This panel may represent Saint Anthony listening to a reading from the Gospels and distributing his wealth to the poor, or it may be intended as a more general sermon on the virtues of charity. In either case, the theme reflects the concerns of the Biblical Humanists, a reform group that advocated charity as a moral obligation. Their doctrine, that a life lived in conformity with Christianity was more important than participation in Church ritual, could account for the unfinished brick wall dividing the composition in two parts: one showing ritual, the other active intervention in terms of offering charity.
[Georges Sortais, Paris]; [Kleinberger, New York, until 1908]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "From Van Eyck to Bruegel: Early Netherlandish Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 22, 1998–February 21, 1999, no. 94.
R[oger]. E. F[ry]. "The Story of the Conversion of a Saint by Henricus Blesius (?)." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 4 (February 1909), pp. 25–27, ill., dates this panel about 1520 and tentatively ascribes it to the master who painted an Adoration of the Magi (Alte Pinakothek, Munich) that bears the signature "Henricus Blesius" (called pseudo-Bles); suggests it represents the conversion of a saint, perhaps a "Northern rendering of the story of Saint Francis's conversion at the Portiuncula, though the church appears to be in course of construction rather than ruined"; finds much that is reminiscent of the Leyden school and hypothesizes that our artist was Dutch or trained in Holland.
Joseph Breck. "Sammlungen: Die Neuerwerbungen des Metropolitan Museum in New York." Der Cicerone 1 (1909), p. 293, ill., calls it "Legend of Saint Nicholas of Bari" and ascribes it to Henricus Blesius about 1520.
Max J. Friedländer. "Die Antwerpener Manieristen von 1520." Jahrbuch der Königlich Preuszischen Kunstsammlungen 36 (1915), p. 69, no. 6, fig. 1, identifies the subject as Saint Francis in Church and places the picture close to, but not in, his Antwerp Mannerist group A, which includes works related to an Adoration now in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich.
Max J. Friedländer. Die altniederländische Malerei. Vol. 11, Die Antwerpener Manieristen; Adriaen Ysenbrant. Berlin, 1933, pp. 27–28, 116, no. 7, pl. 4, ascribes the picture to an Antwerp Mannerist whom he calls "Pseudo-Blesius".
L[udwig]. von Baldass. "Die Niederländischen Maler des Spätgotischen Stiles." Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien, n.s., 11 (1937), pp. 132, 135, ascribes it to a painter of the Antwerp school of about 1510, not Jan de Beer.
Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta Salinger. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Early Flemish, Dutch and German Paintings. New York, 1947, pp. 127–29, ill., call the picture Scenes from the Life of a Saint and include it with works by the Antwerp Mannerists; suggest that the well-dressed young man seen in the foreground and background of this picture might represent "Duke Charles the Good of Bruges, who was the victim of a political murder plot while hearing Mass in the church of Saint Donatian, Bruges, on March 2, 1127"; believe the sculpted roundel in the gable showing Cain killing Abel strengthens this interpretation.
Josua Bruyn. "Twee St. Antonius-Panelen en andere Werken van Aertgen van Leyden." Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 11 (1960), pp. 41, 43, fig. 4, identifies the subject of this picture and a similar composition in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, as the Calling of Saint Anthony, noting that in the late 1400s in Italy and in the early 1500s in the Netherlands the cycle of this saint's life started with his visit to the Church; dates our panel about 1510
Erik Larsen. Les primitifs flamands au Musée Metropolitain de New York. Utrecht, 1960, p. 93.
Colin Eisler. "Erik Larsen, Les primitifs flamands au Musée Metropolitain de New York, 1960." Art Bulletin 46 (March 1964), p. 104.
Max J. Friedländer et al. Early Netherlandish Painting. Vol. 11, The Antwerp Mannerists, Adriaen Ysenbrant. New York, 1974, pp. 20, 67, 104, no. 7, pl. 6.
Dan Chalmer Ewing. "The Paintings and Drawings of Jan de Beer." PhD diss., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1978, p. 167 n. 5, rejects attribution to "Pseudo-Bles".
J. D. Bangs. Cornelis Engebrechtsz.'s Leiden: Studies in Cultural History. Assen, The Netherlands, 1979, pp. 129–30, discusses it in relation to the Amsterdam painting [see Ref. Bruyn 1960], stressing the compositional differences in the two works; identifies our picture as Saint Anthony during the sacrament of the Mass, and the one in Amsterdam as the Saint and others listening to the preaching of the Lord's Prayer.
Sheila D. Muller. Charity in the Dutch Republic: Pictures of Rich and Poor for Charitable Institutions. Ann Arbor, Mich., 1985, pp. 64, 258 n. 58, fig. 37, sees the iconography as related to efforts of biblical humanists in the Netherlands, who took the lead in dealing with contemporary social problems; stresses the importance for them of the Gospel of Matthew with its recurring themes of prayer and charity; sees an emphasis in this picture and the example in the Rijksmuseum on the relationship between faith and good works, the contemplative and active virtues
Anja Sibylle Steinmetz. Das Altarretabel in der Altniederländischen Malerei. PhD diss., Universität Köln. Weimar, 1995, pp. 79–80, ill. p. 312 (detail).
Véronique Sintobin inFrom Van Eyck to Bruegel: Early Netherlandish Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ed. Maryan W. Ainsworth and Keith Christiansen. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1998, pp. 325, 354, 356, no. 94, ill. p. 355 (color), dates it about 1520–25.