SIR ANTHONY VAN DYCK (ANTWERP 1599-1641 LONDON)
SIR ANTHONY VAN DYCK (ANTWERP 1599-1641 LONDON)
SIR ANTHONY VAN DYCK (ANTWERP 1599-1641 LONDON)
SIR ANTHONY VAN DYCK (ANTWERP 1599-1641 LONDON)
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SIR ANTHONY VAN DYCK (ANTWERP 1599-1641 LONDON)

Saint Francis of Assisi at the foot of the Cross

Details
SIR ANTHONY VAN DYCK (ANTWERP 1599-1641 LONDON)
Saint Francis of Assisi at the foot of the Cross
oil on canvas, a fragment
21 x 16 in. (53.4 x 40.7 cm.)
Provenance
(Probably) The artist's brother, Theodoor van Dyck (c. 1596-1650), Pastor of Minderhout.
(Possibly) Jan-Baptista Anthoine (d. 1691), knight and postmaster of Antwerp, and by descent to his daughter.
Mrs. Brown, Edinburgh, by December 1904.
Private collection, Germany, until recently.

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Lot Essay

This fragmentary painting of Saint Francis meditating quietly on the wounds of Christ is what remains of a large composition which was previously known only through a copy, partially in reverse, in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (fig. 1). At the time of the 2004 catalogue raisonné, Horst Vey plausibly associated the then-lost composition with the painting described as ‘Een Principael van myn broeder te weten S. Franciscus aen de voeten vant’Cruys Christi’ (‘An original by my brother, to wit, St. Francis at the feet of Christ on the Cross’) in the collection of the artist’s brother, Theodoor van Dyck, Pastor of Minderhout (S.J. Barnes et al., Van Dyck: A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, New Haven and London, 2004, p. 401, no. III.A6). A painting of similar description is subsequently recorded in the estate inventory of Jan-Baptista Anthoine in Antwerp. Anthoine was an especially astute Antwerp collector in the second half of the seventeenth century, having assembled, among others, no fewer than twenty paintings by Adriaen Brouwer (the bulk of which likely came from the seventeen previously owned by Sir Peter Paul Rubens), a number of further works by van Dyck and a family portrait by Gonzales Coques (Royal Collection Trust).

In contrast to a painting of similar subject by his master Rubens (Liechtenstein, The Princely Collections), here van Dyck does not focus on the drama of the scene but instead imbues his saint with a meditative expression as he quietly contemplates Christ’s wounds. While Vey suggested the copy in Amsterdam was possibly ‘a more or less adequate reproduction of this lost painting’ (loc. cit.), the reemergence of the present painting suggests that the Amsterdam painting diverges from the original, notably in the fact that Francis appears on the opposite side of the cross. While this change can partially be explained if the anonymous early copyist based the Amsterdam painting on a print by Pieter de Bailliu (see A. von Wurzbach, Niederländisches Künstler-Lexikon, I, p. 468, no. 16), it is not wholly satisfactory. In both the copy in Amsterdam and the present painting, Christ’s feet are shown in the same orientation, right foot over left. The evident quality in the modeling of the saint's face in this painting - notably the deftly applied touch of white in his eye - leaves little doubt that it is van Dyck’s lost original.

We are grateful to Dr. Christopher Brown for endorsing the attribution on the basis of photographs.

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