Werner Sumowski, who first published this work, had earlier thought it to be by Rembrandt’s pupil Jacob Backer, but rightly compared it with the cycle of the Evangelists in Bamberg, which is generally dated circa 1626-7.2 The broad handling of the St John in particular is reminiscent of the present work, but much more striking is the likeness of the model. Sumowski suggested that this might be a self-portrait, although in fact the suggestion had already been made by Helga Gutbrod in 1996, as Arthur Wheelock noted in his catalog entry.3 Yet closer to the present work in style and handling is the strongly Caravaggesque and dramatically lit Saint Peter Released from Prison, which came to light at Sotheby’s in London in July 2000, and which, restored, was included in the 2009 exhibition.4 The physiognomy of the Angel strongly resembles the present youth, and must have been based on the same model, perhaps also Lievens himself. The Saint Peter Released from Prison is likely to be even earlier in date, circa 1624-5, and the present work too is likely to date from no later than 1626.
We are grateful to Lloyd DeWitt for endorsing the attribution to Lievens, based on first hand inspection.
1. K. Wheelock Jr. (ed.), Jan Lievens. A Dutch Master Rediscovered, exhibition catalogue, New Haven & London 2009.
2. See under literature.
3. H. Gutbrod, Lievens und Rembrandt. Studien zum Verhältnis ihrer Kunst, Frankfurt-am-Main 1996, p. 190; see Wheelock under literature, p. 99, reproduced p. 101.
4. See Wheelock under literature, p. 90, no. 5, reproduced p. 91.
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