Virgin and Child with Saint Catherine of Alexandria

Anthony van Dyck (Flemish, Antwerp 1599–1641 London)

ca. 1630
Oil on canvas
43 x 35 3/4 in. (109.2 x 90.8 cm); with added strips 44 1/8 x 37 in. (112.1 x 94 cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of Lillian S. Timken, 1959
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    The infant Jesus responds with playful enthusiasm to an adoring Saint Catherine, a former princess identified by pearls and a martyr’s palm. She was esteemed as an intercessor for young women because of her mystical marriage to Christ. The picture’s warm humanity and elegantly rhythmic composition reflect Van Dyck’s great admiration for Titian, Veronese, and other North Italian artists during his years in Italy (1621–27).

  • Catalogue Entry

    This superb picture was painted by Van Dyck about 1630 in Antwerp, where it was engraved by Schelte à Bolswert. By 1754 the canvas was hanging in the same city’s Church of the Recollects (or Minorites), but it is not known if it was painted for that or another Franciscan institution. In its scale and tender feeling the picture seems ideally suited to private devotion. However, the sheer volume and variety of Van Dyck’s religious works of the second Antwerp period, about 1627–32, discourage speculation about the original owner.

    The figure to the right is very probably Saint Catherine of Alexandria, since the string of pearls in her hair would be consistent with her supposed birth as a princess. A martyr’s palm is included but not the saint’s intended instrument of martyrdom, a wheel. However, this primary attribute of Saint Catherine was omitted by Italian artists that Van Dyck admired, and the composition strongly resembles contemporary paintings of the Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine, including Van Dyck’s own, of about 1630–31, in the Royal Collection, London. The apples above and roses to the upper left refer not to the saint but to the Virgin.

    During his years in Italy (1621–27) Van Dyck responded above all to Titian, and this picture certainly reflects that experience. However, the flowing lines of the composition, the continuous and almost circular movement of the figures, and the very close vantage point (we seem to share Catherine’s view of the Christ Child) are Van Dyck’s distinctive versions of Baroque intensity. A comparison with Jacob Jordaens’s Adoration of the Shepherds, of 1616, in the Museum’s collection (67.187.76), helps to clarify Van Dyck’s distance from Titian’s own time and also the fact that such grace and beauty could never have been acquired while remaining (as Jordaens did) at home.


  • Provenance

    ?Church of the Récollets, Antwerp (by 1754–at least 1774); Welbore Ellis Agar, London (until d. 1805; projected sale, Christie's, London, May 2, 1806, no. 57; sold privately to Earl Grosvenor); Robert, Earl Grosvenor, later 1st Marquess of Westminster, Grosvenor House, London (1806–d. 1845; cat., 1821, no. 96); his son, Richard Grosvenor, 2nd Marquess of Westminster, Grosvenor House (1845–d. 1869); his son, Hugh Lupus Grosvenor, 1st Duke of Westminster (1869–d. 1899); his grandson, Hugh Richard Arthur Grosvenor, 2nd Duke of Westminster (1899–1924; sale, Christie's, London, July 4, 1924, no. 56, for £3,150 to Colnaghi); [Colnaghi, London, and Knoedler, New York, 1924–26; sold to Timken]; Mr. and Mrs. William R. Timken, New York (1926–49); Mrs. William R. (Lillian S.) Timken, New York (1949–d. 1959)

  • Exhibition History

    London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," 1871, no. 214 (lent by the Marquis of Westminster).

    London. Burlington Fine Arts Club. "Exhibition of the Works of Old Masters," 1871, no. 23 (lent by the Marquis of Westminster) [see Liedtke 1984].

    London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," 1876, no. 113 (lent by the Duke of Westminster, K.G.).

    London. Grosvenor Gallery. "Exhibition of the Works of Sir Anthony van Dyck," Summer 1887, no. 51 (lent by the Duke of Westminster, K.G.).

    London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," January 6–March 14, 1896, no. 114 (lent by the Duke of Westminster, K.G.).

    Antwerp. Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten. "Van Dijck Tentoonstelling," August 12–October 15, 1899, no. 7 (as "The Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherine," lent by the Duke of Westminster).

    London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Exhibition of Works by Van Dyck," January 1–March 10, 1900, no. 41 (as "The Marriage of Saint Catherine," lent from the collection of the late Duke of Westminster).

