HIERONYMUS DUQUESNOY BY GEERT DEBEUCKELAERE
Jérôme Duquesnoy (1602-54) was a leading Brabantine sculptor executed for sodomising two boys in Ghent in 1654. The following account of his life and death by Geert Debeuckelaere was published as “" 'Omme dieswille at Gij, Hieronymus Duquesnoy...," in Tijdschrift voor Homogeschiedenis I (1984) 5-22, and translated by G.-J. Cbelens as "For the reason that thou, Hieronymus Duquesnoy ..." in Paidika Vol. II, No. 1 (Amsterdam, summer 1989) pp. 50-57.
None of the footnotes are this website’s. It appears that all are the author’s except for the ninth, marked “(ed.)”, which seems to be by Joseph Geraci, who wrote an introduction to the translation (though this is not made absolutely clear).
An earlier account of Duquesnoy by Georges Eekhoud also concentrated, though to a lesser degree, on his downfall, but with much less detail and accuracy with respect to his trial.
“For the reason that thou, Hieronymus Duquesnoy. . .”
These are the opening words of a court judgement regarding sodomy accusations, pronounced by the Ghent sheriffs' court. The sentence was carried out on 28 September, 1654, and none other than Hieronymus Duquesnoy, one of the foremost representatives of Flemish Baroque sculpture, was led towards the stake. His masterpiece, the mausoleum of Bishop Triest in the Saint Bavo Cathedral, had not yet been completed
In the Treaty of Munster in 1648, Spain finally recognized the Dutch Republic and accepted the closure of the Schelde river, which was detrimental to the prosperity of Southern Netherlands. However, the districts that later became Belgium were past their greatest calamities. Because of the wars and emigration caused by the Reformation and the Counter Reformation, the economy now had to provide the necessities of life for fewer people. For some cities - and Ghent was one of them - one might even speak of a certain economic recovery, thanks to the luxury textile industry. The Saint Bavo Cathedral would enjoy this relative prosperity, thanks to the foundation of a special redesign fund, established by Bishop Triest.
The Duquesnoy Family
Hieronymus Duquesnoy was the youngest of three sculptors from the same family. Hieronymus senior was the creator of the well-known “Manneken Pis". His son François, the most talented of the three, rose to fame in Italy under the name “ll Flamingo", and died in Leghorn while setting off to France to work at the French Court.
For a long time his biographers have wronged the younger Hieronymus. It is obvious that his death at the stake affected their valuations of his life. While accusations concerning his murder of his brother have been refuted for over a century, biographers still try to discredit the quality and originality of his work. Both E. Dhanens in De Sint Baafskathedraal and M. van Roose in De Beeld houwkunst in de 17de eeuw reach back to this tradition, disproven since 1949, suggesting that he merely completed a work originally commissioned from his brother François.
Hieronymus Duquesnoy was born in 1602 in Brussels, and grew up in his father’s atelier. Hieronymus, like his brother François, was very much attracted towards sculpture. Though he did not receive any specific training, he made rather swift progress. Around 1621, his brother having established some reputation in Italy, Hieronymus himself decided to go there. He started to work under his brother`s guidance. Their early works show so much resemblance that experts still tend to confuse them, and simply call them “works by Duquesnoy". Their personalities however were very dissimilar, causing occasional frictions. Sometime after Anton van Dyck's stay in Rome, where he painted their portraits, the brothers decided to split up, and we lose track of Hieronymus. For several years he lived in Rome, and travelled from there through Italy. Various times he went to Spain as well, receiving assignments of Philip IV. But the specific dates are doubtful. He was back in Italy around 1641, living in Florence with a fellow countryman, the goldsmith André Ghysels from Brussels. In 1ó42 Hieronymus got a message that his brother, preparing for his journey to France, had fallen seriously ill. The doctors claimed that François was in desperate need of a different climate and subsequently, in June 1642, the brothers began their journey to the north. In Leghorn François was once more attacked by the fever. He died there on l2 July, 1642, and was buried in the Franciscan Monastery.
