Sunday, June 20, 2021

The Tale of the Third Portrait

John Fisher and Thomas More
Possibly Italian, c. 1550-1600
London, Royal Collections Trust

Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you.

But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly.

If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”

1 Peter 4:12-14.  Excerpt from the First Reading of the Optional Memorial of Saint John Fisher, bishop and martyr, and Saint Thomas More, martyr for Masses celebrated on June 22.

New Yorkers have an amazing privilege in that they can see the actual faces of the trio of men who had a fateful encounter almost 500 years ago, all within a walk of less than a quarter mile.  The three men are Thomas More and John Fisher, staunch defenders of Catholic doctrine and discipline at a time when it was under severe attack, and Thomas Cromwell, leader of the forces seeking to undo both.  At the time Cromwell was successful and both men died at the hands of the executioner.  In the long run, Cromwell’s personal victory was brief as he himself fell to the ax.  Further, he has been seen as the villain of the story ever since (barring Hilary Mantel’s recent trilogy of novels which cast him as a rather twisted hero).  His single minded drive to eradicate Catholicism in England, although never entirely successful, has, however, had a longer term effect.

Usual arrangement of the two Holbein portraits in the Living Hall of the Frick Collection
(Photo Credit -- Michelle Young for Untapped Cities)

Most New Yorkers interested in the Tudor period undoubtedly know that the portraits of More and Cromwell, both masterpieces of portrait art by the incomparable Hans Holbein the Younger, are owned by the Frick Collection.  My earlier piece on the clash of portraits across Mr. Frick’s fireplace is my most popular.

Most people are not aware, however, of a slightly earlier portrait of the other figure of the trio, Saint John Fisher, which is owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  It has been in storage for many years, finally reappearing just before the onset of the pandemic closures as the first object one encounters in the newly reinstalled British Art galleries.


Pietro Torrigiano, Bishop John Fisher
Italian, c. 1510-1515
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Saint John Fisher was, at the time of his execution, Bishop of Rochester.  His story is a fascinating one, for in his life he had moved among the very highest level of English society.  He was chaplain to Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII and grandmother of Henry VIII.  He was also very involved in the establishment of new colleges at the University of Cambridge, where he also served as a teacher and as Vice-Chancellor, in addition to his other duties.  There is contemporary testimony about his piety and austere lifestyle in spite of his exalted company.  There is even the possibility that, due to his grandmother's influence, he may have been, for a time, the tutor to the young Prince Henry who would become Henry VIII.

Philipp Galle, John Fisher
Dutch, 1572
London, National Portrait Gallery

When Henry VIII began his assault on his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Bishop Fisher was one of those who defended the Queen and the marriage.  Indeed, it was he who represented her at the Legatine Court that assembled to try the case.  She herself ended this phase of his career by famously insisting that the case be referred to Rome.  

As the situation became more highly pressured, Bishop Fisher remained a staunch advocate for the validity of the marriage and for its indissolubility.   Needless to say, this angered the King greatly.  As the pressure increased with Parliament’s actions in denying the right to appeal to Rome, in declaring Henry to be head of the Church in England and then requiring an oath in support of the divorce of Queen Catherine and the remarriage to Anne Boleyn, Fisher found himself in prison in 1534. He was condemned as a traitor and beheaded in June 1535, a few weeks before Sir Thomas More also lost his life.  Both men saw the ultimate stupidity of the king’s moves in the light of eternity and truth and resisted to the end the efforts to convince them to “go along with the pack”.


Anonymous, The Pope Suppressed by King Henry VII
English, c. 1570
London, National Portrait Gallery
In this woodcut print you can see Henry VIII pressing down Pope Clement VII with the support of Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer.  Bishop Fisher is the kneeling figure on the left who is trying to support the Pope.  Various clerics, monks and ordinary people express shock and dismay.

I have examined the portraits of More and Cromwell in detail in the article called “The Tale of Two Portraits”.  The two remain together in their new setting at the Marcel Breuer building on Madison Avenue, the former home of the Whitney Museum.  The Frick’s treasures have been moved there to allow for them to be seen by the public during the extensive renovation and enlargement taking place at the Frick building on Fifth Avenue.  In the temporary installation the sumptuous trappings of the enormous parlor room in the Frick building have been removed and the two portraits face each other across empty space.  I’m not positive about whether this has been an enhancement or not, possibly since I have literally grown up with the opulent setting. 


