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SIR ANTHONY VAN DYCK (Antwerp 1599-1641 London)
SIR ANTHONY VAN DYCK (Antwerp 1599-1641 London)

Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness

SIR ANTHONY VAN DYCK (Antwerp 1599-1641 London)
Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness
oil on canvas
55½ x 45½ in. (141 x 115 cm.)
(Possibly) Buen Retiro Palace, Madrid, from 1700 to 1808; Persigny collection; Jean-Victor Fialin, duc de Persigny; Maurice Cottier, Paris; Daniel Cottier, Paris (all according to Larsen, op. cit., 1988).
Walter P. Fearon, New York, 1925.
Stephen S. Pichietto, New York.
Anon. Sale, Sotheby's New York, 16 June 1976, lot 27, as school of Sir Anthony Van Dyck.
with Central Pictures Gallery, New York, 1979.
Neal Castelman and Ellen Hoffman-Castelman, Los Angeles, their gift to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1994 (Inv. no. 1994.224.1).
(Possibly) P. Bellori, Le vite de pittori, scultori et architetti moderni, Genoa, 1672, p. 261 (according to Larsen, op. cit., 1988).
G. Gluck, The Early Work of Van Dyck, Vienna, 1925, pp. 26-31.
G. Gluck, 'Van Dyck's Anfange: der Heilige Sebastian im Louvre zu Paris', Zeitschrift fur bildende Kunst, 59, 1925-1926, p. 264 (Reprinted in Rubens, van Dyck und ihr Kreis, Vienna, 1933).
G. Gluck, Van Dyck, des Meisters Gemalde, New York, 1931, p. 138.
E. Larsen, L'opera completa di Van Dyck (1613-1626), Milan, 1980, no. 433, illustrated.
E. Larsen, The Paintings of Anthony Van Dyck, 2 vols, Frerren, 1988, no. 426, fig. 186.
L. Little, 'St. John in the Wilderness', IFAR Reports, XXI, August-September 1995, pp. 1-5.
L. Little, 'Van Dyck in Genoa', Apollo, July 1997, p. 53.
Detroit, Detroit Institute of Arts, Loan Exhibition of Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century, 1925, no. 31.
Detroit, Detroit Institute of Arts, Eighth Loan Exhibition of Old
Masters, Paintings by Anthony Van Dyck
, 1929, no. 18.
New York, World's Fair, Masterpieces of Art, 1939, no. 101.
Princeton, The Art Museum, Van Dyck as a Religious Artist, 1979, no. 32
Genoa, Palazzo Ducale, Van Dyck: Grande Pittura e Collezionismo a Genova, no. 68 (entry by Susan J. Barnes; illustrated in reverse).

Lot Essay

Gluck (1925) dated this splendid early work by Van Dyck to 1625, believing that it came from the artist's second sojourn in Rome; he was the first scholar to recognize that it dates from the artist's youthful Italian period. Susan Barnes (1997) located the picture even earlier, to Van Dyck's first stay in Genoa, thus dating it circa 1621-1622; she compares the curvacious forms and languid manner of Saint John to figures that appear in several works that can be securely documented to the early 1620s, including Suffer Little Children Come unto Me (National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa); and two versions of the Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian (National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh; Alte Pinakothek, Munich). Larsen dates the painting to 1623-1625, and suggests that it might be identical with a 'San Gio: Battista nel deserto' mentioned by Bellori as in the collection of the English amateur Sir Kenelm Digby.

Although the gentle saints of Guido Reni have been proposed as inspiration for the present painting (see Princeton, 1979), Larsen is certainly correct when he observed the closer connection to the dramatic handling of light and shade found in the works of Caravaggio; certainly Van Dyck's sensual and contemplative young saint suggests a familiarity with Caravaggio's psychologically complex version of the same subject, today in the Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City.

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