Exhibitions/ Art Object

Saint Rosalie Interceding for the Plague-stricken of Palermo

Anthony van Dyck (Flemish, Antwerp 1599–1641 London)
Oil on canvas
39 1/4 x 29 in. (99.7 x 73.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, 1871
Accession Number:
Not on view
Van Dyck was in Palermo, Sicily, when a plague broke out and the city was quarantined. On July 15, 1624, the remains of Saint Rosalie—the city’s patroness, who died about 1160—were opportunely discovered on Mount Pellegrino, which is visible here above the harbor of Palermo. Images of Saint Rosalie were in great demand; this one was painted by Van Dyck on top of a striking self-portrait that he had sketched on the canvas. The artist employed a design he had used earlier for paintings of the Assumption of the Virgin.
?Desiderio Segno, Genoa and Salaparuta, Sicily (in 1630; inv., 1630, as "un quadro di Santa Rosalia in gloria, di mano di Antonio Vandich"); ?[Antonio Santi, Palermo, 1648; sold to Ruffo]; ?Don Antonio Ruffo, principe della Scaletta, Messina (1648–d. 1678; inv., 1678); ?the Ruffo family (1678–after 1750; inv., 1703, 1710, 1739, 1748); Thomas Emmerson, London (until 1829; his sale, Phillips, London, May 1, 1829, no. 84, as "The Assumption of the Virgin"); ?[D. M. Farrer, London; sold to MacIntosh]; David McIntosh, London (until 1857; his estate sale, Christie's, London, May 16, 1857, no. 65, as "The Assumption of the Virgin," for £61.19); [C. J. Nieuwenhuys, London and Brussels]; marquise Théodule de Rodes (until d. 1867; her estate sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, May 30, 1868, no. 4, as "Sainte Marthe implorant le Christ en faveur des habitants de Tarascon," for Fr 9500 to Prince Paskiewitz); [Étienne Le Roy, Brussels, through Léon Gauchez, Paris, until 1870; sold to Blodgett]; William T. Blodgett, Paris (from 1870; sold half share to Johnston); William T. Blodgett, Paris, and John Taylor Johnston, New York (1870–71; sold to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Taste of the Seventies," April 2–September 10, 1946, no. 10 (as "Saint Rosalie Borne Up to Heaven," by Follower of Anthony van Dyck).

Genoa. Palazzo dell'Accademia. "100 Opere di Van Dyck," June–August 1955, no. 54.

New York. Union League Club. "Exhibition from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," November 23, 1969–January 2, 1970, checklist no. 11.

Fort Worth Art Center. "Spectrum: A Cross Section from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," March 8–April 12, 1970, unnumbered cat.

Yokohama. Sogo Museum of Art. "Anthony van Dyck," August 15–September 30, 1990, no. 9.

Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art. "Anthony van Dyck," October 6–November 7, 1990, no. 9.

Osaka. Museum of Art, Kintetsu. "Anthony van Dyck," November 16–December 3, 1990, no. 9.

Athens. National Gallery Alexandros Soutzos Museum. "From El Greco to Cézanne: Masterpieces of European Painting from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," December 13, 1992–April 11, 1993, no. 9.

Milan. Palazzo Reale. "Anton van Dyck: Riflessi italiani," February 19–June 20, 2004, no. 11.

Naples. Museo di Capodimonte. "Omaggio a Capodimonte: da Caravaggio a Picasso," October 24, 2007–January 20, 2008, no. 68.

London. Dulwich Picture Gallery. "Van Dyck in Sicily: Painting and the Plague, 1624–25," February 15–May 27, 2012, no. 16.

Catalogue of the Pictures Belonging to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1872, p. 12, no. 5, as "St. Martha Interceding with God for a Cessation of the Plague at Tarascon".

[Henry James]. "Art: The Dutch and Flemish Pictures in New York." Atlantic Monthly 29 (June 1872), p. 758 [reprinted in John L. Sweeney, ed., "The Painter's Eye," London, 1956, p. 55].

W. Bode. "Alte Kunstwerke in den Sammlungen der Vereinigten Staaten." Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, n.s., 6, no. 1 (1895), p. 18, as painted under Venetian influence.

Sidney J. A. Churchill. "Sir Anthony van Dyck's Visit to Sicily about 1624." Burlington Magazine 14 (1908), p. 240, publishes an excerpt from the Segno inventory, possibly referring to this picture.

Vincenzo Ruffo. "Galleria Ruffo nel secolo XVII in Messina." Bollettino d'arte 10 (1916), pp. 29, 33, 42.

G[offredo]. J. Hoogewerff. "Rembrandt en een Italiaansche Maecenas." Oud-Holland 35 (1917), p. 132, mentions a "S. Rosalia" in the Ruffo collection, possibly our picture.

Wilhelm R. Valentiner. A Loan Exhibition of Fifty Paintings by Van Dyck. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1929, in "Additional List", as "attributed to School of Van Dyck, but original of the Italian Period".