One tradition, based on a letter of Aydama to Mariette written in 1766, accuses Hieronymus of poisoning his brother out of jealousy. This accusation was repeated by a number of biographers, and finally refuted by Edmund de Busscher in 1877.
Hieronymus sent his brother’s luggage and four chests containing various works of art to the Netherlands; he himself traveled through France. Arriving in Brussels, he refused to share the legacy with his half-brothers and -sisters. He claimed that the four chests merely contained professional materials. Since Hieronymus was already an “elderly bachelor" (40 years old), his family renounced all further claims. After all, they could expect to receive his inheritance as well.
In the Netherlands
Once settled in Brussels, Hieronymus, by now recognized as an important sculptor, received one assignment after another. In 1645, when Jacques Franquart, court architect of the Governor General, fell ill, Hieronymus was appointed as his assistant. He succeeded Franquart after his death in 1651. Between 1643 and 1654 his talents flourished. His works from this period can still be seen in Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent.
On 8 August, 1651, Hieronymus signed a contract with Bishop Triest, concerning his mausoleum. This makes it clear that the assignment was given to Hieronymus, and not to François, as the Aydama-Mariette tradition claimed. The work had to be carried out within two years, starting on 1 January, 1652.
Antonius Triest, the seventh bishop of Ghent, was a fascinating character, containing many contrasts. As a patron he provided the Saint Bavo Cathedral with entirely new furnishings, paid for out of personal donations and the establishment of a special fund. He was a benefactor of the Counter Reformation Baroque style. As a prelate he was a diplomat and a politician. As a philanthropist he was the founder of the “Berg van Barmhartigheid" (Mountain of Mercy). In the last years of his life he attempted to deprive the Jesuits, the preeminent propagandists of the Counter Reformation, of the conﬁrmation classes, and refused to publish the papal denunciation of Jansenist principles.
On 6 July, 1654, Duquesnoy arrived in Ghent and hired a room at the “Reep". During the next two months he and his assistants would be working on the construction of the mausoleum. The not yet fully completed statues were put up in a side chapel of the choir. The chapel was separated from the church by a curtain.
Shortly after his arrival in Ghent, Duquesnoy, while working alone, met Constant de Somere. The boy, eight years old, was the son of a cobbler. Hieronymus took him to the chapel and bared the boy's arms in order to draw them. He handed him some small change as well.
The next morning Constant returned. Duquesnoy led the boy's hand to the front of his pants, "ordering him to grope and fumble the afore-mentioned sculptor's thing with his little hand, which he did, and that afore-mentioned sculptor touched and groped his thing as well... ". Further, Duquesnoy asked Constant to take down his trousers and bend forward, and sodomized the boy. When the boy complained about the pain, Duquesnoy told him that it wasn't that bad. Before the boy left, he gave him three pennies and asked him to return the next day. He also told the boy not to speak about the occurrences of that morning.
For a period of five weeks Constant was able to guard their secret, and returned regularly to the Saint Bavo Cathedral. He ran little errands for the artist, and often the boy himself made the first move toward sexual contact. About a dozen times the boy allowed himself to be sodomized by the artist. Once he even joined Duquesnoy in his lodging, where they had sexual contact as well. As a rule he collected two or three pennies each time.
After five weeks Constant brought a young friend along: Jacobus de Sterck, eleven years old and a choir boy at the Saint Niklaaskerk. From now on the boys regularly visited the chapel together, but they paid separate visits as well. Duquesnoy, it would seem, preferred his contacts with Jacobus, as indicated by the wider variety of sexual activities listed in the complaint, but also by overt displays of affection as, for instance, French kissing. Jacobus is cautioned to silence even “if he should be put in a dark well or whipped or hanged on the gallows.”
One time Duquesnoy put both boys over a bench and sodomized them in turn, but most of the time he sodomized just one boy, even if they visited him together. If by chance someone came into the church, he would hide the boys in a large closet. During a period of three weeks both boys continued to visit the artist, either alone or together.
