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Bernard van Orley (Brussels, between 1487 and 1491 – Brussels, 6 January 1541), also called Barend van Orley, Bernaert van Orley or Barend van Brussel , was an outstanding painter and draftsman of the Nordic Renaissance, and also a designer of cardboard for tapestries and stained glass.
His family came from Luxembourg. His family branch moved to the Duchy of Brabant, where his father Valentin van Orley was born (1466 – Brussels, 1532). Both Bernard and his brother Everard (who would also become a painter) were born in Brussels. In 1512 Bernard van Orley married Agnes Seghers. In 1539, shortly after she died, Van Orley married Catherina Helluick. They had a total of six children. His four boys followed in his father’s footsteps and became painters as well.
It has sometimes been pointed out that Bernard van Orley finished his artistic training in Rome in Rafael’s workshop, but there are no sources to prove it. Most likely he would be trained in his father’s workshop. Bernard van Orley knew the Renaissance style from engravings and a series of cartons for carpets of Raphael on the Acts of the Apostles, which were in Brussels between 1516 and 1520, of which they were going to make tapestries with wool for Pope Leon X by Pieter van Aalst.
Portrait of Charles V (Louvre de Paris).
From 1515 onward, along with his studio, he commissioned many portraits, including several from the royal family and people associated with the court. In 1516 he painted seven portraits of Charles V, who had just become king of Spain, and his brother Fernando, later king of Hungary, and his four sisters.
A copy of the Shroud of Turin, made in 1516, is usually attributed to Albrecht Dürer, but sometimes Bernard van Orley’s possible authorship is also indicated.
For the year 1517 he was recognized as a teacher by the Antwerp painters’ guild. On May 23, 1518, he was appointed official painter of the court of the regent of the Netherlands, Marguerite of Austria, replacing Jacopo d’Barbari, and in this position, he became the leader of an important workshop, making him one of the first business artists of Northern Europe. In this workshop he produced paintings and, especially after 1525, he became a leading designer of cardboard for tapestries and stained glass.
When Albert Dürer visited the Netherlands in 1520 to witness the coronation of the new emperor, Charles V, he called Barend van Orley flatteringly, “the Raphael of the Netherlands.” Durer, who remained as a guest at the home of Bernard van Orley between August 27 and September 2, 1520, also painted his portrait.
He held the position of court painter until 1527 when he fell into disgrace, along with his family and other artists, for his Protestant sympathies. The van Orley family left Brussels and settled in Antwerp. Five years later, when he was reinstated to the post by the new regent of the Netherlands, Maria of Austria, he returned to Brussels. After his death in 1541, his pupil, Michael Coxcie, succeeded him as court painter.
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