The Madonna of the Cherries

joos van cleve
(Cleve c. 1485 – Antwerp 1540/1541)

The madonna of the cherries 

oil on panel (with shaped top)
71 x 51 cm. (27.9 x 20 in.)
c. 1520s

“Joos’ best adaptations of Leonardo resulted in a fruitful combination of the figurative grace and harmony of Italian colouring, and the Dutch surface treatment and the richness of detail, which created a new hybrid form.”

Peter van den Brink, Leonardo des Nordens, Aachen, 2011, p. 131.

The early years of Joos van Cleve are not well documented, though his name implies he probably came from the region around the lower Rhenish city of Kleve. He was likely born around 1485 and started training with Jan Joest (1450-1519) in Kalkar around 1505.


By 1511 Joos van Cleve emigrated to Antwerp, where he became a free master in the Guild of Saint Luke. He received several commissions from Cologne, and until his identity was discovered by later art historians, his well-known Death of the Virgin triptychs gave him the provisional name of “Master of the Death of the Virgin”. He was undoubtedly one of the most recognised artists working in Antwerp at that time and a leading figure in the Italianizing style popular in Flanders (Hand & Wolff, 1986, p. 56). It is due to his Leonardesque style of painting, both in composition and execution, like this Madonna of the Cherries, that he became known as the ‘Leonardo of the North’. This composition was one of his most celebrated and exists in over thirty versions, of which The Klesch Collection’s painting is recognised as one of the strongest of the group by both Peter van den Brink (Brink, 2011, p. 176) and John Oliver Hand (Hand, 2004, p. 95). Van Cleve is believed to have been portraitist to Francis I of France (1494-1547), and his portrait of Henry VIII (1491-1547) suggest he may have been invited to the English court as well (“Joos van Cleve”, n.d., para. 2). He died in Antwerp around 1640/41.

J.O. Hand. Joos van Cleve: The Complete Paintings. New Haven, 2004.
Peter van den Brink (ed.). Joos van Cleve Leonardo des Nordens. Exhibition catalogue. Aachen, 2011.
Joos van Cleve. (n.d.). Retrieved 19 June 2020 from
J.O. Hand and Martha Wolff. Early Netherlandish Painting. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systemic Catalogue. Washington D.C., 1986.


The Earls of Chesterfield;
Robert Napier of Shandon (1791-1876), Dumfriesshire;
his deceased sale; Christie’s, London, 11 April 1877, lot 649 (as “Bernard van Orley”);
Sir Francis Cook, 1st Bart (1817-1901), Doughty House, Richmond;
thence by descent to his son Sir Frederick Cook, 2nd Bart (1844-1920), Doughty House, Richmond;
by descent to his son Sir Herbert Francis Cook, 3rd Bart (1868-1939), Doughty House, Richmond;
by descent to his son Sir Francis Cook, 4th Bart (1907-1978), Doughty House, Richmond, by whose trustees sold;
The Property of the Trustees of the Cook Collection; Christie’s, London, 25 November 1966, lot 61 to Charles (d. 1983) and Barbara Robertson (d. 2002);
Their sale, Sotheby’s, London, 16 December 2002, lot 27 (as “Joos van Cleve and Workshop”) to Colnaghi, London;
from whom acquired by a private collection, New York, thence sold to;
a private collection, New York;
The Klesch Collection.

Manchester, “Art Treasures”, 1857, no. 467 (as “Mabuse, or more probably Van Orley”).
London, New Gallery, “Exhibition of pictures by masters of the Flemish and British Schools including a selection from the works of Sir Peter Paul Rubens”, 1899, no. 9, (as “by Mabuse”, lent by Sir Francis Cook).
London, Burlington Fine Arts Club, “Winter Exhibition”, 1912.
Southampton, Art Gallery, by 1964 (on loan).
Manchester, City Art Gallery, “Between Renaissance and Baroque”, 1965, no. 65.
Saint Louis, City Art Gallery of Saint Louis, 1973 (on loan).
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 5 September – 6 December 2006 (on loan).
Aachen, Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum, “Joos van Cleve, Leonardo des Nordens”, 17 March – 26 June 2011, no. 35.

Sir J.C. Robinson, Catalogue of the works of art forming the collection of Robert Napier, London, 1864, pp. 19-20, cat. no. 27.
Sir Francis Cook, Abridged Catalogue of the Pictures At Doughty House, Richmond, London, 1903, p. 10, no. 65 (as “Mabuse”).
Sir C. Phillips, The Daily Telegraph, 7 December 1912.
M. W. Brockwell, A Catalogue of the Paintings at Doughty House, Richmond, & Elsewhere in the Collection of Sir Frederick Cook, bt., Visconde de Monserrate, Vol. 3, London, 1915, p. 81, no. 460 (as “Bernard van Orley”).
L. Baldass, Joos van Cleve, der Meister des Todes Mariä, Vienna, 1925, cat. no. 94.
M.J. Friedländer, Die Altniederländische Malerei, vol. IX, 1931, pp. 43, 137, cat. no. 63h.
M.W. Brockwell, Abridged Catalogue of the Pictures at Doughty House in the Collection of Sir Herbert Cook, Bart, London, 1932.
G. Marlier, “Joos van Cleve – Fontainebleau and Italy,” The Connoisseur, May 1967, pp. 25-27, reproduced fig. 4.
M.J. Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting, Leiden, 1972, vol IX, part I, cat. no. 63h, not illustrated (as “formerly in the Cook Collection, Richmond, present location unknown”; as “a replica of Van Cleve composition painted in the artist’s studio or by one of his followers”).
J.O. Hand, Joos van Cleve: The Complete Paintings, New Haven, 2004, pp. 95, 186, cat. no. 112.2, reproduced p. 95 (as “workshop”).
M. Leeflang, ‘Uytnemende Schilder van Antwerpen’ Joos van Cleve: atelier, productie en werkmethoden, Ipskamp, 2007, pp. 149-151, 255-256.
D. Micucci, “The Top Collections from 250 Collectors,” Art & Antiques, March 2008, p. 105, reproduced in colour.
R. Brettel, From the Private Collections of Texas: European Art, Ancient to Modern, New Haven, 2009, p. 114, reproduced.
P. van den Brink, ed., Joos van Cleve Leonardo des Nordens, exh. cat., Aachen, 2011, pp. 117, 176, cat. no. 35, reproduced p. 117, fig. 91.
M. Leeflang, Joos van Cleve: A Sixteenth Century Antwerp Artist and His Workshop, Turnhout, 2015, p. 75, reproduced p. 77.

If you would like to use this image for educational purposes, please contact us.