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The artist's circle

Joos van Cleve was known in Antwerp as a painter of brightly coloured altarpieces; however, until the nineteenth century his paintings were attributed to the ‘Master of the Death of the Virgin’. As a portraitist he was both prolific and talent

Katlijne van Mispelteeren, The Artist's Wife ©

Many artists chose to indicate their character through portraits alongside friends or family members. Some of the earliest examples show artists with their wives – traditionally in the form of pendant portraits but gradually developing into more informal double portraits, with both figures shown within a single frame. From the late eighteenth century, a new interest in the state of childhood as something precious to be preserved, together with the related notion of sensibility, stimulated a proliferation of images of artists with their children.

Prior to the establishment of formal artistic training schools, the close bond between artists was often forged in the workshop. The sense of comradery (as well as competition) between artists presented ample opportunity for them to draw, paint or photograph each other. In some cases, these portraits are formal, while in others they are more personal and intimate. They can sometimes appear more unguarded than self-portraits - the artist's gaze diverted rather than necessarily focused on their own reflection in a mirror.