This striking depiction of the lofty, light-filled interior of the Sint-Jacobskerk in Antwerp offers a glimpse into the spiritual life of 17th-century Flanders. Vrancx’s composition, which includes a priest giving a sermon to the masses while elegantly dressed onlookers mill about the aisle, is a symphony of geometric forms and gray tonalities. The predominantly neutral palette allowed the artist to use carefully placed touches of cardinal red to bold effect, from the case of the hourglass perched on the priest’s pulpit to the brilliant cape and stockings of the gentleman in the central foreground who serves as the painting’s visual anchor. The viewer’s eye is also drawn to the lavender attire of the debonair man holding a plumed hat who leans against the base of a column at right. Gazing directly at the viewer with bemused confidence, the figure may be a self-portrait as he bears a strong resemblance to Sir Anthony van Dyck’s portrait of the artist (see S. Barnes, et al., Van Dyck: A complete catalogue of the paintings, New Haven and London, 2003, p. 373, no. III.166).
We are grateful to Dr. Claire Baisier of the Musée Mayer van den Bergh, Antwerp, for identifying the setting of this painting and providing additional provenance information for this lot. Dr. Baisier has also identified a preparatory drawing for the present work in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (fig. 1), a rare work on paper by Vrancx which had previously been misattributed to Daniël de Blieck.
The Musée Mayer van den Bergh has requested the present painting for inclusion in the upcoming exhibition “Goddelijke Interieurs/Divine Interiors,” scheduled for 17 June to 16 October 2016.