How the whole matter came to light isn`t quite clear yet, though some indications seem to point in the direction of Constant’s mother. She was well informed about her son`s financial transactions with the sculptor. The boy told her, however, that he got the money for permitting himself to be drawn by the artist. By 30 August, however, she was completely convinced that Duquesnoy had had sexual contact with Constant. Preceding her statement to the court, the archives inform us that she had been directed by the pensionary Van De Vijvere to "examine the dirty vests that her afore-mentioned little son Constant wore on his body three or four months ago," and returned with the report that “among the afore-mentioned vests, two vests, in my judgement, appeared to show spots of human sperm on their back tails ..."
However, since Duquesnoy had been arrested on 31 August, and since the interrogations for which she was asked to provide this evidence had already begun, it is not clear if Constant’s mother was the only complainant. Considering the conditions under which the sexual contacts with the boys had taken place (in a side chapel, only shut off by a curtain), other regular attendants of the church might have detected them. Both curate Jan Van de Velde and canon Robert Vander Muelen paid daily visits to the cathedral. Constant`s statement also shows just how easily they could have been found out by others. Before the arrest, the boy said, he had often visited the chapel and witnessed Hieronymus' and Jacobus’ sexual activities, without being noticed by either of them.
On 31 August, Constant and Jacobus were interrogated. They confessed immediately. Thereupon the two boys were confronted with one another, to determine whether their statements agreed. During his first interrogation on 31 August, at nine o’clock in the evening, Duquesnoy categorically denied all sexual contacts. He only admitted to once having asked Constant to take off his jerkin, in order to draw his chest. On that day statements of a doctor and Constant’s mother were also recorded.
On 1 September, 1654 the second interrogation of Constant and Jacob us took place. During his second interrogation Duquesnoy continued to deny all accusations. Confronted by the artist, both boys accused him of having sodomized them. During the third interrogation on 3 September, Duquesnoy finally confessed under torture to all the charges
Duquesnoy sought to question the jurisdiction of the Ghent sheriffs' court. As His Majesty is architect, he took the view that he should be summoned before the Royal Magistrate in Brussels. Subsequently, on 2 September, 1654, he sent a similar request to the King by way of his Privy Council. On 4 September, he renewed his appeal and complained about the Ghent magistrate, who had confiscated all of his furniture and other belongings. The Privy Council ordered the Ghent magistrate to officially release the artist’s possessions, but then the Privy Council itself confiscated all of them, including his chest in Ghent.
On 10 September, the Ghent magistrates sent a counter recommendation to the Privy Council, stating that such a crime could not possibly remain unpunished, even if it was just to set an example. But Brussels’ decision was not forthcoming, so a delegation from the Ghent sheriffs’ court set off for Brussels to speed the matter, with a request to be allowed to proceed with the sentence.
Meanwhile, on 4 September, some of the sculptor’s friends appealed directly to Archduke Leopold, the Governor General, in a letter, to ask him to have Duquesnoy brought before the Royal Court. On 17 September they renewed their request in a second letter, supported by Bishop Triest. But this time they acknowledged his guilt, and asked the Governor General that, after a verdict from whatever court had proper jurisdiction, “his deserved death penalty would be commuted to life imprisonment, so his crime would be kept a secret, without remaining unpunished, and that the talent of this extraordinary artist would be saved for Art, and that he would be in service of His Serene Highness for the long period of his imprisonment.”
Regarding jurisdiction the Privy Council returned an unfavourable opinion to Archduke Leopold. Because of the heinous nature of his crime, they advised that Duquesnoy be denied access to the Royal Magistrate. Furthermore the Council recommended that the Archduke not reprieve the artist, and allow the Ghent sheriffs to have their own way The Governor General approved their recommendation. On 25 September, the official decree arrived in Ghent: the Ghent sheriffs’ court was allowed now to carry out the sentence and to confiscate Duquesnoy’s property for the benefit of the King.
On 28 September, the sheriff’s court pronounced judgement: “... and, considering all, doing justice, we sentence you to be tied to a stake and to be burned to ashes in the Corn Market of this town, seizing and confiscating all your goods, wherever they may be, without any exception, all costs of the process of justice to be charged against the same." The artist was executed the same day, somewhere around noon. Hieronymus Duquesnoy was strangled at the stake. They burned his body afterwards. The Franciscans celebrated twelve requiem masses to secure the repose of the victim’s soul.
