Anthony van Dyck Flemish 1599-1641
SN 227 Oil on Wood Panel 1621
by Robert Anderson
Apart from Rubens, Anthony van Dyck is considered the greatest Flemish
painter of the 17th century. He was active not only in Antwerp, but also in Italy and
England. Soon after finishing his apprenticeship in Antwerp he entered Rubens' workshop
for a two year period. He entered not as a pupil but as an assistant, for he was already
an accomplished painter and was considered Ruben's "best student". These years
were decisive and Rubens' influence on his future painting is unmistakable.
He travelled to Italy, as had Rubens, and it was there that he created
the elegant and refined style which remained characteristic of his work through the rest
of his life. It was in Italy that he created the 'immortal' type of nobleman, with proud
appearance and slender figure enhanced by the famous "van Dyck" hands.
In England he painted in the service of both James I and Charles I and
was knighted by the latter. During his time in the service of Charles he was occupied
almost entirely with portrait painting. Van Dyck's fame is derived chiefly from his
portraits and his influence on English portraiture has been profound and lasting.
Gainsborough, in particular revered him. He also painted religious and mythological
subjects and his watercolors of the English countryside have been considered outstanding.
In addition to Rubens, other artists whose work had an effect on Van
Dyck were Veronese, Titian and Raphael and Guido Reni. His work in turn had a profound
effect on Peter Lely and John Singer Sargent among others. He is remembered, particularly
in England for his dazzling array of portraits and for his sensibility to landscape.
As a personality he was narcisstic and a highly strung, neurotic
individual. His career shows him to be restive by nature and sometimes difficult to employ
because his pride and ambition as well as his protective vanity could be bruised easily.
He did not enjoy robust health, particularly in the later years of his relatively short
St. Andrew, one of the twelve Apostles is the subject of this painting.
A fisherman, and a follower of John the Baptist, Andrew was the brother of Peter and one
of the first of the diciples to follow Jesus. It was through Andrew that Peter first met
Jesus. He was one of the inner circle to whom Jesus revealed the secrets of his Passion
and final judgement. There is almost universal agreement that Andrew was crucified at
Patras on an X shaped cross.
Andrew was adopted as the patron saint of the Pictish of Scotland and
thereafter of the Scottish nation. The Saltire, a flag of Scotland, features an X shaped
cross on a blue background.
In this painting we see a bearded St. Andrew holding a cross on which
he was crucified. The painting is part of a powerful series of Christ and the twelve
Apostles painted during van Dyk's early maturity when he worked as an assistant tin
Rubens' studio. Like other paintings of Apostles by van Dyck, this St. Andrew follows the
example of monumentality set by Rubens.
This St. Andrew is special for the sensitivity and introspection of the
charaterization. His rough-hewn face and hands suggest the inner strength of his faith for
which he died on the cross he is holding. The painting is also notable for its vigorous
brushstrokes. Van Dyck was young at the time (22) and while he reveled in his ability to
handle paint, there is some disregard for the finish which results from a lack of
There is some repainting in the fingers of the right hand as well as
some overpainting below the nose, the pupils of the eyes and the area over the eyelids,
below the brows.
By limiting himself to bust length figures set against dark
backgrounds, powerfully modeled bodies with robes full of movement, simplified attributes
(Andrew's X cross) and dramatically accented hands, the youthful van Dyck created a series
of deeply moving psychological studies of the Church's founders that rivals the earthy
divinity of Rembrandt's Apostles painted in the late 1640's and the early 1950's.
The Ringling St. Andrew is one of the originals from "The
BohlerSeries" discovered by Julius Bohler, Ringling's advisor, in 1914. Since the
series was broken up for sale to private collectors shortly thereafter, only seven of the
original twelve have again resurfaced.