    Detroit Institute of Arts. "Eighth Loan Exhibition of Old Masters, Paintings by Anthony van Dyck," April 3–20, 1929, no. 19 (lent by Mr. and Mrs. William R. Timken, N.Y.).

    New York. World's Fair. "Masterpieces of Art: European Paintings and Sculpture from 1300–1800," May–October 1939, no. 103 (lent by Mr. and Mrs. William R. Timken, New York).

    Leningrad [St. Petersburg]. State Hermitage Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," May 22–July 27, 1975, no. 19.

    Moscow. State Pushkin Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," August 28–November 2, 1975, no. 19.

    Art Museum, Princeton University. "Van Dyck as Religious Artist," April 7–May 20, 1979, no. 39.

    Milan. Palazzo Reale. "Anton van Dyck: Riflessi italiani," February 19–June 20, 2004, no. 27.

  • References

    J. B. Descamps. La Vie des peintres flamands, allemands et hollandois. 2, Paris, 1754, p. 23, refers to a painting, probably our picture, in the Church of the Récollets, Antwerp.

    Description des principaux ouvrages de peinture et sculpture . . . de la ville d'Anvers. 4th ed. Antwerp, 1763, p. 63, no. 9, locates a picture, probably ours, in the Church of the Récollets, Antwerp.

    G[uillaume]. P[ierre]. Mensaert. Le Peintre amateur et curieux . . . Brussels, 1763, vol. 1, p. 205, as in the Church of the Récollets, Antwerp, and engraved by Schelte à Bolswert.

    J. de Wit. Beschryvinge van alle de Kerken van Antwerpen. 2, Antwerp, 1774, p. 75 [published as "De Kerken van Antwerpen," Antwerp and The Hague, 1910; see Ref. Liedtke 1984], as in the Church of the Récollets and engraved by S. à Bolswert.

    John Young. A Catalogue of the Pictures at Grosvenor House, London. London, 1821, p. 34, no. 96, pl. 34, as "The Marriage of St. Catherine," from the Agar collection.

    John Smith. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters. 3, London, 1831, p. 3, no. 3, as "The Marriage of St. Catherine," formerly in the Church of the Récollets, Antwerp; notes that it is probably the same picture as the one from the Agar and Grosvenor collections.

    G[ustav]. F[riedrich]. Waagen. Works of Art and Artists in England. London, 1838, vol. 2, p. 305, as in the Grosvenor Gallery, and engraved by Abraham Blooteling.

    G[ustav]. F[riedrich]. Waagen. "Kunstwerke und Künstler in England." Kunstwerke und Künstler in England und Paris. 2, Berlin, 1838, p. 117.

    Georg Rathgeber. Annalen der Niederländischen Malerei, Formschneide und Kupferstecherkunst. Gotha, 1844, part 4, col. 96, as in the Grosvenor Gallery.

    [Gustav Friedrich] Waagen. Treasures of Art in Great Britain. London, 1854, vol. 2, p. 165.

    Percy Rendell Head. Van Dyck. London, 1879, pp. 32, 82, ill. opp. p. 34 (engraving), as the "Marriage of Saint Catherine," from the Church of the Récollets; dates it to the second Antwerp period.

    Jules Guiffrey. Antoine van Dyck, sa vie et son oeuvre. Paris, 1882, p. 245, no. 57, p. 246, no. 79, lists no. 57 as "La Vierge et L'Enfant Jésus adoré par sainte Catherine tenant une palme, ou Mariage mystique de sainte Catherine," formerly in the collection of W. Agar Ellis [sic]; lists no. 79 as "La Vierge et L'Enfant Jésus adoré par un ange tenant une palme," in the Grosvenor Gallery.

    Claude Phillips. "Correspondance d'Angleterre." Gazette des beaux-arts, 2nd ser., 35 (1887), p. 261.

    Mario Menotti. "Van Dyck a Genova—Capitolo IV." Archivio storico dell'arte, 2nd ser., 3, no. 5 (1897), p. 394, mistakenly assumes that our picture, formerly in the Agar collection and then in the Grosvenor collection, was two different repetitions of the version now in Chicago.

