Home Page Image

 

 

Renders, Émile[-Léon Houvenaeghel]

Date born:  January 18, 1872

Place Born:  Dixmuide, Belgium

Date died: April 7, 1956

Place died: Bruges, Belgium?

Banker; art collector. Renders was born as Émile-Léon Houvenaeghel. He was adopted by the Bruges antiquarian August-Adolf Renders, receiving the family name Houvenaeghel-Renders, abridged to Renders in 1907. He married Julienne Sylvie D’Hoore (1875-1956). From 1920 onwards, Renders unscrupulously purchased a considerable collection of early Flemish paintings. Throughout his career, he collaborated with the painter and restorer Joseph van der Veken (1872-1964). In 1927, his collection was presented in the exhibition, Flemish and Belgian Art, 1300-1900, in the London Burlington House, a private art club. Georges Hulin de Loo, the distinguished professor and connoisseur of early Flemish painting, wrote the introduction to the 1927 catalog of the Renders collection, notices on each painting were provided by Édouard Michel (1873-1953). The director of the Berlin Zentralbibliothek Friedrich Winkler expressed serious doubts about the authenticity of a dozen of art works in his review, “Die flämisch-belgische Ausstelling in London.” By the end of the 1920s Renders published a number of articles in several periodicals, including The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, on the identity of Rogier van der Weyden, who in his view was the so-called Master of Flémalle. This identification, although not entirely new, went against the commonly held view according to which Rogier van der Weyden was the pupil of the Master of Flémalle. Renders stated that the works attributed to the Master of Flémalle were in fact the earlier works of Rogier van der Weyden himself. Renders harshly attacked several art historians for disagreeing with him. He further explained his theory in a two-volume study, La solution du problème Van der Weyden-Flémalle-Campin, which appeared in 1931. His theory was accepted by Max J. Friedländer and Jacques Lavalleye, but rejected by Jules Destrée, Hulin de Loo, Winkler, Erwin Panofsky, and others. Another debate arose in the 1930s regarding the existence of Hubert van Eyck, the brother of Jan van Eyck. Renders argued in his 1933 publication, Hubert van Eyck, personage de légende, that Hubert van Eyck was merely a legendary person. In his view, the quatrain inscribed on the exterior frames of the wings of the Ghent Altarpiece, with the names of Hubert and Jan as the makers of the artwork, was a later addition. In 1935 Renders published a follow-up monograph on the work of Jan van Eyck, again rejecting the existence of his brother Hubert, Jean van Eyck, son oeuvre, son style, son évolution et la légende d’un frère peintre. This extreme view was accepted by some art historians, including Friedländer, although with reservations, and Maurice Brockwell, and rejected by others, including Hermann Beenken and again, Winkler. In 1941, during the Second World War, Renders sold 20 paintings to Reichsmarshall Hermann Göring (1893-1946). Soon after the end of the war, part of the Renders collection was discovered in Germany. Renders attempted to reclaim his paintings, stating that the sale had taken place under duress. In 1946 ten panels from the collection returned to Brussels. The Belgian Office de Récupération économique denied Renders’ claims of ownership. In 1949-1951 Renders eventually lost a lawsuit against the Belgian State. In the meantime the debate on Hubert van Eyck continued. In 1945 Jozef Duverger defended the thesis that Hubert had been a real person, referring to the mention of his name both in the tombstone inscription and in the quatrain, Het grafschift van Hubrecht van Eyck en het quatrain van het Gentsche Lam Gods-retabel. The last publication of Renders on the question, Jean van Eyck et le polyptique; deux problèmes résolus, attracted little attention. The debate seemingly had lost its relevance. Renders died in 1956.

