I always find it fascinating how much we actually know about things that happened over 500 years ago. And, yet, I find it disappointing that sometimes we don't know more. That is much the case when it comes to the Flemish painter Antonie can den Wyngaerde. He was considered the foremost cityscape painter of his day.
We know very little about his personal life, there doesn't even seem to be information on whether he ever married. He did have a son but on all of the Internet, I could only find one mention of him. What we do know mainly comes from the surviving catalog of his work and a bit of detective work. Historians have basically taken his works, the dates they were completed and created a timeline of Wyngaerde's life based on that information.
Once again, I found different opinions on the date of the artist's birth. Most list 1525 but one source did identify the year as 1510. The 1510 does appear to have some relevance and the confusion could be one of mistaken identity. In 1510, the name “Anton van den Wyngaerde” was registered in Antwerp with the painter's guild. The assumption is that that date implies the father of the artist was himself an artist. I suppose in the grand scheme of things, whether the artist was born in 1510 or 1525 doesn't really matter as it doesn't impact the wonderful artwork of his we enjoy today.
Antonie Wyngaerde was most famous for his panoramas of cities and towns important to Philip II of Spain. From the hometown of his wife, Mary Tudor, to the numerous communities that Philip governed; Wyngaerde was responsible for documenting each one of them. Although favored by a powerful monarch, Wyngaerde's work didn't become popular until almost 300 years after his death. Perhaps, it's become even more popular now.
Although a Flemish artist, Wyngaerde was often known as Antonio de las Viñas, probably due to his strong ties to Spain. I've also seen several variations on his first name including Anton, Antonie and Antionie. But, once you see some of his work, you'll recognize the artist no matter how someone has spelled his name.
Since, there's so little biographical information to be found on Wyngaerde, I thought I would format this biography more like a timeline than a story.
1544 – Ironically, Wyngaerde's first work is perhaps his most famous. His panorama of the city of London, was completed on such a large scroll that sometime during history it was cut into 14 separate sheets. One source listed his View of Dordrecht (a city in the Netherlands) his first known work.
1552-1553 – Wyngaerde was in Italy creating panoramas of the cities of Ancona, Genoa, Naples and Rome. Sometime in 1553, he returned to the Netherlands.
He was in Belgium sometime between 1553 and 1558 and completed a panoramic piece of Brussels.
1555 – 1558 (the dates vary a bit) – the artist accompanied the Spanish troops during their battles with the French. He documented the battles at Saint Quentin, Ham, Sluis, Dunkirk, Mechelen and Brugues.
1558-1559 – Wyngaerde completed several pieces depicting English cities and palaces including: Dover & London and Greenwich, Hampton Court, Oatlands and Richmond.
1561 – Philip II summoned Wyngaerde to Spain and appointed him “pintor de camara”, a most apt description for an artist who created almost photographic-quality landscape drawings of cities and towns.
1562-1571 – Philip commissioned the artist to document each of Spain's principle towns. His “city rooms” would demonstrate the grandeur and strength of the Spanish realm. Wyngaerde completed at least 62 views that depicted 50 of Spain's cities.
1562 – Completed views of Burgos, Cordoba, Grenada, Madrid, Seville and Toledo.
1563 – Completed views of Barcelona, Valencia and Zaragoza.
1567 – Wyngaerde would complete the first known work of Gibraltar.
1570 – Wyngaerde completes his last known work – panorama of Carmoa.
1571 – died in Madrid
1727 – A fire the destroyed the royal palace including the paintings from Philip's city rooms. Fortunately, many of Wyngaerde's original drawings survived the fire.
From the biography of the painter Felipe Diricksen, we know that Wyngaerde had at least one child – Rodrigo Diricksen, Felipe's father. Rodrigo and Felipe were also painters. Felipe would become the official court painter of King Philip III of Spain and be remembered for his portraits and religious paintings.