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Oil painting - A Monk reading
  • A Monk reading
    Muyden, Alfred van, born 1818 - died 1898
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A Monk reading

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Rome (possibly, painted)

  • Date:

    1850s (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Muyden, Alfred van, born 1818 - died 1898 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Rev. Chauncey Hare Townshend

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Alfred van Muyden (1818-1898) was born in Lausanne. He became the pupil of Wilhelm von Kaulbach at the Fine Arts Academy in Munich in 1838. He continued his studies in Rome and later settled in Geneva before going back to Rome for six years. He came back definitively to Geneva in 1856. He married the sister of the painter Etienne Duval, who was also the grand-daughter of Wolgang-Adam Töpffer. Their three sons, Albert-Steven, Evert and Henri also became painters.

This painting is a fine example of Muyden’s genre scenes almost entirely taken from scenes of daily life in Rome. The humble life of the Capuchin monks, who followed St Francis in their ministry to the common people, was of a particular interest to him. By comparison with similar works, the painting may be dated in the 1850s. This type of pictures was particularly popular in the second half of the 19th century.

Physical description

A monk seated in a chair next to a desk, reading a letter.

Place of Origin

Rome (possibly, painted)


1850s (painted)


Muyden, Alfred van, born 1818 - died 1898 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas

Marks and inscriptions

'A. van Muyden'
Signed by the artist, lower right


Height: 40 cm estimate, Width: 32.4 cm estimate, :

Object history note

Rev. Chauncey Hare Townshend, listed in the 1868 post-mortem register of the contents of his villa in Lausanne (V&A R/F MA/1/T1181) as 'Oil on Canvas. A monk. By F. A. Van Muyden. In frame. Swiss. Present century'; bequeathed by Rev. Chauncey Hare Townshend, 1868.

Historical significance: Muyden was mostly a portrait and genre painter. The representation of the daily life of the Capuchin monks constitutes a significant part of his oeuvre. Two paintings, Monks Playing Balls (1852) and Capuchins Playing Chess (1859), both whereabouts unknown, are particularly close to the present work while a drawing, Study for a Capuchin Monk Holding an UmbrellaThe high degree of finish combined with rustic subject is typical of the generation of Swiss painters of the second half of the 19th century, who were to some extent still under the influence of the Biedermeier imagery.
This painting was bequeathed by the Rev. Townshend who owned a large collection of 19th-century landscape paintings. It is not unlikely that Townshend, who resided part of the year in Lausanne, acquired this painting directly from the artist.

Descriptive line

Oil painting, 'A Monk Reading', Alfred van Muyden, Swiss school, 1850s

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

Kauffmann, C.M. Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, II. 1800-1900 , London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, p. 79, cat. no. 172.


Oil paint; Canvas


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Chair; Monks; Table; Books; Genre scene




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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