Current installation of the Holbein portraits at the Frick Madison temporary location.
(Photo -- Art and Object)

The portrait of Bishop Fisher is in the form of a portrait bust by the Italian sculptor Pietro Torrigiano.  Torrigiano is probably most famous for an outburst of anger rather than for his work as a sculptor.  He and Michelangelo were fellow students and rivals in the “academy” set up for young Florentine artists by Lorenzo the Magnificent.  One day, when Michelangelo poked fun at the drawings of Torrigiano, the latter boy punched him in the face.  The blow broke Michelangelo’s nose, a disfigurement he carried for the rest of his life.   This put Torrigiano in great disfavor with the Medici and he soon looked for alternative places to perfect his art. 

Pietro Torrigiano, Bishop John Fisher
Italian, c. 1510-1515
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

In about 1509 he arrived in England to produce a terracotta bust of the recently deceased King Henry VII.  Such busts already had a long history among Florentine sculptors.  It was well received by the new young king Henry VIII.  Young Henry commissioned Torrigiano for the tombs of his father and mother and grandmother, all of which are still extant in Westminster Abbey in the beautiful chapel the older Henry had built for himself.  While in England Torrigiano also made portrait busts of several important churchmen, including Bishop Fisher and John Colet. 

It is presumably toward the beginning of his stay in England that he made the bust of Bishop Fisher.  The Metropolitan Museum is somewhat cagey about the attribution.  Some of the Met’s sources say that it is John Fisher, others say that it is simply “An Unknown Man”.1   So, I’ve done a little research in various English source websites and from the material available there I think that it is extremely reasonable to support the identification as Fisher.  

The objections seem to be based on a perception that the sculpture does not match the portrait sketches of Fisher done by Holbein during his stays in England in the late 1520s or early 1530s.  However, if one remembers that the bust is between ten and twenty years old at the time of the sketches, some of the difficulty vanishes.  

Hans Holbein the Younger, John Fisher
German, c. 1526-1534
London, Royal Collection Trust

Pietro Torrigiano, Bishop John Fisher
Italian, c. 1510-1515
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Comparison between the known portrait of Fisher by Holbein and the Torrigiano bust reveal the same narrow chin, long narrow nose, thin lips and hazel eyes as are found in the portrait drawing and a “pattern” made from it.  

Face Pattern After Hans Holbein the Younger, Bishop John Fisher
German, 16th Century
London, National Portrait Gallery

The pattern is a survivor of one of the professional “tricks of the trade” used by painters in earlier centuries.  A tracing would be made from an original drawing and the copy would serve as the model or “pattern” from which painters and engravers would be able to work in creating multiple copies without harming the original.  The age difference between a man of 41 of the bust and the same man at around 60 in the drawing can easily account for any differences.  In this consideration it is useful to compare the portrait drawing of Thomas More with the finished portrait to see how the immediacy of the drawing can look quite different in the finished work.

Hans Holbein the Younger, Sir Thomas More
German, 1526-1527
London , Royal Collections Trust

Hans Holbein the Younger, Sir Thomas More
German, 1527
New York, Frick Collection

The feast day shared by the two men is June 22.  This is a compromise between the actual dates of their deaths.  Bishop Fisher was the first to die, on June 22, 1535.  Sir Thomas More followed a couple of weeks later, on July 6.  

Mistruzzi, Reverse of Medal Commemorating the Canonization of Saints Thomas More and John Fisher
Italian, 1935
London, Royal Collection Trust, Royal Library

Today, when there is continuing and increasing pressure being put on people of faith to “go along with the pack” on a host of serious issues, these determined and brave men stand as beacons of light and courage. 

 © M. Duffy, 2021

 1.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art Catalog of the Renaissance in Italy and Spain, Introduction by Frederick Hartt, New York, 1987, p. 117 calls it Bust of John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester.

Iain Wardropper, European Sculpture, 1400-1900, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2011, pp. 47-49 calls it Portrait of an Unknown Man and gives some of the background for disputing the title. 

Wolf Burchard, Nation of Shopkeepers: A Very Brief History of British Decorative Arts, Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, New York, Spring 2020, pp. 6-7 calls it Bishop John Fisher without referencing any ambiguity.

The exhibition primer for the new British galleries on the Metropolitan Museum website calls it Bishop John Fisher and includes a brief audio clip that includes some of Fisher’s own words in opposition to the divorce.*&offset=20

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Saint Anthony’s Image and When It Got That Way

Willem van Herp the Elder, Saint Anthony Distributing Bread
Flemish, c.1662
London, National Gallery

Happy Feast of Saint Anthony! After completing the article of yesterday regarding the Miracle of the Mule, I became intrigued to find out when it was that the popular image of Saint Anthony, the one with the Infant Jesus, began to drive out the other possible images of the saint.*

From a somewhat cursory review of the iconography of Saint Anthony, it appears that up till about 1600 his iconography was quite varied.

