(1620 – Antwerp – 1678)
Madonna and Child
Oil on canvas, 33 ¾ x 29 in
This endearing interpretation of the Madonna and Child is by Theodore Boeyermans, a late Baroque artist belonging to a younger generation of van Dyck followers. Like his great predecessor, Boeyermans worked in Antwerp where he spent his entire career. Other than some schooling in Holland as a child, the artist did not wander far from his place of origin. He lived as a life-long bachelor in De Gulden Pers (the Golden Press), the very house where he was born. Boeyermans came to the profession of painting relatively late in life at the age of thirty-four, joining the Guild of St. Luke in 1654. The artist’s only dated works are between 1660 and 1677. He painted important commissions for various churches in the Kempen region and in Malines, but made his name in his hometown by painting secular compositions. Along with Jan-Erasmus Quellinus (1634 – 1715), Boeyermans was one of the most important representatives of the last generation of seventeenth-century Southern Netherlandish history painters. Even as a more expressive style was developing in Antwerp, Boeyermans championed the rules of classicism and regarded Rubens and van Dyck as models of the highest ideal. As evidenced in the present painting, the artist’s compositions reflect a crafted sense of balance and repose and his facial types often display a refined ideal of beauty, though Boeyermans’ style was never as severely classical as that of Quellinus.
In a simple yet effective composition Boeyermans undertakes one of the most iconic themes in Western art. The figures of the Virgin and Child emerge from a dark background, locked in a loving gaze with their heads nearly touching. With such sentimental details the artist manages a particularly intimate and sweet pairing of the sacred figures without becoming overly saccharine or overtly emotive. The Madonna, shown in a three-quarters view, wears a beautifully modeled dress of shimmering silver, a trademark of Boeyermans. Her softly illuminated features are striking in contrast with the somber palette, which contributes to the serene character of this devotional image. With elegant gestures, the classicized beauty delicately holds the Child in her lap. Crowned with a subtle glowing halo indicating His divine nature, the infant holds a large cross portending His future death, but His attention is fixed on His Mother.
“…[The] rendering of fabrics, the translucent shadows, the play of cracks in the drapery, the facial types, the somewhat silvery look of Mary's dress and the apart pink colour of her sleeve, are details that, in my opinion, point in the direction of what I know of Boeyermans's style.”
 As remarked, Hans Vlieghe, (email, 28 January 15).