Gustav Glück. Van Dyck, des Meisters Gemälde. 2nd ed. [1st ed. 1909]. Stuttgart, 1931, pp. 536–37, ill. p. 154, identifies it as by Van Dyck and the subject as Saint Rosalie, and links it with the painting cited in the Ruffo inventory.

A[ugust]. L. M[ayer]. "Kunstliteratur." Pantheon 8 (1931), pp. 507–8, reviewing Ref. Glück 1931, doubts the authorship of the Museum's picture and the version in Munich.

Charles Sterling. "Van Dyck's Paintings of St. Rosalie." Burlington Magazine 74 (1939), pp. 54, 61 n. 34, pl. III, D, as probably identical with the one in the Ruffo inventory.

[John] B. Knipping. De Iconografie van de Contra-Reformatie in de Nederlanden. Vol. 1, Hilversum, The Netherlands, 1939, p. 191 [1974 ed., vol. 1, pp. 140–41].

Frank van den Wijngaert. Antoon van Dyck. Antwerp, 1943, p. 68.

Paul Wescher. "Unbekannte Varianten bei Van Dyck." Pantheon 31 (1943), p. 95, cites the influence of Titian.

Michael Jaffé in Encyclopedia of World Art. Vol. 4, New York, 1961, col. 532, as "Apotheosis of St. Rosalie," finished by September 1624.

Horst Vey. Die Zeichnungen Anton van Dycks. Brussels, 1962, text vol., p. 182, under no. 112.

Guy-Philippe de Montebello. "Van Dyck, Painter of the Counter Reformation." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 22 (December 1963), pp. 138, 140, ill. on cover (detail), and figs. 5 (overall), 6, 10 (details).

Everett Fahy in The Wrightsman Collection. Vol. 5, Paintings, Drawings. [New York], 1973, p. 297.

Matías Díaz Padrón. "I—Escuela flamenca: Siglo XVII." Museo del Prado: Catálogo de Pinturas. Madrid, 1975, p. 128, under no. 2556.

Pamela Gordon in Van Dyck as Religious Artist. Exh. cat., Art Museum, Princeton University. Princeton, 1979, pp. 125–26, 132, fig. 30.

Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 9, 17, 313, fig. 18 (color).

Erik Larsen. L'opera completa di Van Dyck. Milan, 1980, vol. 1, pp. 117–18, no. 442, ill.

Maryan W. Ainsworth et al. Art and Autoradiography: Insights into the Genesis of Paintings by Rembrandt, Van Dyck, and Vermeer. New York, 1982, pp. 12–18, 101–3, pls. 1 (overall), 2–5 (x-ray and autoradiographs, overall and detail), publish autoradiographs revealing Van Dyck's self-portrait beneath the paint surface.

Christopher Brown. Van Dyck. Ithaca, N.Y., 1982, pp. 81–82, pl. 70.

Walter A. Liedtke. Flemish Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1984, vol. 1, pp. 43–48; vol. 2, colorpl. IV, pl. 21, observes that the priority of the Museum's painting with regard to other versions is supported by recently published evidence of autoradiography [see Ref. Ainsworth 1982].

Luigi Hyerace. "Precisazioni su Domenico Maroli e due inediti." Prospettiva no. 38 (July 1984), p. 65, fig. 12.

Walter A. Liedtke. "Anthony van Dyck." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 42 (Winter 1984/85), pp. 26–27, 32, 42, figs. 25 (color) and 27 (autoradiograph).

Walter A. Liedtke. "Flemish Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum—II: Van Dyck, Jordaens, Brouwer, and Others." Tableau 6 (February 15, 1984), pp. 29–31, 33 n. 13, figs. 5 (color), 6 (autoradiograph).

John Pope-Hennessy. "Roger Fry and The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Oxford, China, and Italy: Writings in Honour of Sir Harold Acton on his Eightieth Birthday. Ed. Edward Chaney and Neil Ritchie. London, 1984, p. 231.

Erik Larsen. The Paintings of Anthony van Dyck. Freren, Germany, 1988, vol. 1, pp. 233, 396 n. 326b, fig. 193; vol. 2, p. 181, no. 449.

Carol Christensen in Anthony van Dyck. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1990, p. 47.

Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. in Anthony van Dyck. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1990, p. 206, fig. 3.

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. 20, 331, no. 209, ill. p. 331, fig. 8 (included in Frank Waller's painting, "Interior View of The Metropolitan Museum of Art When on Fourteenth Street," MMA 95.29), and fig. 9.

Deborah Krohn et al. in From El Greco to Cézanne: Masterpieces of European Painting from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Exh. cat., National Gallery Alexandros Soutzos Museum. Athens, 1992, pp. 26, 306, no. 9, ill. (color, overall and detail) [catalogue section unpaginated].