Early Images

The earliest images showed a very serious Saint Anthony, sometimes in company with Saint Francis, as would be appropriate for an early Franciscan saint.  However, there is no agreed upon "portrait".  Different artists saw him at different ages, with different hair styles, sometimes bearded, sometimes clean shaven, etc.  This is not surprising for a period in which the idea of portrait resemblance, such as we know today, was impossible.

(Fascinating details about his life, which I was not aware of for many years, for example, that he was not from the town of Padua and that his name was not Anthony, can be found in my earlier article "The Saint Anthony I Never Knew".)

Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Anthony of Padua
from Livre d'images de Madame Marie
Belgian (Hainaut), 1285-1290
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Nouvelle acquisition francaise 16251, fol. 94v

Simone Martini, Saint  Anthony of Padua and Saint Francis of Assisi
Italian, 1317
Assisi, Basilica of San Francesco

Sometimes he is accompanied by other Franciscan saints.

Alvise Vivarini, Virgin and Child with Saints Louis of Toulouse, Anthony of Padua, Francis of Assisi and Bernardino of Siena
Italian, 1480
Venice, Galleria dell'Accademia

Moretto, Saint Bonaventure and Saint Anthony of Padua
Italian, c. 1500-1550
Paris, Musée du Louvre

Sometimes he is seen alone or with other non-Franciscan saints or with various donors.
Maso di Banco, Saint Anthony of Padua
Italian, c. 1340
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tommaso del Mazza, Saints John the Baptist and Anthony of Padua with Donor
Italian, c. 1386
Avignon, Musée du Petit Palais

Benozzo Gozzoli, Saint Anthony of Padua with Angels and Donors
Italian, 1450s
Rome, Santa Maria in Aracoeli

Rather quickly he became a youngish, clean shaven man.  Almost always he is shown carrying a book, an obvious reference to his acclaimed knowledge of the Bible and to his own writings. Sometimes he also carries a burning flame, probably symbolic of his preaching ministry.  Lilies were added later.

Vincenzo Foppa, Saint Anthony of Padua
Italian, c.1495-1500
Washington, National Gallery of Art

Bernardo Zanale, Saint Anthony of Padua
Italian, 1502-1507
Milan, Museo Poldi Pezzoli

In the Sacra Conversazione

From the 15th century he also appears in the genre known as the Sacra ConversazioneIn this kind of picture the Madonna and Child are shown in company with several saints. The 15th century also appears to be the period in which the lily first appears as an attribute in addition to the book. The lily is a traditional symbol of purity. 

Giovanni Mazone, Nativity with Saints Francis and Anthony of Padua introducing Pope Sixtus IV and his nephew, Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere
Known as the Della Rovere Triptych
Italian, c. 1489
Avignon, Musée du Petit Palais

This is not a Sacra Conversazione in the strictest sense, but I include it for the interest in the main characters.  In the left wind, Saint Francis introduces Pope Sixtus IV while, in the right wing, Saint Anthony of Padua introduces the Pope's nephew, Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere.  Giuliano della Rovere followed in his uncle's footsteps, becoming Pope Julius II in 1503.  He was the great patron of the Roman High Renaissance, famously employing Michelangelo on his tomb and on the Sistine Chapel ceiling and Raphael in the Vatican Stanze.  

Titian, Madonna and Child with Saint Anthony of Padua and Saint Roch
Italian, c. 1508
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

Garofalo, Virgin and Child with Saints
Italian, 1517
London, National Gallery

Claudio Coello, The Virgin and Child between the Theological Virtues and Saints
Spanish, 1669
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

Life of Saint Anthony

Other depictions focus on events from Saint Anthony's life and the legends that surrounded him.  Among them are images of his preaching activities.  

