Gaspar de CRAYER
Antwerp, baptised 18 November 1584–Ghent, buried 27 January 1669
Flemish painter and draughtsman
His early training is uncertain but, according to Cornelis de Bie, his 17th-century biographer, as a youth he moved from his native Antwerp to Brussels and there was apprenticed to Raphael Coxie (c. 1540–1616), court painter to Archduke Albrecht VII of Austria (1559–1621) and Archduchess Isabella Clara Eugenia (Infanta of Spain; 1566–1633). In 1607 he became a master in the Brussels painters’ guild and between 1614 and 1616 he was its dean.1 In 1626–7 he also held a position on the town council. In 1635 he was appointed court painter to Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand (1609–41) and subsequently to Archduke Leopold Wilhelm (1614–62). After Rubens’s death in 1640 De Crayer was instrumental in the sale of Rubens’s collection to King Philip IV of Spain (1605–65). His reputation was not confined to the Southern Netherlands. He was asked to paint two equestrian portraits of the Princes Frederik Hendrik (1584–1647) and Maurits of Orange (1567–1625) as part of the decoration of the Oranjezaal in Huis ten Bosch near The Hague, but he refused the commission.2 De Crayer received numerous commissions from Spain and Germany. He worked on the decorations for the Cardinal-Infante’s ‘Joyous Entry’ into Ghent in 1635, and in 1664 he moved there himself.
De Crayer’s success was due to two factors. First, the establishment of the Counter-Reformation in the Spanish Netherlands led to many commissions for altarpieces for the new religious institutions, and the large workshop that he maintained allowed him to satisfy this enormous market. Secondly, he could produce work close to the style of the real innovators of early 17th-century Flemish painting, Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) and Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641), so that he could occupy their places when they fell vacant.
Vlieghe 1972; De Man 1980; Vlieghe 1996b; Vlieghe 1998b; Castor 1999; Ecartico, no. 2216: http://www.vondel.humanities.uva.nl/ecartico/persons/2216 (Dec. 23, 2017); RKDartists&, no. 19021: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/artists/19021 (Dec. 23, 2017).
Anthony van Dyck
Portrait of the painter Gaspard de Crayer (1584-1669), 1626-1635
canvas, oil paint 76 x 59 cm
Vaduz-Vienna, Liechtenstein - The Princely Collections, inv./cat.nr. G 153
DPG190 – St Augustine in Ecstasy
c. 1638–48; eastern Baltic oak panel, 46.3 x 34 cm
?Desenfans’ List of Pictures to be sold (early 1790s), no. 57 (‘Van Dyck, the Conversion of St. Paul, a Sketch’, 30 guineas); ?Davis sale, Christie’s, 31 May 1806 (Lugt 7110), lot 61 (‘Van Dyck – A spirited Sketch’), bt ‘Sir F. B.’, £8 16s.;3 Bourgeois Bequest, 1811; Britton 1813, p. 16, no. 140 (‘Upper-Room – East side of passage / no. 3, Group of Figures: conversion of a Saint – P[anel] Vandyck’; 2'3" x 1'11").
Cat. 1817, p. 10, no. 170 (‘SECOND ROOM – East Side; Inspiration of a Saint, a Sketch’; Vandyke); Haydon 1817, p. 387, no. 170;4 Cat. 1820, p. 10, no. 170; Patmore 1824b, p. 59, no. 218 (Van Dyck);5 Cat. 1830, p. 11, no. 234; Denning 1858, no. 234 (After Rubens. S.P.D.); not in Denning 1859; Sparkes 1876, pp. 189–90, no. 234 (Van Dyck); Richter & Sparkes 1880, p. 54, no. 234 (School of Van Dyck); Richter & Sparkes 1892 and 1905, p. 50, no. 190; Cook 1914, p. 121, no. 190; Cook 1926, p. 114, no. 190; Cat. 1953, p. 41 (Studio of Van Dyck); Murray 1980a, p. 300 (School of Van Dyck); Beresford 1998, p. 78 (De Crayer; the modello for the Valenciennes picture); Tyers 2014, pp. 34–6; Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, pp. 54–5; RKD, no. 287553: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/287553 (Dec. 2, 2019) .
Two-member Eastern Baltic oak panel with a vertical grain. The reverse bears a stamp of the hands and castle of the City of Antwerp guild of panel makers, similar to a design that became of use in the 1630s. Above is the monogram (turned 45° to the left) of the panel maker Guilliam Gabron, identified as his second punch, in use 1626–58. Dendrochronology shows that the two members came from the same tree, one of which contains sapwood, indicating that it was felled between 1631 and 1647 (see Tyers 2014). There is a cream ground with a grey imprimatura above. A brown ink grid has been marked on the surface for scaling-up. The majority of the paint has been applied in thin washes, with slightly thicker paint in the highlights. There is a convex warp at the bottom edge, and two separate convex warps on either side of a split at the top of the panel. The panel displays old worm damage in places. There is fine horizontal craquelure all over the paint surface, which is more visible in the dark brown passages. Previous recorded treatment: 2001, panel repaired, P. Ackroyd; 2001, cleaned and restored, I. Horovitz.
