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Painting - St Anthony of Padua with a Nun

St Anthony of Padua with a Nun

  • Object:

    Painting

  • Place of origin:

    Netherlands (painted)

  • Date:

    ca. 1500 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    David, Gerard (painters (artists))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    oil on oak panel

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by John M. Parsons

  • Museum number:

    528-1870

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 10, case WN

Gerard David (c. 1460-1523), is known as the last of the ‘Flemish Primitives’. Although born in the northern Netherlands, he moved to Bruges as a young man, and most of his work expresses the impassive, exceptionally naturalistic and detailed approach peculiar to south Netherlandish art in the time of Jan van Eyck. David was skilled at synthesizing the compositions of van Eyck with the technique of Hugo van der Goes. He was also influenced by Hans Memling, whose example led him to refine and polish his cruder northern Netherlandish style. David’s patrons were primarily churches, monasteries, convents, societies and magistrates
528-1870 is part of a larger altarpiece, whose present location is unknown. St Anthony of Padua is shown with his attribute, the Infant Jesus seated on his book, which refers to his legendary vision of the Virgin and Child. St Anthony was a follower of St Francis of Assisi, noted for his fervent and eloquent preaching. He was canonised soon after his early death. The figures resemble those by Gerard David in the first decade of the sixteenth-century, which reveal strong and well articulated drawing in the figures, hands and drapery. The faces are also characteristic of David with their almond-shaped eyes, thick eyelids, straight mouths and pronounced chins. Similarly the landscape, particularly the greenery, and colouring -cool, moss greens, steel blue-greys- are in keeping with David's colour palette in this period. While David had several known followers including as Adriaen Isenbrandt [Ysenbrandt], Albrecht Cornelis and Ambrosius Benson, the V&A work only resembles theirs superficially.

Physical description

This is the left wing of a dismantled altarpiece, the rest of which remains unidentified. A tonsured St Anthony of Padua is shown in Franciscan habit with his attribute, the Infant Jesus seated on a book, referring to his vision of the Infant Christ when preaching on the Incarnation (the belief that Christ became man). He presents a kneeling nun, possibly from the female branch of the Franciscan order known as the Poor Clares, to the Holy figures on the missing central panel. She fervently presses her hands together in a gesture of prayer- a model for the pious beholder to emulate.

Place of Origin

Netherlands (painted)

Date

ca. 1500 (made)

Artist/maker

David, Gerard (painters (artists))

Materials and Techniques

oil on oak panel

Dimensions

Height: 88 cm estimate, Width: 37 cm estimate, Depth: 7 cm

Object history note

Originally catalogued as German(?) (1893 catalogue, p.1900), this painting may be placed in the circle of Gerard David.

Bequeathed by John M. Parsons, 1870. On the back of the painting was the seal of the Intendenza di Milano, implying that it was in a Milanese collection before John Parsons acquired it.

Historical significance: Gerard David (c. 1460-1523), is known as the last of the ‘Flemish Primitives’. Although born in the northern Netherlands, he moved to Bruges as a young man, and most of his work expresses the impassive, exceptionally naturalistic and detailed approach peculiar to south Netherlandish art in the time of Jan van Eyck. David was skilled at synthesizing the compositions of van Eyck with the technique of Hugo van der Goes. He was also influenced by Hans Memling, whose example led him to refine and polish his cruder northern Netherlandish style. It is difficult to trace David’s development with certainty, since all his dated works are restricted to the period 1498–1509 and none are signed. However, approximately 60 paintings can be ascribed to him with some authority: about half are single devotional panels, mainly Epiphanies and scenes from the Passion of Christ, about ten religious triptychs and one or two polyptychs. David’s patrons were primarily churches, monasteries, convents, societies and magistrates
528-1870 is part of a larger altarpiece, whose present location is unknown. St Anthony of Padua is shown with his attribute, the Infant Jesus seated on his book, which refers to his legendary vision of the Virgin and Child. St Anthony was a follower of St Francis of Assisi, noted for his fervent and eloquent preaching. He was canonised soon after his early death. The figures resemble those by Gerard David in the first decade of the sixteenth-century, which reveal strong and well articulated drawing in the figures, hands and drapery. The faces are also characteristic of David with their almond-shaped eyes, thick eyelids, straight mouths and pronounced chins. Similarly the landscape, particularly the greenery, and colouring -cool, moss greens, steel blue-greys- are in keeping with David's colour palette in this period. While David had several known followers including as Adriaen Isenbrandt [Ysenbrandt], Albrecht Cornelis and Ambrosius Benson, the V&A work only resembles theirs superficially.

Historical context note

Saint Anthony was born in Lisbon in about 1195. He was originally an Augustinian canon but became a Franciscan friar in 1220. He was a missionary in Morocco, and a hermit in Italy. He developed a gift for preaching and was given teaching posts in Italy and France.
He had a deep knowledge of the Bible and preached on the moral life and correct faith. In his lifetime he was called 'the hammer of heretics'. He died at Padua in north Italy in about 1231 and his shrine in the church of the Santo became a place of pilgrimage. In art he is usually shown holding a lily and carrying the child Jesus. He is said to have had a vision of the Infant Christ when preaching on the Incarnation (the belief that Christ became man).
He appears with this attribute in several paintings by Gerard David, for example, in the altar-piece of St Michael in Vienna.

Descriptive line

Painting, Left wing of an altarpiece: St. Anthony of Padua with a Nun, circle of Gerard David, 15th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Kauffmann, C.M., Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, p. 82, cat. no. 81
Eberhard von Bodenhausen, Gerard David und seine Schule. München, F. Bruckmann, 1905.

Materials

Oil paint; Panel

Techniques

Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Nun

Categories

Paintings; Religion; Christianity

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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