David Teniers the Younger (Flemish , Antwerp 1610 - 1690 Brussels)
Saints Anthony and Paul in a Landscape, ca. 1636-38
Signed at bottom, left of center: D. Teniers F.
Oil on panel (oak), transferred to masonite
20 7/8 x 33 1/2 in. (53 x 85.2 cm)
R. T. Miller, Jr. Fund and Friends of Art Fund, 1973
Towards the end of a life dedicated to solitude and ascetic spirituality, Paul of Thebes (d. ca. 347) was visited by another Christian hermit, Anthony Abbot (ca. 251-356). The craggy, mountainous setting of Tenier's painting functions as a visual symbol of the isolated and physically barren existence of the hermit saints.
Teniers's airy landscape depicts the meeting of the two hermit saints, Anthony Abbot and Paul of Thebes. Paul of Thebes, traditionally regarded as the first Christian hermit, lived much of his life in a cave at the edge of the Theban Desert, sustained by fruit from a date palm and the bread brought to him daily by a raven. Towards the end of his life he was visited by Anthony, who, after overcoming extreme physical and spiritual temptations, had similarly dedicated himself to a life of solitude and ascetic spirituality. In recognition of the encounter, the raven was said to have delivered a double ration of bread. Anthony lived with Paul until the latter's death a few years later.
The Oberlin painting particularly demonstrates Teniers's skillful integration of landscape and narrative elements. The rocky, mountainous landscape itself functions as an attribute of the subject matter; Teniers frequently linked certain subjects with settings that had a specific and easily grasped symbolic value--in this instance, rocky landscapes and grottoes with representations of hermit saints. The direct formal precursors of Teniers's mountain landscapes are works by Paul Bril, and especially Joos de Momper.1 In the juxtaposition of the rocky outcropping at the right with distant rolling hills, the present composition has a clear affinity with works by de Momper. As in works by these earlier artists, Teniers's landscapes of the mid 1630s evoke spatial recession through the use of overlapping landscape elements and a standard brown-green-blue palette. Later landscapes, such as the present painting, which has been dated to about 1636-38, feature a softened aerial perspective and more fluid coloristic transitions in the panoramic landscapes.2
Teniers represents the two aged hermits reading before a grotto that shows discrete signs of Paul's habitation: the makeshift cross, the kettle hanging over the distant fire. Paul is clad in a dun-colored garment of leaves; Anthony wears a black cloak with a "T" on the left shoulder (first letter of the Greek word Theos, or God), his attribute in art and the habit of the order of Hospitalers of St. Anthony, founded in 1100.3 Above, the raven arrives with a loaf of bread. In the wooden shed at the center of the composition is a pig, representative of the temptations of sensuality and gluttony; the pig often accompanied Anthony as an indication of his triumph over sin. The barrow of vegetables and the books scattered in the foreground (the former, at least, presumably brought by Paul) attest to Teniers's considerable talent as a painter of still lifes.
Teniers painted several other versions of this theme during the course of his career, including works in the Museo del Prado, Madrid, and the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Geneva.4 The Oberlin painting, datable to about 1636-38, seems to be the artist's earliest treatment of the subject, and the only one to feature the pig as an attribute of St. Anthony. A copy of the Oberlin painting was in the sale New York (Sotheby Parke Bernet), 19 January 1984, lot 50.5
M. E. Wieseman
David Teniers the Younger was baptized in Antwerp on 15 December 1610. He learned the art of painting from his father, an art dealer and painter of small-scale history paintings. The younger Teniers became a master in the Antwerp guild in 1632/33, and was elected dean in 1645/6. In 1637 he married Anna Brueghel, daughter of the Flemish painter Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625). Teniers received his first commission from Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, governor of the Netherlands, in 1647; four years later he was appointed court painter and director of the Archduke's painting collection. Teniers worked for the Archduke and his successor until 1659.
Together with his mentor Adriaen Brouwer (1605/6-1638), Teniers was the most important seventeenth-century Flemish painter of low-life genre scenes. He also painted historical, mythological, and allegorical subjects, as well as high-life scenes and portraits. Teniers was a versatile and extremely prolific painter, and his work was highly sought after by princes and collectors across Europe.
Klinge, Margret. David Teniers the Younger: Paintings, Drawings. Exh. cat., Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp, 1991.
Private collection, France
Collection Hermann Göring
Munich, Collecting Point (1946), no. 5887
With Heim Gairac Gallery, Paris
With David M. Koetser Gallery, Zurich, from whom purchased in 1973
Stechow, Wolfgang. "An Early Landscape by David Teniers." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 31, no. 1 (1973-74), pp. 22-33.
Comer, Christopher. "David Teniers' 'Temptation of St. Anthony' Paintings." Master's thesis, Oberlin College, 1974, pp. 25, 35, 42-43, 51-53, fig. 48.
Trebbin, Heinrich. David Teniers und Sankt Antonius. Frankfurt, 1994, p. 142, n. 68.
The original oak panel was thinned to about 10 mm and cradled at an unknown date. By 1972, cleavage between the ground and panel had developed, possibly due to improper cradling. The paint layers and thick (.25 mm) white ground (probably applied with a brush) were detached from the original panel and transferred to masonite. The paint surface is generally in good condition, with some inpainting along a horizontal split just below the center of the panel, along the bottom edge, and small scattered losses throughout.
1. For comparisons with AMAM invs. 53.257 (Bril) and 48.321 (de Momper), see Wolfgang Stechow, "An Early Landscape by David Teniers," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 31, no. 1 (1973-74), esp. pp. 25ff.
2. See Margret Klinge, David Teniers the Younger: Paintings, Drawings (exh. cat., Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp, 1991), p. 20.
3. See Heinrich Trebbin, David Teniers und Sankt Antonius (Frankfurt, 1994), pp. 17-18; and Guy C. Bauman, in Liechtenstein, The Princely Collections (exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1985-86), p. 276.
4. Canvas, 63 x 94 cm, Madrid, Museo del Prado, inv. 1823 (reproduced in Wolfgang Stechow, "An Early Landscape by David Teniers," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 31, no. 1 [1973-74], p. 32); panel, 38 x 57 cm, Geneva, Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, inv. 1942-25; and canvas, 63.5 x 97.5 cm, signed, London, private collection (reproduced in Margret Klinge, David Teniers the Younger: Paintings, Drawings [exh. cat., Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp, 1991], no. 75). A painting of the subject with figures by Teniers and landscape by Lucas van Uden is in the Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden (inv. 1138). The visit of St. Anthony to St. Paul was also included as an ancillary narrative event in Teniers's represention of the Temptation of St. Anthony in Dresden (Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Gemäldegalerie, inv. 1079); on the latter theme, especially popular in Teniers's oeuvre, see Christopher Comer, "David Teniers' 'Temptation of St. Anthony' Paintings" (master's thesis, Oberlin College, 1974); and Heinrich Trebbin, David Teniers und Sankt Antonius (Frankfurt, 1994).
5. Panel, 58.7 x 78 cm.