Sodomy and Paedophilia
In a previous article we have seen that, in earlier centuries, the term ‘sodomy’ referred to a much wider concept. It meant, among other things, any sexual activities between two persons of the same sex, and not just anal sexual intercourse. Even if Duquesnoy had not had anal intercourse with the boys, he could have been charged with sodomy and sentenced anyway.
Nowadays we would describe the occurrences in terms of paedophilia or paedosexuality. In the 17th century, however, such terminology was utterly unknown. It was between the 16th and 18th centuries that the idea of separate age groups, each possessing special qualities, began to emerge. The category of 'children’ was beginning to emerge: children were classified as 'child' until higher ages, and ‘adult’, on the other hand, became a more rigid category separate from ‘child’. However, the separation between these two age groups was not nearly as rigid as our modern concepts might prejudice us to believe.
Nevertheless, even for those days Constant's and Jacobus’ ages were considered to be low, and indeed in the various records they are often referred to in diminutives. Even so, the fact that the boys were categorized as children did not in and of itself constitute a separate crime. Apparently there was no specific law yet on sodomy with children, and Hieronymus Duquesnoy's sentence would not have been any less severe if his partner had been an adult man.
Courts in that period proceeded from the premise of the defendant's guilt. It was the duty of the accused to prove his innocence. So Hieronymus Duquesnoy found himself in an impossible position. The fact that the boys had visited him and returned regularly was not taken into account by the sheriffs’ court. The court, however, did pronounce upon the competence and reason of the boys, and judged "that in the afore-mentioned children no trace of noticeable malice is found ..." The boys were thus judged to show insufficient power of discernment between good and evil.
The investigation must have been a traumatic experience for the boys. During the period of the interrogation they were lodged in the Alexian monastery. The way the boys were questioned was sufficiently traumatizing. Constant’s straightforward answering of the questions, even detailed ones about the artist's orgasms and seminal discharges, would suggest that the interrogation was not so difficult for him, Jacob us, on the other hand, at first tried to equivocate, which provoked even more detailed questions, and in his shaky attempt to pretend that he had not completely grasped the meaning of the occurences, he provided even more information than Constant.
When the boys were told to reconstruct the occurrences and were forced to show the assembled sheriffs, how, bending over a table, Duqeusnoy had sodomized them both, one might well expect the sheriffs to have vented their indignation, but one wonders what purpose was served by such a humiliating display, and how this demonstration could possibly have added to the investigation. The medical examination of the “forcing of the fundaments" of the boys must have been an humiliating experience as well. The purpose might have been, however, to verify the truthfulness of their statements. Once this was established, the testimonies were sufficient.
In their answers, the boys tried to put all the blame on the artist. The sheriffs would not have raised the question of their complicity: all questions were focused on proving Duquesnoy’s guilt. Even when the boys told that they returned after their first contact with the artist, the court waved it aside. And when Duquesnoy confessed during his last interrogation, but pointed out that the boys had sometimes asked for the sexual contacts themselves - which he refused a few times - this made, apparently, no difference to the sheriffs.
The legal costs were paid out of the artist’s confiscated estate. The accounts which are attached provide some data on the boys' future course of life. Both of them were banished, Jacob us for a period of six years. To regulate the procedure, a contract was made with Gheraerdt De Somere, Constant’s father, for which he received twelve pounds, to “keep him [Jacobus] out of the country." Another contract was made with Pauwels De Zaedeleer on “the least boy [Constant], who was sent to Spain." Both banishments are punishments without judgement of guilt. Nonetheless, the banishment indicates that the sheriffs' court, as well as Constant’s parents, attributed some responsibility to the boys, quite contrary to what the records seem to say about them “showing no traces of noticeable malice"! After all, their punishments were severe as well.
 Stadsarchief Gent (hereafter S.A.G.) 215/2, Criminal Sentences. Sentence of Hieronymus Duquesnoy. All later sentences of the Ghent Sheriffs' Court have been examined, and there are no further sentences for sodomy.
