Simon Bening

Datesabout 1483 - 1561
BornGhent, Belgium
DiedBruges, Belgium

One of the most celebrated painters of Flanders in the 1500s, Simon Bening was hailed by Portuguese art critic Francisco da Hollanda as the greatest master of illumination in all of Europe. In addition to producing books for powerful aristocrats such as Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg, Bening worked for a group of international royal patrons including Emperor Charles V and Don Fernando, the Infante of Portugal. He specialized in books of hours and is also known to have received commissions for painted genealogical tables and portable altarpieces on parchment. Bening's art continued the Flemish tradition of skillfully representing the muted natural light of haunting nocturnal scenes. His work also contributed to a newer Flemish practice of painting poetic landscape vistas.

Simon learned his craft in the workshop of his father, the painter Alexander Bening, in Ghent. By 1500, he moved to Bruges. His career there developed quickly, and at least three times he served as dean of the calligraphers, booksellers, illuminators, and binders' Guild of Saint John and Saint Luke. As his father taught him, so Simon taught his children. His eldest daughter, Livinia, became court painter to Edward VI of England, and another daughter became a dealer in paintings, miniatures, parchment, and silk.