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Willem van Herp the Elder, Saint Anthony of Padua (?) distributing Bread

Key facts
Full title Saint Anthony of Padua (?) distributing Bread
Artist Willem van Herp the Elder
Artist dates about 1614 - 1677
Date made probably 1662
Medium and support Oil on copper
Dimensions 80 × 114.3 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Richard Simmons, 1846
Inventory number NG203
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Saint Anthony of Padua (?) distributing Bread
Willem van Herp the Elder

This picture is small, but it contains a lot of action. Franciscan friars (members of the religious order founded by Saint Francis) in brown robes hand out bread to the poor, an activity that was typical for them. The figure with the subtle halo most prominent among the friars is likely Saint Anthony of Padua.

Willem van Herp has painted the crowd of people on the receiving end of the friars' charity with great gusto. A blind man approaches from the right, assisted by a young boy; a mother and child directly in front of Saint Anthony reach out to the saint with urgency. Two dogs – one large and one small – turn their attention to a fallen loaf.

A large quantity of works by van Herp survive, which means he must have worked at great pace. Small religious scenes on copper, such as this one, were his trademark.

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