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Anthony van Dyck, The Abbé Scaglia adoring the Virgin and Child

Key facts
Full title The Abbé Scaglia adoring the Virgin and Child
Artist Anthony van Dyck
Artist dates 1599 - 1641
Date made 1634-5
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 106.7 × 120 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Anthony de Rothschild in memory of Louisa, Lady de Rothschild, and Constance, Lady Battersea, 1937
Inventory number NG4889
Location Room 21
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Abbé Scaglia adoring the Virgin and Child
Anthony van Dyck

Abbé Scaglia (1592–1641), cleric, diplomat, spy and one of Van Dyck’s most important patrons, commissioned this painting while suffering from ill health and in a reflective state of mind. It was meant for the church of the Recollect order of Augustinians in Antwerp; within a few years Scaglia would withdraw from public life and retire to their monastery.

The picture shows the Abbé kneeling before the Virgin and Child and receiving a blessing from the infant Christ, who seems to have paused momentarily from squirming playfully in his mother’s lap. The informality of Christ and the joyous colours contrast with the seriousness of Scaglia, intent on the salvation of his soul, and the calm gravity of the Virgin. Her face, double chin and all, appears to be a portrait, the most likely candidate being Princess Henrietta of Lorraine Phalsbourg, to whom Scaglia bequeathed the picture. Van Dyck has made a scene where the human and the divine interact with touching naturalness.

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