Giovanni Antonio Requesta, Saint Anthony Preaching
Italian, c. 1510-1511
Padua, Scuola del Santo, Sala Capitolare

Arnould de Vuez, Saint Anthony Preaching
French, c. 1700-1720
Lille, Musée des Beaux-Arts

Anonymous, Saint Anthony Preaching Before Pope Gregory IX
Peruvian, 18th Century
Philadelphia, Museum of Art

Sermon to the Fish

While artists did depict Anthony preaching to human audiences, more frequently they show the audience to be composed of fish.  These pictures refer to a charming story about his decision to preach to the fish of the Adriatic when the people of the nearby town of Rimini refused to listen.  According to the story, the fish came close to the shore, arranged themselves in orderly rows and stuck their heads out of the water to listen attentively.
Girolamo Tessari, Saint Anthony Preaching to the Fish
Italian, c. 1335-1337
Camposampiero, Santuario del Noce

Simon Bening, Saint Anthony Preaching to the Fish
From the Da Costa Hours
Flemish (Bruges), c. 1510-1520
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 399, fol. 308v 

Paolo Veronese, Saint Anthony Preaching to the Fish
Italian, c. 1580
Rome, Galleria Borghese

Attributed to Francisco de Herrera the Elder, Saint Anthony Preaching to the Fish
Spanish, c. 1630
Detroit, Institute of Arts

Juan Carreňo de Miranda, Saint Anthony Preaching to the Fish
Spanish, 1646
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

Gilles Hallet, Saint Anthony Preaching to the Fish
Flemish, Second Half of the 17th Century
Rome, Church of San Isidoro, Cappella di Sant'Antonio

Arnold Böcklin, Saint Anthony Preaching to the Fish
Swiss, 1892
Zürich, Kunsthaus Zürich

Like the Miracle of the Mule, this story reveals that the association of the Franciscan spirit with the natural world has been recognized for centuries.

Miracles of Saint Anthony

Other miracles of Saint Anthony of Padua were also depicted from time to time.  

Among them are:

The dramatic story of Saint Anthony's Miracle of Bilocation to assist his father, who was wrongly accused of murder.  Not only did Anthony bilocate to Portugal, while remaining in Italy, but he also revived the dead man who testified that Anthony's father was not his murderer.

Willem van Herp the Elder, Bilocation of Saint Anthony of Padua
Flemish, c. 1660-1670
Dijon, Musée national Magnin

There are also other scenes of Anthony reviving the dead, including the miracle in which he brought a dead child back to life.

Donatello, Miracle of the Dead Child
Italian, c. 1447-1450
Padua, Basilica de Sant'Antonio, Altar

Piero della Francesca, Saint Anthony Raises a Dead Child
From the Polyptych of Saint Anthony
Italian, c. 1460
Perugia, Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria

Antonio Lombardo, Miracle of the Dead Child
Italian, c. 1500-1504
Padua, Basilica di Sant'Antonio

Titian, Miracle of the Dead Child
Italian, 1511
Padua, Scuola del Santo

Andrea Sacchi, Saint Anthony Reviving a Dead Man
Italian, c. 1635
Edinburgh, National Galleries of Scotland

Francisco de Goya, Miracle of Saint Francis
Spanish, 1798
Madrid, Church of San Antonio de la Florida

Adeodato Malatesta, Miracle of Saint Anthony
Italian, Second Half of 19th Century
Sassuolo, Palazzo Ducale di Sassuolo

Another famous miracle was the healing of a horrific self-inflicted injury, in which a young man cut off his own foot out of remorse following an argument with his mother. Saint Anthony's prayers and actions healed the terrible injury.

Donatello, Miracle of the Repentent Son
Italian, c. 1447-1450
Padua, Basilica de Sant'Antonio

Antonio Lombardo, Miracle of the Remorseful Son
Italian, c. 1500-1504
Padua, Basilica di Sant'Antonio

Titian, Healing of the Wrathful Son
Italian, 1511
Padua, Scuola del Santo

Sebastiano Ricci, Miracle of the Repentant Son
Italian, c. 1725-1730
Paris, Musée du Louvre

Saint Anthony in Eternity

And, finally, Saint Anthony has been depicted as a saint, doing what saints do in eternity.  That is, they join the angels in offering praise to God and intercede through their prayers for those still in the living world.  

Saint Anthony of Padua Serenaded by Angels
from Heures de Louis de Savoie
French (Savoy), c. 1445-1460
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 9473, fol. 171v

Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, Immaculate Conception with Saints Francis of Assisi and Anthony of Padua
Italian, c. 1649-1550
Minneapolis, Institute of Art

Follower of Basilio Santa Cruz Pumacallao, Saint Bonaventure and Saint Anthony of Padua
Peruvian, c. 1670-1690
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Donato Creti, Glorification of Saint Anthony of Padua
Italian, c. 1700-1725
Paris, Musée du Louvre

Giovanni Battista Gaulli, Triumph of the Franciscan Order
Italian, 1707
Rome, Church of Santi Apostoli

Giovanni Battista Pittoni, Saints Presenting a Woman Donor to the Virgin and Child
Italian, c. 1720s
Cleveland, Museum of Art

Saint Anthony with the Christ Child --  The Best Known Image

However, the most common depiction of Saint Anthony, the one which most people would recognize immediately falls into none of these modes.  This is the subject of Saint Anthony of Padua with the Infant Jesus.

