The Madonna with Child and St John Baptist is characteristic for the work of the Antwerp painter Gerard Seghers (1591-1651) at the end of the years 1630 and the beginning of 1640. At this time, Seghers had a grand reputation as a religious painter of the ancient Netherlands, but also in Europe. The painter was honored as "peintre Sa Majesté", this means painter of the court of honour of the Governors. The legend of the magnificent portrait of Seghers engraved by Van Dyck around 1635, and recited in the well known iconography testimonies of his grandeur. The paintings of Seghers were visible in numerous Churches and in prestigious private collections, like the one of the marquis de Leganés in Madrid, or in the collection of the archiduc Léopold-Guillaume in Brussels.
At the end of 1630, the style of Seghers becomes rubenian with strong colors, open spaces, abandoning the caravaggesque characteristics, acquired during his travels in Italy and Spain during the 1610s. The painter uses fluent and brown lines to identify large and majestic forms. Its smooth touch, the marmoreal complexions and the fluid drapes give the composition a great softness.
From this time also dates, " Christ appearing to his Mother after the Resurrection", performed for the chapel of Jan Vincque, founded in 1642 at the church of St James of Antwerp. We notice in this painting a putto in the lower left of the same type as our Child Jesus with bouncy belly and generous curls, and the Virgin making the same gesture with her hand.
In our Madonna with child and St John the Baptist , the colors are both intense and refined, such as the pinkish red of the Virgin's dress, of the blue-green of her coat, a subtle color often used by the Antwerp painter. Seghers has paint several times the Madonna and Child and St. John Baptist with an ever renewed invention, as in the Sacra Conversazione of Helsinki, he also deploys, but in width, this aristocratic decor with a column and a parapet overlooking a landscape. The history of the painting can be traced back to the 19th century because when the painting appears in the sale of the paintings of General Joseph-Honoré-Désiré Daigremont (1790_1866) in 1861, the catalog teaches us that the general constituted his important collection after 1816. The indefatigable collector (the 2 sales of 1861 have 381 paintings, and that of 1866, 224 numbers) bought his works in different Parisian collections (those of the princes of France). Conti, Galitzin,etc.° It has not been possible to discover the previous history of the painting wherefrom the subject is widespread. The catalog notice of Daigremont is very eloquent, evoking "a work of easel, rare, important by the freshness of Flemish colors and the nobility of the style worthy of an italian painting". The composition has not been engraved and no copy is known. In the century, the painting was probably destined for a private place where it was not visible to the greatest number. The panel is exceptionally signed, a rare fact in the work of Seghers which counts ten signed or monogrammed works (Seghers or Segers). A similar signature with a "Z" replacing the original "s" of the name appears on an autograph drawing of Seghers, "the Madonna with Child and a garland of flowers" kept at he Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven), an elegant composition, no doubt executed in the second half of the 1630s and of which no painted or engraved version is known. Gerard Seghers usually signed works for foreigners, where his name was less known than in Flanders, such as for the Capuchin Church of Solothurn, the Jesuits of Ingolstadt or Landshut or the parish church of Calais.
We can thus suppose that this Virgin was intended for a foreign clientele, the richness of the support on wood , undoubtedly testifies of a prestigious destination. In the XXth century the panel return by a happy coincidence in the English Convent of Bruges, through a gift of a parent of a sister before being resold by this convent.
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