The Four Doctors of the Church by Abraham Bloemaert acquired by the Catharijneconvent Museum in Utrecht

19/3/11 – Acquisition – Utrecht, Museum Catharijneconvent –On 8 December 2010, the Museum Catharijneconvent of Utrecht acquired a painting by Abraham Bloemaert representing The Four Doctors of the Church (ill. 1), at Sotheby’s London for 49.250 £ (including charges) [1].
The canvas, signed and dated 1632, is a replica of an engraving executed by the artist in 1629 (ill. 2). The Four Doctors, from left to right Saint Augustine, Saint Jerome, Saint Ambrose and Saint Gregory, are discussing the Eucharist before an altar with a retable representing the Last Supper. There does not seem to be another example in his oeuvre of a replica of an engraving on a canvas. The main difference between the two compositions consists in the replacement of the two angels by ten or so small seraphim and putti.

1. Abraham Bloemaert (1564-1651)
The Four Doctors of the Church, 1632
Oil on canvas - 206.2 x 155 cm
Utrecht, Museum Catharijneconvent
Photo : Sotheby’s

2. Abraham Bloemaert (1564-1651)
The Four Doctors of the Church, 1629
Photo : Sotheby’s

This Bloemaert, probably an altarpiece intended for an unknown destination, had resided at the Auckland Palace, the Episcopal palace in Durham since the 19th century and was sold in 1972, proving that the threat of deaccessioning for the Zurbarán paintings owned by the Anglican Church (see news item of 9/12/10) has other precedents. As concerns the latter, during a debate in the House of Lords, a former Labor minister, Lord Howarth, compared the church figures to a bunch of simoniacs [2]. The sale of the Zurbaráns, which would be a disaster for British heritage, is still planned for this summer (at Sotheby’s apparently) but its legality is still being debated.

1. 2.

Didier Rykner, samedi 19 mars 2011


[1] These are obviously the Four Doctors, and not the Four Fathers of the church as we had first stated. We learned of this acquisition through the Internet website Codart.

[2] Source : The Northern Echo, 15 March 2011.

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