Michael Jaffé. "On Some Portraits Painted by Van Dyck in Italy, Mainly in Genoa." Van Dyck 350. Washington, 1994, p. 133.

Alfred Moir. Anthony van Dyck. New York, 1994, pp. 25, 80–81, 86, colorpl. 17.

Wolfgang Prohaska. "I rapporti di Ribera con la pittura fiamminga in area mediterranea: Il caso Van Dyck." Scritti in memoria di Raffaello Causa: Saggi e documenti per la storia dell'arte, 1994–1995. Naples, 1996, p. 221 n. 34.

E. Melanie Gifford. "Painting Light: Recent Observations on Vermeer's Technique." Vermeer Studies. Ed. Ivan Gaskell and Michiel Jonker. Washington, 1998, p. 198 n. 7.

Robin Blake. Anthony van Dyck: A Life, 1599–1641. London, 1999, p. 196.

Giovanni Mendola in Christopher Brown and Hans Vlieghe. Van Dyck 1599–1641. Exh. cat., Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp. London, 1999, pp. 61, 63 n. 23.

Rudi Mannaerts in Antoon van Dyck anders bekeken. Exh. cat., Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal. Antwerp, 1999, p. 46, under no. 20.

Jeroen Giltaij. Ruffo en Rembrandt. Zutphen, The Netherlands, 1999, pp. 19, 25, 102–3, 117, 122, 126–27, fig. 3.

Katharine Baetjer. "Buying Pictures for New York: The Founding Purchase of 1871." Metropolitan Museum Journal 39 (2004), pp. 164, 169–70, 172, 178, 183, 192–93 nn. 58, 59, pp. 197–98, 244–45, appendix 1A no. 5, ill. p. 198 and figs. 5, 31 (floor plan), 40 (depicted in MMA 95.29).

Walter Liedtke. "The Meaning of Rembrandt's 'Aristotle with a Bust of Homer'." Collected Opinions: Essays on Netherlandish Art in Honour of Alfred Bader. Ed. Volker Manuth and Axel Rüger. London, 2004, p. 74.

Maria Grazia Bernardini in Anton van Dyck: Riflessi italiani. Ed. Maria Grazia Bernardini. Exh. cat., Palazzo Reale. Milan, 2004, pp. 162–63, no. 11, ill. pp. 126 (color), 162.

Vincenzo Abbate in Anton van Dyck: Riflessi italiani. Ed. Maria Grazia Bernardini. Exh. cat., Palazzo Reale. Milan, 2004, p. 77, ill. pp. 68 (color detail).

Esmée Quodbach. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 65 (Summer 2007), p. 5.

Wolfgang Prohaska in Omaggio a Capodimonte. Exh. cat., Museo di Capodimonte. Naples, 2007, pp. 156–57, no. 68, ill. (color).

Alexis Merle du Bourg in Antoon van Dyck, Portraits. Exh. cat., Musée Jacquemart-André. Brussels, 2008, p. 68.

Rosanna De Gennaro. "Da Rubens a Jordaens d'Anversa, presenze fiamminghe nella collezione messinese di Antonio Ruffo principe della Scaletta." La "Konstkamer" italiana: i "Fiamminghi" nelle collezioni italiane all'età di Rubens. 2008, pp. 42–44, 61, fig. 1, suggests that it may have come from Simone Sitaiolo's collection rather than Desiderio Segno's.

Stijn Alsteens in Stijn Alsteens and Adam Eaker. Van Dyck: The Anatomy of Portraiture. Exh. cat., Frick Collection. New York, 2016, p. 80 n. 1.

The canvas was cut down on all sides, which probably trimmed the paint surface slightly at the left and right. Large losses extending from the putto at top left to the saint's left hand have been compensated with matching canvas and repainting. The landscape is very worn and the upper sky is restored. Autoradiography has revealed beneath the paint surface a self-portrait sketched in grisaille, by Van Dyck, who turned the canvas upside down for the present picture.
From mid-May to the autumn of 1624, Palermo suffered a severe plague, and on June 15 the city was quarantined. Saint Rosalie's remains were found on Monte Pellegrino on July 15, and an inscription, seemingly carved on the walls of the cave by Rosalie herself, was found forty days later. Her name was entered in the Roman Martyrology in 1630 by Urban VIII. Van Dyck must have worked rapidly on pictures of Saint Rosalie during the weeks after her remains were discovered. When he fled Palermo in September he took this painting with him; it was completed in Genoa in 1627, and received in Palermo in 1628. The larger version of the present picture (Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich) appears to be an autograph replica. A painting in the Prado described by Díaz Padrón (1975) as a copy of the Museum's picture is more probably a copy of the version in Munich. A drawing with a similar composition, in St. Petersburg, has been related to the Munich picture, but the attribution to Van Dyck is not convincing. The self-portrait sketched in grisaille revealed beneath the paint surface through infrared reflectography was probably painted in Italy in late 1622 or 1623, presumably in Palermo.
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