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Food For Your Soul

"Virgin and the Child with Catherine of Alexandria"

The painting in the Mount’s collection is an adaptation of Anthony van Dyke’s composition that is held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Van Dyke (1599-1641) was a Flemish Baroque artist who also worked extensively in his home country as well as in England and Italy. Besides portraits he also painted Biblical and mythological subjects, displayed outstanding facility as a draftsman, and was an important innovator in watercolor and etching. 

In van Dyke’s painting the infant Jesus responds with playful enthusiasm to an adoring Saint Catherine, a former princess identified by pearls and a martyr’s palm. The picture’s warm humanity and elegantly rhythmic composition reflect van Dyke’s great admiration of Titian, Veronese, and other North Italian artists. This picture was painted about 1630 in Antwerp (modern-day Belgium). In its scale and tender feeling it seems ideally suited to private devotion. The composition strongly resembles contemporary paintings of the “Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine,” including van Dyke’s own, of about 1630, in the Royal Collection, London. The flowing lines, the continuous and almost circular movement of the figures, and the very close vantage point are the artist’s distinctive version of Baroque intensity.

Anthony van Dyke was born to prosperous parents in Antwerp where his talent was evident very early. By age 16 he was an independent painter, setting up a workshop with his even younger friend Jan Brueghel the Younger. Within a few years he became the chief assistant to master painter Peter Paul Rubens who had an immense influence on the young artist. In turn, Rubens referred to van Dyke as “the best of my pupils.” 

Going to England for the first time in 1620, the artist worked for King James I of England. Later he moved to Italy, spending six years studying the Italian masters and beginning his career as a successful portraitist. He was evidently very charming to his patrons and well able to mix in aristocratic and court circles, which added to his ability to obtain commissions. He did a substantial amount of work for the court of Charles I of England. He married and later died in England. He was buried in the Old Saint Paul’s Cathedral which was destroyed in 1666 in the Great Fire of London.

Source: metmuseum.org/collections and Wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_van_Dyke