 J. Buntinx, “Jeroom Duquesnoy en het praalgraf van bisschop Triest in de St.-Baafs- kathedraal te Gent, "Handelingen van de Maatschappij voor Geschiedenis en Oudheidkunde te Gent, new series 1V, 1949, pages 106-7. A part of the surface had yet to be polished.
 Winkler Prins Geschiedenis der Nederlanden (Amsterdam/Utrecht: Elsevier, 1977), vol. 2, pp. 250-4
 A.K.I. Thijs, “Nijverheid in de Zuidelijke Nederlanden," Algemene geschiedenis der Nederlanden (Haarlem: Fibula-Van Dishoeck, 1980), vol. 7, pp. 86-97, especially pp. 89-93.
 M. van Roose, “De Beeldhouwkunst in de 17de E.," Gent: Duizend jaar kunst en cultuur (Ghent: Museum voor Schone Kunsten, 1975), vol. 1, pp. 491-6, especially pp. 492-3.
 L. Hadermann-Misguich, "Les Duquesnoy,” Wallonie: Arts en Histoire (Gembloux: J. Duculot, 1970) Nr. 4, pp. 37-ff.
 E. Dhanens, De Sint Baafskathedraal (Ghent: Provinciebestuur van Oostvlaanderen, 1965). p. 121.
 van Roose, op. cit.. p. 492.
 P.J. Mariette (1694-1774) was the foremost print dealer and private art collector of his era in France. In connection with his dealing and collecting he amassed an encyclopedic file on the lives and work of artists, which was published in six volumes after his death as the Abecedarie de P. J. Mariette (ed. P. Chennevières and A. de Montaiglon; Paris: Demoulin.1853-4; reprint ed. Paris: Nobele, 1962). His entry for Hieronymous Duquesnoy (Vol. 2, pp. 137-ff) consists largely of the text of a letter from a correspondent, H. Eydama, written from Paris on 27 June, 1766. While his report of the trial suggests familiarity with the trial documents, Eydama misses no opportunity to blacken Hieronymus' reputation with additional allegations of drunkenness and lewdness in Italy, murdering his brother, and stealing both François' estate from their family and his artistic legacy in the form of plans for Bishop Triest's mausoleum, which he asserts was commissioned from François (ed).
 E. de Busscher, “Les sculpteurs Du Quesnoy, Delvaux, Calloigne,” Annales de la société Royale des Beaux Arts (Ghent, 1877), pp. 305-440, especially pp. 396-402. For general facts concerning Hieronymus Duquesnoy's life, this article will rely upon this biography, which is the most thorough account of his life and the source used by later biographers. Specific additions for this article are footnoted. De Busscher gives less information over the trial itself.
 Buntinx, op. cit., pp. 102-ff.
 van Roose, op, cit., pp. 492-3.
 R. Mathijs, Iconografie van bisschop Triest (n.p., 1939), pp. 28-31.
 V. Fris, Histoire de Gand (Brussels: Van Oest, 1913), p, 250.
 The tradition that the two boys served as models for the putti on the mausoleum cannot be born out. It would have been entirely impossible for the sculptor to have made the putti in the short time he was in Ghent. Further, boys of 8 and 11 would have been too old to serve as models for putti. Regarding this tradition, see “Criminele sententiën,” Centrale Bıbliotheek, Rijksuniversiteit te Gent, Ms. 59. p. 129:
On 28 September in the Corn Market in Ghent justice was done to Françoi Cannoy [sic], master sculptor, because he (producing the memorial of Bishop Antonius Triest in Saint Jan's Church, in a separate place, with the images upon which he worked) did commit sodomy on two servants, being choristers of the same church, one being about eight years of age, the other being about twelve, explaining he had made them naked in order to produce angels. The sentence being carried out about 12 hours, forenoon, this same Cannoy was strangled and thereafter burned to ashes on 28 Sept. 1654.
This handwritten 18th century manuscript contains many errors regarding the case of Hieronymus Duquesnoy, but is the oldest source to which the tradition that the boys were models for the putti can be traced. It is interesting that so soon after the execution the two Duquesnoys were being confused.
