31
31
Jan de Bray
THE PENITENT MAGDALENE
Estimate
40,00060,000
LOT SOLD. 50,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
31
Jan de Bray
THE PENITENT MAGDALENE
Estimate
40,00060,000
LOT SOLD. 50,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

The Otto Naumann Sale

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New York

Jan de Bray
HAARLEM CIRCA 1627 - 1697
THE PENITENT MAGDALENE
signed and dated lower center on the crucifix: JDBray/167(?) and inscribed bottom center on the crucifix: 25
oil on panel
28 1/2  by 22 1/8  in.; 72.6 by 56.2 cm.
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Provenance

With Galerie Marcus, Paris, 1972 (as by Pieter de Grebber);
John Montias, from 1982 until his death in 2005;
Thence by descent to his son, Jean-Luc Montias;
From whom acquired.

Exhibited

New Haven, The Yale University Art Gallery, Dutch Religious Art of the Seventeenth Century, 21 January - 16 March, 1975, no. 9;
Worcester, Worcester Art Museum, 17th Century Dutch Painting, Raising the Curtain on New England Private Collections, 1979, no. 4;
Manchester, New Hampshire, Currier Museum of Art; Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, Jan de Bray and the Classical Tradition, 12 November 2004 - 14 August 2005, no. 5.

Literature

J. Welu, in 17th Century Dutch Painting, Raising the Curtain on New England Private Collections, Worcester 1979, p. 23, cat. no. 4, reproduced (as possibly dated 1670);
M. Doyle, ed., Jan de Bray and the Classical Tradition, exhibition brochure, Manchester, New Hampshire and Washington, D.C. 2004, p. 14, cat no. 5, reproduced p. 15 (as painted in 1678);
J. Giltaij, Jan de Braij (1626/1627-1697), Schilder en architect, Zwolle 2017, pp. 162-164, cat. no. 64, reproduced p. 163.

Catalogue Note

Jan de Bray was born in Haarlem around 1627, the son of the painter Salomon de Bray with whom he most likely trained. He was a distinguished portrait painter and was arguably one of the most important history painters of the Golden Age.  His paintings are characterized by rich, vivid coloration and warm illumination, as can be seen in this striking portrayal of the Penitent Magdalene.1

De Bray depicts the Magdalene against a dark cave-like background, a reference to the legend that for many years she lived in solitude as a hermit.  She is shown with her usual attributes of a skull and crucifix, and the open book with a scourge are symbols of her life of meditation and penitence.  De Bray has taken particular care in depicting the saint’s flowing golden hair with which, according to the Gospel of Luke, she had dried Christ’s feet after bathing and anointing them.  The perforated ointment jar seen at right in the background is a reference to this act, as well as to her anointment of Christ’s body when she came to his sepulcher after the Crucifixion.

The highly individualized features of the Magdalene and the direct manner in which she engages the viewer give this work the feel of an actual portrait, not just a devotional representation of the popular saint.  De Bray specialized in the portrait historié (historized portrait), in which he sometimes posed sitters as historical figures. James Welu (see Literature) was the first to suggest that the radiant woman here represented may be the artist’s third wife Victoria Stalpaert van der Wiele (died 1680) whose middle names were Maria Magdalena. From a prominent Roman Catholic family, she and De Bray were married in 1678.  If the sitter is, indeed, De Bray’s third wife, then the painting would have been executed around the time of their brief marriage, and the partially visible date on the painting places the painting in that decade.  Interestingly, another work by De Bray depicting Penelope and Odysseus, painted in 1668, is thought to be a portrait of the artist himself and his first wife, Maria van Hees.3

 

1.  See P. Biesboer in Painting Family: The De Brays, Master Painters of the 17th Century, exhibition catalogue, Haarlem 2008, p. 18.
2.  In the accompanying brochure of the 2005 Currier Museum/National Gallery exhibition (see under Literature), the present painting is presented as a portrait of De Bray’s third wife and the date of the painting is given as 1678.
3.  In the collection of The Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY.

The Otto Naumann Sale

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New York