Flemish Northern Renaissance Painter, ca.1495-1550
South Netherlandish painter of Italian birth. In 1518 he acquired Bruges citizenship, and in 1519 he was admitted to the guild of painters and saddlemakers there as an independent master, with the comment that he was 'from Lombardy'. He may have been from Ferrara, although he was originally called Ambrogio Benzone, taking his first name from the patron saint of Milan, the capital of Lombardy. He was probably attracted to Bruges by its commercial and artistic reputation. Initially he worked in the studio of Gerard David, by whom he was profoundly influenced, but after a few months the relationship went wrong and the younger painter brought a case against David. Benson's first marriage was to Anna Ghyselin, who bore him two sons, Willem Benson (1521/2-1574) and Jan Benson (before 1530-before 1581), both of whom became artists. From his second marriage, to Josyne Michiels, a daughter Anna was born, and he had two other daughters from various extra-marital relationships. Benson was an affluent and successful man: he owned several houses, for one of which he gave eight paintings in half payment (which gives some idea of the value of his works at the time). Benson twice received commissions from city magistrates to decorate their new county hall and was a member of the city council on three occasions; he also held important offices within the painters' guild, including dean (1537-8 and 1543-4) and governor (1540-41). His pupils included his two sons, and Joachim Spaers (1541) and Jacob Vinson (Fynson; 1549).