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane

Stuttgart: Crucifixion

Turin: Christ on the Cross; King of France Healing the Lepers

Venice: St Mary Magdalene

Vienna: Rest on the Flight into Egypt; Circumcision

Vienna (Kunsthistorisches Mus.): Altarpiece of Sts Thomas and Matthew (painting in two parts)

Vienna (Liechtenstein Mus.): Portrait of a Lady; St Constantine and a Donor; Donor's Wife

Auction Records

Paris, 1850: Holy Trinity, FRF 990

Paris, 1865: Birth of Christ, FRF 806

Paris, 1873: Virgin and the Infant Jesus, FRF 3,550

Paris, 1883: Female Portrait, FRF 16,000

Paris, 1890: St Madeleine, FRF 1,650

Paris, 1900: Adoration of the Magi, FRF 2,500

London, 26 Feb 1910: Virgin and the Infant Jesus, GBP 88

London, 25-26 May 1911: Virgin and Child, GBP 141

London, 16 June 1911: Lady in Black Holding a Book, GBP 210

London, 7 July 1922: Infant Jesus and the Infant St John, GBP 178

London, 15 Dec 1922: Woman in a Black Gown, GBP 199

London, 27 July 1925: Woman as Magdalene, GBP 378

Paris, 19-20 Nov 1926: Virgin and Infant Jesus with St Joseph, St Anne and Other Saints (school of Bernard van Orley) FRF 8,000

London, 7 Dec 1928: Virgin and Child surrounded by St Catherine, St Barbara and a Donor, GBP 1,312

London, 3 July 1929: Holy Family, GBP 920

London, 11 July 1930: Holy Family, GBP 735

New York, 25-26 March 1931: Holy Family, USD 400

London, 15 July 1931: Portrait of Margaret of Austria, GBP 180

London, 5 April 1935: Virgin and Child, GBP 105

Lucerne, 2-7 Sept 1935: Christ on the Mount of Olives, CHF 1,600

Geneva, 7 Dec 1935: Christ Entering Jerusalem, CHF 21,250

Amsterdam, 7 April 1936: Descent from the Cross, NLG 1,400

London, 24 June 1938: Legend of St Martin, GBP 1,575

New York, 25 Jan 1947: Life of St John the Baptist, USD 1,050

Paris, 3 Dec 1959: Half-length Portrait of a Young Woman, FRF 2,500,000

New York, 9 Oct 1960: Madonna and Child, USD 1,750

London, 14 June 1961: Portrait, GBP 1,000

New York, 24 Oct 1962: Descent from the Cross, USD 3,000

London, 2 July 1965: Virgin and Child; St Elizabeth of Hungary; Young Woman at Prayer (triptych) Gns 3,500

London, 6 July 1966: Landscape with Virgin and Child, GBP 7,200

London, 21 June 1968: St Jerome; St Denis, Gns 3,000

London, 8 Dec 1972: Male Portrait, Gns 6,500

Nice, 26 Sept 1973: Calvary, FRF 115,000

Paris, 29 Nov 1976: St Anne and St John Worshipping Virgin and Child (oil on round panel, diam. 8 ¼ ins/21 cm) FRF 15,000

Amsterdam, 9 June 1977: St Martin Worshipping Virgin and Child (oil on panel, 27½ × 30 ins/70 × 76 cm) NLG 460,000

Amsterdam, 26 Nov 1984: Autumn (pen and brown ink/outline in black chalk, 10½ × 16½ ins/26.9 × 41.6 cm) NLG 62,000

London, 8 April 1987: Conversion of St Paul; St Catherine Triumphing over the Emperor Maximus (oil on panel, pair, 7¾ × 4½ ins/20 × 11.5 cm) GBP 30,000

New York, 2 June 1989: Virgin and Child with St Anne and Physicians (oil on panel, 39¼ × 32½ ins/100 × 82.5 cm) USD 77,000

New York, 11 Jan 1990: Virgin and Child Seated in a Garden in a Vast River Landscape with Woods in the Background (oil on panel, 7¾ × 5¾ ins/20 × 14.5 cm) USD 77,000

Stockholm, 30 Nov 1993: Queen Elizabeth of Hungary (oil on panel, 22 × 9¾ ins/56 × 25 cm) SEK 37,000

New York, 10 Jan 1995: Otto, Count of Nassau and his Wife, Adelheid van Vianden (ink and watercolour/black chalk, tapestry design from the 'Genealogy of the House of Nassau' series, 14 × 19 ins/35.7 × 48.2 cm) USD 299,500

London, 13 Dec 1996: Resuscitated Christ visiting His Mother, with Ancestors (oil on panel, 10¼ × 8½ ins/26.3 × 21.6 cm) GBP 397,500

New York, 25 Jan 2002: Pilate Washing his Hands (black chalk squared in red chalk on four joined sheets, 36 × 24 ins/92 × 61 cm) USD 150,000


  • Friedländer, Max J.: Die altniederländische Malerei, viii, Berlin, 1930 (Eng. trans. as Early Netherlandish Painting, viii (Leiden, 1972)).
  • Lassaigne, Jacques/Delevoy, R.L.: La Peinture flamande, de Jérôme Bosch à Rubens, Skira, Geneva, 1958.
  • Le Cabinet d'un grand amateur, P. J. Mariette, exhibition catalogue, Réunion des Musées nationaux, Paris, 1967.
  • Hand, J.O., et al.: The Age of Bruegel: Netherlandish Drawings in the Sixteenth Century, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, 1986-1987.
  • Farmer, J.D.: How One Workshop Worked: Bernard van Orley's Atelier in Early Sixteenth-century Brussels, Princeton, 1994.
  • Oursel, Hervé: ‘Une tapisserie de Bruxelles des années 1530 au musée national de la Renaissance à Écouen’ in Revue du Louvre n° 3 p. 43, Paris, June 2000.