The Veil of St. Veronica
Dirck Dircksz. Santvoort
On panel, 21½ x 16½ inches (54.5 by 41.5 cm)
One of a pair, see: The Arrest of Christ.
Private collection, France
Dirck Dircksz. Santvoort was born in Amsterdam in 1610 (i). His father, and possible teacher, was the painter Dirck Pietersz., called Bontepaert. However, Dirck and his brother – the painter Pieter Dircksz. – both adopted the surname Santvoort. His great-grandfather was Pieter Aertsen, while his grandfather was Pieter Pietersz. His career was fairly short and began around 1632. The assertion that he studied with Rembrandt has no factual basis, although he was undeniably influenced by the older artist. Santvoort’s Christ’s Supper at Emmaus, from 1633, now in the Louvre, Paris, is clearly indebted to Rembrandt, as is the present work. In any event, since Santvoort named his son after the great master, the two painters must have been at least friends. By 1636, Santvoort was a member of the Amsterdam guild. In 1641, Santvoort married Baertgen Pont, by this time he was already a wealthy man. After her death, he married in 1657 Trijntje Rieuwertsdr. By then, Santvoort probably had not painted for many years, since no works survive dating from after 1645. It seems that, having grown wealthy, the artist more or less stopped painting, although he retained a prominent position in the painters’ guild. He was appointed dean (hoofdman) in 1658 and was still acting as an appraiser of paintings in 1678. Santvoort would remain living in Amsterdam until his death in 1680.
In the mid-1630s, Santvoort started a series of portraits that form the most important part of his oeuvre. One of the earliest examples is the group portrait of the Family of Dirck Jacobsz. Bas, Burgomaster of Amsterdam, now in the Rijksmuseum. In the same style, Santvoort painted a number of portraits of individual sitters over the following years; including the portrait of Agatha Geelvinck with her husband Frederik Alewijn, both now in the Rijksmuseum as well. Towards the middle of the seventeenth century, Santvoort became one of the leading painters of children portraits in Amsterdam (ii). In 1636, he finished the famous portrait of the young Willem van Loon, now in the Museum Van Loon, Amsterdam. Another well-known picture is the Portrait of a Girl with a Finch in the National Gallery, London.
The present works are clearly part of the artist’s early oeuvre and can be compared to the before mentioned Christ’s Supper at Emmaus of 1633, now in the Louvre, Paris. The intimate size of the paintings, leads us to believe that the pair are probably from a series of New Testament scenes from the Passion of Christ. The subjects presented here are the Arrest of Christ in the garden of Gethsemane and follows chronologically the Agony in the Garden. In the pair to this painting, Judas comes up to Christ and kisses him, a sign to the soldiers following that this is the man they are to arrest. The single light source of a torch held aloft by a soldier in the darkness of the garden illuminates several events taking place at once. We see Judas in the act of bestowing the kiss, surrounded by Jewish elders and Roman soldiers armed with spears and armor as their leader grabs hold of Christ. To the right of the central scene we have shadowed in darkness the incident of cutting off the ear: ‘Thereupon Simon Peter drew the sword he was wearing and struck at the High Priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus.’ (John:18:10). This painting presents the Veil of St. Veronica or St. Veronica Wiping the Face of Christ. As Christ makes his way to Golgotha he encounters a woman, who according to legend, came forward and took her veil, or a linen cloth, and wiped the sweat from his face. The image of his features became miraculously imprinted on the material. The supposed cloth is preserved as a holy relic in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome. Veronica’s name means ‘true image’ – vera icon.
i Biographical information from: R.E.O. Ekkart, in: Dictionary of Art, Vol. 27, London 1996, pp. 805-806
ii R. Ekkart, in: exh.cat. Pride and Joy. Children’s Portraits in the Netherlands 1500-1700, Haarlem 2000, p. 158
Dirck Dircksz. Santvoort
1609 – Amsterdam – 1680
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