 This is supported by the dossier in the Stadsarchief van Gent, S.A.G. 213/15. Both de Busscher and A. van Lokeren ("Jérôme Duquesnoy", Messager des sciences et des arts, 1833, pp. 462-5) are mistaken about the name. Both the Dutch and French versions of the interrogations clearly give the name as "Constant" and not "Toussaint".
 S.A.G. 213/15: first interrogation of Constant de Somere, 31 August.
 S.A.G. 213/15: third and final interrogation of Hieronymus Duquesnoy, 3 Sept. 1654.
 S.A,G. 213/15: first interrogation of Constant de Somere, 31 August.
 S.A.G. 213/15: first interrogation of Jacobus de Sterck, 31 August.
 S.A.G. 213/15: first interrogation of Constant de Somere, and first interrogation of Jacob us de Sterck, 31 August.
 S.A.G. 213/15: first confrontation of Constant and Jacobus, 31 August.
 S.A.G. 213/15: First interrogation of Kathelijne Dammans, mother of Constant de Somere, 31 August, 1654. Duquesnoy had usually wiped off his member on the boys' shirt tails: second interrogation of Constant and second interrogation of Jacobus, 1 Sept. 1654.
 O. Roelandts, De beeldhouwers Duquesnoy, vader en zoon (Ghent: n.d.) suggests that Constant's mother was the complainant. But because her examination of Constant's shirt happened in response to a request from the magistrate, the investigation must have already been under way.
 Buntinx, op. cit., p. 106.
 S.A.G. 213/15: first interrogation of Constant de Somere, 31 August.
 S.A.G. 213/15: Dutch report: third interrogation of Hieronymus Duquesnoy, 3 Sept., 1654.
 De Busscher, op. cit., pp. 368-80. As previously noted, this article relies on those portions of de Busscher’s biography which were based on documents in the Algemeen Rijksarchief, Brussels. Identical documents and manuscripts are present in the Stadsarchief Gent, 5.A.G. 103/8, and were examined for this article. They support the accuracy of de Busscher`s work.
 G. Debeuckelaere, “Ver keerd zijn in Beroerde Tijden: De Gents sodomietenprocessen van 1578,” De Homokrant, March, 1981, pp. 3-6.
 M.W. van Ussel, Geschiedenis van het seksuele problem (Meppel: Boom, 1968), pp. 132- 3.
 S.A.G. 213/15: invoices appended to the case.
 S.A.G. 213/15: first interrogation of Jacobus de Sterck, 31 August. Jacob us first said that Duquesnoy had penetrated him with his finger. Under further questioning he admitted that it had been done with his penis.
 S.A.G. 213/15: second interrogation of Jacobus de Sterck,31 August 1654 and confrontation of the children with Hieronymus Duquesnoy, 1 Sept. 1654.
 S.A.G. 213/15: declaration of Dr. Laureyns Mannesse, 31 August 1654.
 S.A.G. 213/15: final interrogation of Hieronymus Duquesnoy, under torture, 3 September 1654.
 S.A.G.213/15 invoices appended to the case materials. De Busscher, op. cit. p. 380, reports that Toussaint (i.e., Constant) was banned to Spain and that Jacobus was banned from Flanders. He gives no source for this. Roelandts, op. cit., p. 60, gives the details of the banning as in this article. In Baratzeartea (2nd. ed., 1965, pp. 147-9) Johan Daisne nıentions Duquesnoy's trial and the banning of the boys. He bases his ac- count on an article from the Wetenschappelıjke Tijdingen from 1961 by Dr. K. van Acker. Although he probably read through the files, the article: is anything but accurate. Even the boys' punishments are stated incorrectly.
 S.A.G. 215/2, “Criminal sentences" also shows no judgements under the boys' names.
 Considering that the banning of Jacobus de Sterck was carried out through a contract with Gheraerdt de Somere (Constant’s father), and the fact that there were no witnesses on behalf of Jacobus at his interrogations, it is possible to conclude that Jacobus was an orphan.
If you would like to leave a comment on this webpage, please e-mail it to email@example.com, mentioning either the title or the url of the page so that the editor can add it.