1) Prime version: Gaspar de Crayer, St Augustine in Ecstasy, c. 1638–48, canvas, 290 x 197.7 cm. Musée des Beaux-Arts, Valenciennes, P.Y.21. Painted for the Augustinian priory of Groenendaal-lez-Bruxelles .6
2) Pieter de Jode the Younger after Anthony van Dyck, St Augustine in Ecstasy, engraving, 516 (trimmed) x 299 mm. BM, London, R,2.48 .7[
3) Gaspar de Crayer, Head of St Augustine (?), charcoal on brown paper, 251 x 191 mm. Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne, Z 1428 .8
DPG190 was called ‘Van Dyck’, ‘School of Van Dyck’, and once ‘after Rubens’ from 1813 until 1998, when Christopher Brown suggested (in conversation with Richard Beresford) an attribution to Gaspar de Crayer. Hans Vlieghe confirmed the attribution and its role as a modello for an altarpiece produced by Gaspar de Crayer for the Augustinian priory of Groenendaal-lez-Bruxelles (now in Valenciennes) some time between 1638 and 1648 (Related works, no. 1) .9 The subject is the Ecstasy of St Augustine of Hippo (354–430), when the Book was opened to him and he was converted to Christianity, which happened, according to his Confessions, in 386.10
Gaspar de Crayer
St. Augustine in Ecstasy
panel (oak), oil paint 46,3 x 34 cm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG190
Gaspar de Crayer
Saint Augustine in Ecstasy
canvas, oil paint 290 x 197,7 cm
Valenciennes, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Valenciennes, inv./cat.nr. P.Y.21
Pieter de Jode (II) after Anthony van Dyck
Saint Augustine in Ecstacy
paper, engraving 516 x 299 mm
London (England), British Museum, inv./cat.nr. R,2.48
Gaspar de Crayer
Head of St. Augustine
brown paper, black chalk 251 x 190 mm
Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, inv./cat.nr. Z 1428
The panel has been squared for transfer to a larger format. The composition itself is (as Vlieghe suggests) a free adaptation of Van Dyck’s 1628 altarpiece of the same subject for the church of St Augustine in Antwerp, which was reproduced in reverse in a contemporary print by Pieter de Jode the Younger (Related works, no. 2)  – the direct source of DPG190. The introduction by De Crayer of Ecclesia, the Church, depicted as a female with a papal crown with keys and a bishop’s crozier, is an important departure from Van Dyck’s composition. A starting point for the head of the Saint may be a drawing by De Crayer in Cologne (Related works, no. 3) , though that is closer to that in the Van Dyck than in DPG190.
There are differences between De Crayer’s modello and the completed painting: there the putto bottom left gazes up at the Saint and leans against a cartouche, while holding a martyr’s palm. The figure of Ecclesia is made more explicitly female, and her bishop’s crozier is transformed into a cross. Both angels supporting the Saint look upward. St Augustine’s pose, the same in the modello and De Jode’s print, is changed so that his right arm holds the Book formerly at his feet. Drapery covers the steps; the architecture in the background is much more elaborate and includes an arch; and the poses of the three putti top right are quite different. In both pictures St Augustine’s Ecstasy is emphasized by the presence of the Book – here at his feet, and another one held by the putto lower left – as well as by the ray of heavenly light, the dove of the Holy Spirit, and the winged heart of Jesus.
1 According to Vlieghe 1996b he was dean 1611–16.
2 Other Southern painters had fewer problems with working for the Protestant North and contributed to the ensemble of the Oranjezaal, one of the masterpieces of the Golden Age: they were Thomas Willeboirts Bosschaert (1613/14–54), Gonzales Coques (1614–84), Jacques Jordaens (1593–1678), and Daniel Seghers (1590–1661). Of these artists only Jordaens was Protestant. On the Oranjezaal see http://oranjezaal.rkdmonographs.nl/verantwoording-1.
3 Letter from Burton Fredericksen to Giles Waterfield, 9 Jan. 1990 (DPG190 file). Letter from Waterfield to Fredericksen, 17 Jan. 1990 (DPG190 file), in which he suggests that it could be DPG190 that is meant in the undated List of Paintings to be Sold (early 1790s), by Desenfans: no. 57, ‘Van Dyck, the Conversion of St. Paul, a Sketch’, 30 guineas. This seems to contradict an acquisition in 1806 by Bourgeois.
4 ‘Sir Anth. van Dyck. Inspiration of a Saint, who is before an altar in deep and earnest prayer; the light is striking on his breast; a priest in a mitre is behind, as listening to his inspirations. Angels are hovering over them.’
5 ‘This is one of those interesting sketches which so many of the great painters have left us, as if to shew that any rivalry with them is hopeless, since they were capable of extracting more expression from a few hasty strokes than we are from the most elaborate compositions elaborately worked up. This little sketch – probably the work of a few idle minutes – is full of grace, grandeur, and pathos; and gives one as high a notion of the author’s powers as many of his more laboured and finished productions.’
7 RKD, no. 287709: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/287709 (Feb. 24, 2018); see also https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_R-2-48 (July 1, 2020); Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, p. 54, fig. 2, under DPG190.
9 Letter from Hans Vlieghe to DPG, 23 Aug. 1996 (DPG190 file).