    Jean Durand. L'Exposition Van Dyck à Anvers. Paris, 1899, p. 38, ill. p. 39, as "Mariage mystique de sainte Catherine".

    P[aul]. Buschmann. Exposition de l'oeuvre de Antoine van Dyck. Paris, 1900, p. 29, no. 7, as painted in 1631.

    Lionel Cust. Anthony van Dyck, An Historical Study of His Life and Works. London, 1900, pp. 46, 164, 201, 208, 219, 249, no. 48, ill. opp. p. 200, tentatively dates it 1631, and associates it with the picture in the Church of the Récollets.

    Ernest Law. "The Van Dyck Exhibition at the Royal Academy—I." Magazine of Art 24 (1900), p. 175.

    Max Rooses. Fifty Masterpieces of Anthony van Dyck in Photogravure: Selected from the Pictures Exhibited at Antwerp in 1899. London, 1900, pp. 111–12, ill. [French ed. 1902], dates it to the second Antwerp period.

    Lionel Cust. Anthony van Dyck. part 2, London, 1903, p. 23 [see Ref. Liedtke 1984], suggests that it was possibly painted in Genoa.

    Kenyon Cox in Noteworthy Paintings in American Private Collections. New York, 1907, vol. 2, pp. 475–76.

    Gustav Glück in Noteworthy Paintings in American Private Collections. New York, 1907, vol. 2, pp. 489–90.

    Jules Guiffrey in Noteworthy Paintings in American Private Collections. New York, 1907, vol. 2, pp. 482–83.

    Mario Menotti in Noteworthy Paintings in American Private Collections. New York, 1907, vol. 2, p. 488, as a replica of the Sprague picture.

    Emil Schaeffer. Van Dyck, des Meisters Gemälde. 1st ed. Stuttgart, 1909, pp. 498–99, ill. p. 81 [2nd ed. by Gustav Glück, 1931, pp. XXXIX, 543, ill. p. 229], as sent to England by Gerbier in 1631; calls it a free repetition of the Chicago picture.

    Lionel Cust. Anthony van Dyck, A Further Study. London, 1911, p. 48, no. 7, ill.

    "Gift of Mrs. A. A. Sprague." Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago 9 (March 1, 1915), p. 34, as a version of the Chicago painting.

    Walter Heil. "Die Van Dyck-Ausstellung in Detroit." Pantheon 4 (July–December 1929), p. 304, dates it to the Italian period.

    Wilhelm R. Valentiner. A Loan Exhibition of Fifty Paintings by Van Dyck. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1929, unpaginated, no. 19, ill., as brought to London in 1631 by Balthasar Gerbier; dates it 1627.

    Wilhelm R. Valentiner. "Die Van Dyck-Ausstellung in Detroit." Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst 63 (1929–30), p. 108, ill. p. 107 (detail).

    Gustav Glück. Van Dyck, des Meisters Gemälde. 2nd ed. [1st ed. 1909]. Stuttgart, 1931, pp. XXXIX, 543, ill. p. 229 [1st ed. by Emil Schaeffer, 1909, pp. 498–99, ill. p. 81], as unquestionably autograph; calls the Chicago and Dortmund versions workshop repetitions.

    Maurice Delacre. Le Dessin dans l'oeuvre de Van Dyck. [Brussels], [1934], p. 179.

    Paul Wescher. "Unbekannte Varianten bei Van Dyck." Pantheon 31 (1943), p. 95.

    Frank van den Wijngaert. Antoon van Dyck. Antwerp, 1943, p. 88.

    Van Dyck. Monaco, [1949], pp. xxviii, 102, pl. 75.

    Ludwig Burchard. Letter to Joseph Camhi. 1950 [see Ref. Liedtke 1984], describes the Chicago and Camhi pictures as contemporary copies of the MMA work.

    Guy-Philippe de Montebello. "Van Dyck, Painter of the Counter Reformation." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 22 (December 1963), pp. 138–42, figs. 7–9 (overall and details).

    John Rupert Martin and Gail Feigenbaum. Van Dyck as Religious Artist. Exh. cat., Art Museum, Princeton University. Princeton, 1979, pp. 30, 85, 144, 147, no. 39, ill. pp. 145–46 (overall and detail).

