The Vision of the Blessed Hermann Joseph

Anthony van Dyck1629/1630

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
Vienna, Austria

After spending several years in Italy, where he acquired a refined knowledge of Venetian painting, Anthony van Dyck returned to Antwerp in 1627. He joined the Jesuit Confraternity of Bachelors and in 1630 was appointed – as Rubens had been decades earlier – court painter to Isabella Clara Eugenia, the regent of the Spanish Netherlands. During this period he created two altarpieces for thebrotherhood: Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints Rosalia, Peter and Paul (KHM, GG 482) in 1629, and, immediately afterwards, this slightly smaller painting. The legend of the Premonstratensian monk Hermann Joseph (ca. 1200) was probably chosen as the subject for the altarpiece because the head of the brotherhood at the time shared his name. The monk’s vision of his marriage to the Madonna was the pinnacle of his pronounced worship of the Virgin Mary. Deep affection, devotion and emotion mark the posture, gestures and face of the kneeling monk, while the Madonna appears distant, superior and cool. The smiling angel, with his right arm and shoulder exposed, takes on the role of the mediator both with regards to composition and content. All emotions seem to be concentrated in his billowing robe. Helpfully, he has taken the monk’s hand and is gently leading it towards the Madonna’s fingertips. In comparison to similar compositions by Rubens, who was 22 years older and in whose studio van Dyck had worked in his youth, the younger painter emphasises the aspects of emotion mainly with gentle movements, using soft, broken coloration; thus the emotional interaction between the protagonists gains in importance. The suggestion that the figure at the left edge of the picture is a self-portrait of van Dyck remains unproven. In any case, he was no longer so youthful when the painting was executed. The painter left Antwerp in 1632 and worked as courtpainter to the English king in London until his death in 1641. © Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2010


  • Title: The Vision of the Blessed Hermann Joseph
  • Creator: Anton van Dyck
  • Creator Lifespan: 1599/1641
  • Creator Nationality: flemish
  • Creator Gender: male
  • Creator Death Place: London
  • Creator Birth Place: Antwerp
  • Date Created: 1629/1630
  • Style: Flemish Baroque
  • Provenance: bought 1776
  • Physical Dimensions: w1280 x h1600 cm (without frame)
  • Inventory Number: GG 488
  • Artist Biography: The seventh of twelve children born to a wealthy silk merchant in Belgium, Anthony van Dyck began to paint at an early age. By the age of nineteen, he had become a teacher in Antwerp. Soon afterward, he collaborated and trained with the famous Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens.In his early twenties, van Dyck went to Italy, where he studied the paintings of Titian and Paolo Veronese and worked as a successful portrait painter for the Italian nobility. He became so well known that King Charles I of England summoned him to London to be his exclusive court painter and eventually gave him a knighthood. Van Dyck's numerous portraits of Charles I and his family were greatly admired by his contemporaries. Realizing that Charles's political and financial fortunes were in decline, van Dyck left England for Antwerp and Paris. A year later, after several unsuccessful projects abroad, he returned to London in ill health and died shortly thereafter. Van Dyck is buried in Saint Paul's Cathedral, a distinction reserved only for illustrious British subjects. ©J. Paul Getty Trust
  • Type: paintings
  • External Link: http://www.khm.at/en/collections/picture-gallery
  • Medium: Oil on Canvas

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more

Flash this QR Code to get the app
Google apps