Liberation Of Saint Peter, Hendrik van STEENWYCK THE YOUNGER


Liberation Of Saint Peter

Oil on panel, 151x125cm


Hendrik van Steenwyck the Younger was a Flemish painter and graphic artist who painted mostly architectural interiors inspired by palaces and churches, especially by the interiors of the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp. He was the son and student of painter Hendrik van Steenwijck the Elder, one of the founders of the interiors’ genre in Flemish painting in the 17th century. Like his father, Hendrik the Younger was extremely skilful in painting compositions with perfect sense of perspective. While living in London he created works for Charles I but painted also architectural backgrounds for the pictures of the portrait painter Daniël Mijtens. After the execution of the English king in 1642 he moved to Holland, worked in Leiden and in 1645 became a court painter to Stadtholder Frederik Hendrik in The Hague.

Today the paintings by Hendrik van Steenwyck the Younger are kept in many large art collections of the world, in particular, in museums in London, The Hague, Rome, Leipzig, Frankfurt, Stockholm, Bonn, Vienna, Dresden, Kassel, Braunschweig, Paris and Saint Petersburg. Several paintings by van Steenwyck are exhibited in the State Hermitage, one of which is “Saint Jerome in his cell”. This was a subject to which the artist returned time and again, inspired by Albrecht Dürer’s engraving of the same name („Hieronymus im Gehäus“) dated 1514.

This painting, “Liberation Of Saint Peter” by van Steenwyck depicts a scene from the Bible – the story of freeing Saint Peter from prison. According to the Bible, Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod the Great, began to persecute the Christians in AD 42. He put James, the son of Zebedee, to death, and imprisoned Peter for preaching the Word. In anticipation of the Apostle’s death, Christians prayed for him ardently. At night a miracle occurred: an Angel came to Peter, the chains were broken, and Peter was led out of the prison, unnoticed. The subject matter of the painting emphasizes the Bible’s doctrine, representing the undisputed existence of the divine world and supporting the faith of human beings. Characteristically of the artist the main focus of this work is on the architectural environment.
The painting demonstrates van Steenwyck’s masterful use of light that contributes to the scene’s deep expressiveness. The complex perspective of the undercroft illuminated by the artificial light of an oil lamp fixed to the ceiling, and the suggestive poses of Biblical heroes testify to the talent of van Steenwyck. As an outstanding professional he belonged among the leading painters of the genre of architectural painting popular in Holland in the 17th century.


Private collection, Switzerland

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