It is at the end of the fifteenth century when this iconography appears to begin. The image recalls the apparition of the Christ Child that may or may not be a legend.  The event is claimed to have taken place in France (though there is also an Italian location that claims it). According to the story, a bright light was observed in St. Anthony’s room in a house where he was staying overnight. The householder went to investigate this unusual occurrence and saw Saint Anthony holding the Divine Child (from whom the light was emanating) in his arms.  Consequently, the Christ Child began to appear in works of art almost as if it was one of the attributes of the saint, like the lilies or the book.

Workshop of Juan de Carrion, Saint Anthony of Padua
from  Hours of Infante Don Alfonso of Castille
Spanish (Burgos), c. 1465-1480
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 854, fol. 196r

Hans Memling, Saint Anthony of Padua
Flemish, c. 1485-1490
Chicago, Art Institute

Gerard David and Workshop, 
Saint Anthony of Padua
From the Saint Anne Altarpiece
Dutch, c. 1500-1520
Washington, National Gallery of Art

Gerard David, Saint Anthony of Padua with a Nun
Dutch, c. 1500
London, Victoria and Albert Museum

Simon Bening, Saint Anthony of Padua
From a Book of Hours
Flemish (Bruges(, 1531
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 451, fol. 122v

El Greco, Saint Anthony of Padua
Greco-Spanish, c.1580
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

Attributed to Pedro de Obregon the Younger, Saint Anthony of Padua
Spanish, 17th Century
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

Anthony Van Dyck, Saint Anthony of Padua Adoring the Christ Child
Flemish, c. 1630-1640
Brussels, Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique

Francisco de Zurbaran, Saint Anthony of Padua
Spanish, 1635-1650
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

Gaspard de Crayer, Saint Anthony of Padua
Flemish, 1655
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

Antonio de Pereda, Saint Anthony of Padua
Spanish, Second half of the 17th Century
Budapest, Museum of Fine Arts

Guercino, St. Anthony of Padua
Italian, c. 1656
Private Collection

Alonso Cano, Saint Anthony of Padua
From the Capilla de Santa Maria de Jesus, Alcala de Heneres
Spanish, c. 1660
 Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

Francisco de Herrera el Mozo, Saint Anthony of Padua
Spanish, c. 1650-1685
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

Bartolome Esteban Murillo, Saint Anthony of Padua
Spanish, 1668
Seville, Museo de Bellas Artes

Claudio Coello, Saint Anthony of Padua
Spanish, Second Half of the 17th Century
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

This became by far the most widely known image of Saint Anthony from the seventeenth century to our own day. Over time, the details of the event (the room, the light) were replaced by a simplified image of Saint Anthony standing, holding the lily, the book and the Holy Child.

Giuseppe Bazzani, Saint Anthony of Padua
Italian, 1740-1750
London, National Gallery

Johann Jakob Zeiller, St. Anthony of Padua
Austrian, c.1762
Ottobeuren, Monastery Church of Saints Theodore and Alexander

Giambattista Tiepolo, Saint Anthony of Padua
Italian, 1767-1769
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Saint Anthony of Padua
French, c. 1825-1850
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© M. Duffy, 2011, updated 2017. Revised and updated 2021.

*  This article was originally written ten years ago, in June of 2011.  Those intervening ten years have seen an explosion in the amount of information and images that are available online.  Indeed, this is one area in which the disastrous pandemic caused by the COVID virus has had a beneficial effect.   Museums and libraries were closed and, therefore, had to turn to the internet to keep their presence alive.  Much more information about collections was shared during this past year by some museums than they have shared in the last ten!  

It has been my continual practice to periodically revisit my prior essays so as to incorporate new information or newly available or updated images.  Refinements in the technology of images and the availability of increased bandwidth means that newer images are generally far more detailed and rich than those available in earlier years.  For this reason I am constantly searching for and replacing images.  

This year I found so much new material on Saint Anthony and the miracles he performed, as well as the charming story of his sermon to the fish that I decided to totally revamp the article.  To all intents and purposes it is a new article.