In recent years, various aspects of the role of Renders as a collector, and his collaboration with Van der Veken, received much attention, following research on two paintings from his former collection, the so-called Madeleine Renders, and the so-called Madone Renders. Among the missing paintings of the Renders collection (in 1945) was a copy of the right wing of the Braque Triptych by Rogier van der Weyden representing Mary Magdalen (the original of which is in the Louvre); in the 1927 London exhibition catalog this copy had been attributed to Hans Memling. In 1946, this copy surfaced in Spain, in the possession of Alois Miedl (1903-?), an agent of Goering who had fled to Spain. Miedl sold the panel to a Scandinavian collector in 1966.  In 2004 it returned to Belgium for technical examination at the laboratories of the Institut royal du patrimoine artistique/Koninklijk Instituut voor het Kunstpatrimonium. It appeared that Van der Veken had completely over-painted it before 1927. This so-called Madeleine Renders was shown in the 2005 exhibition, L’affaire van der Veken, in the Brussels Musée royal des Beaux-Arts, which asserted Van der Veken had “restored” a considerable number of other paintings as well. Another painting formerly in the possession of Renders (now Tournai Musée des Beaux-Arts), a Madonna and Child (school of Rogier van der Weyden), was examined at the Catholic University of Louvain (Laboratoire d’étude des oeuvres d’art de l’UCL, Labart). This painting, the so-called Madone Renders, was exhibited in the 2004-2005 exposition Fake or not Fake in the Bruges Groeninge Museum, and in the 2005 exhibition, L’affaire van der Veken, in the Brussels Musée royal des Beaux-Arts. MD

Home Country:  Belgium

Sources: Early Flemish Paintings in the Renders Collection at Bruges, Exhibited at the Belgian Exhibition, Burlington House, January, 1927. With an introduction by G. Hulin de Loo and notices by Edouard Michel. London: B. T. Batsford Ltd, 1927; Winkler, Friedrich. “Die flämisch-belgische Ausstelling in London” Der Kunstwanderer 7 (1927): 221-224; Reinach, Salomon “The Riddle of the Maître de Flémalle“ The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 55, no 316 (July 1929): 55; Destrée, Jules. Roger de la Pasture - van der Weyden. Paris-Brussels: G. van Oest, 1930; Lavalleye, Jaques. “Le problème Maître de Flémalle - Rogier van der Weyden” Revue belge de philologie et d’histoire 12,3 (1933): pp. 791-805; Winkler, Friedrich. “Der Streit um Hubert van Eyck” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 3 (1934): 283-290; Duverger, Jozef. Het grafschrift van Hubrecht van Eyck en het quatrain van het Gentsche Lam Gods-retabel. Brussels: AWLSK, 1945; Friedländer, Max J. Early Netherlandish Painting (Published under the direction of Ernest Goldschmidt) 1. The van Eycks - Petrus Christus. Leyden: A. W. Sijthoff, 1967, pp. 100-103, 105-106, 2. Rogier van der Weyden and the Master of Flémalle. Leyden: A. W. Sijthoff, 1967, pp. 53-56, 95-98; Verougstraete, H. and Van Schoute, R. „La Madone Renders et sa restauration par Joseph Van der Veken (1872-1964)“ in Verougstraete, H. and Van Schoute, R. (eds.) La peinture et le laboratoire. Actes du Colloque XIII pour l’étude du dessin sous-jacent et de la technologie dans la peinture. Louvain-Paris-Sterling VA, 2001, pp. 7-28; L’affaire Van der Veken. Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels. Du 27 janvier au 20 février 2005. Brussels: Institut royal du Patrimoine artistique, 2005; Vanwijnsberghe, Dominique (ed.) avec la collaboration de Bourguignon, Catherine and Debergh, Jacques. Autour de la Madeleine Renders: Un aspect de l’histoire des collections, de la restauration et de la contrefaçon en Belgique dans la première moitié du XXe siècle. Brussels: Institut royal du Patrimoine artistique, 2008; Yeide, Nancy H. and Edsel, Robert M. (introduction), Beyond the Dreams of Avarice. The Hermann Goering Collection. Dallas: Laurel Publishing, LLC, 2009, nrs A 934-A 938; A 1204; A 1224.

Bibliography: “The Riddle of the Maître de Flémalle“ The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 54, no 315 (June 1929): 285-305; La solution du problème Van der Weyden-Flémalle-Campin. 2 vols. Bruges: Beyaert, 1931; Hubert van Eyck, personnage de légende. Paris-Brussels: G. van Oest, 1933;  Jean van Eyck, son œuvre, son style, son évolution et la légende d’un frère peintre. Bruges: C. Beyaert, 1935; The Renders Collection: 20 Primitives Acquired under Duress by Goering. Brussels, 1945; Jean van Eyck et le polyptique; deux problèmes résolus. Brussels: Librairie générale, 1950.

Subject's name: Émile Renders