    J. Douglas Stewart. "'Van Dyck as Religious Artist' at the Art Museum, Princeton University." Burlington Magazine 121 (July 1979), p. 467, suggests that it may predate the second Antwerp period.

    Erik Larsen. L'opera completa di Van Dyck. Milan, 1980, vol. 2, p. 100, no. 670, ill., describes it as autograph, calling the Chicago picture a workshop replica; dates it about 1630.

    Christopher Brown. Van Dyck. Ithaca, N.Y., 1982, pp. 125–26, pl. 119.

    Walter A. Liedtke. Flemish Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1984, vol. 1, pp. 79–84; vol. 2, colorpl. VIII (overall), pls. 33–34 (overall and detail), observes that the picture can be placed among similar subjects executed by Van Dyck about 1630.

    Walter A. Liedtke. "Flemish Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum—II: Van Dyck, Jordaens, Brouwer, and Others." Tableau 6 (February 15, 1984), pp. 31, 34, fig. 13 (color).

    Walter A. Liedtke. "Anthony van Dyck." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 42 (Winter 1984/85), pp. 30, 32, figs. 28, 30 (color, overall and detail).

    Maria Carmen Lacarra Ducay. "Identificacion de una obra de Antonio van Dyck en Pedrola (Zaragoza)." Boletin del Museo e Instituto "Camón Aznar" 20 (1985), pp. 5–6, 10–11, fig. 2.

    Erik Larsen. The Paintings of Anthony van Dyck. Freren, Germany, 1988, vol. 1, pp. 434, 461 n. 39, fig. 472; vol. 2, pp. 261–62, no. 640.

    Susan J. Barnes in Anthony van Dyck. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1990, p. 23.

    Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. in Anthony van Dyck. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1990, p. 224 n. 4, under no. 55.

    Colnaghi in America: A Survey to Commemorate the First Decade of Colnaghi New York. New York, 1992, p. 131.

    Introduction by Walter A. Liedtke in Flemish Paintings in America: A Survey of Early Netherlandish and Flemish Paintings in the Public Collections of North America. Antwerp, 1992, pp. 11, 332, no. 213, ill.

    Carolyn Diskant Muir. "Art and Religion in Seventeenth-century Antwerp: Van Dyck's 'Mystic Marriage of the Blessed Hermann-Joseph'." Simiolus 28, no. 1/2 (2000–2001), p. 68, fig. 12.

    Fiona Healy. "Images of the 'Madonna and Child' and 'The Holy Family' in Van Dyck's Oeuvre." Van Dyck 1599–1999: Conjectures and Refutations. Turnhout, Belgium, 2001, pp. 101, 111 n. 47, fig. 12.

    Walter Liedtke et al. Vermeer and the Delft School. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2001, p. 363, fig. 278, under no. 65.

    Luciano Arcangeli in Anton van Dyck: Riflessi italiani. Exh. cat., Palazzo Reale. Milan, 2004, p. 39.

    Maria Grazia Bernardini in Anton van Dyck: Riflessi italiani. Exh. cat., Palazzo Reale. Milan, 2004, pp. 167–68, no. 27, ill. pp. 143 (color), 167.

    Walter Liedtke. Vermeer: The Complete Paintings. Antwerp, 2008, p. 61, fig. 2b.

  • Notes

    The version of this composition in the Martin d'Arcy Gallery of Art, Loyola University of Chicago, is most likely a workshop replica. The foliage is replaced by an architectural background. A copy of the Museum's picture was in the Cremer Collection, Dortmund, in 1914; another was in the Pitti Palace, Florence; and a version in reverse, probably based on an engraving, is in the Palazzo Corsini, Florence. The figure of Saint Catherine in the Museum's picture was transformed into Mary Magdalen studying the Bible, in a painting formerly in Bern. A drawing of Saint Catherine that was in the collection of Victor Roch, London, has been described as a study for the painting, but is probably a copy made after it.

    In 1631, Sir Balthasar Gerbier sent to Charles I, through the Earl of Portland, "une forte belle Notre Dame et Ste. Catharine faict de la main de Van Dyck." Neither the Museum's picture, nor the version in Chicago, can be related to it in the absence of further evidence.

    The painting has been exhibited as "The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine," but there is nothing in the composition to indicate that ceremony.

  • See also