Sir Anthony van Dyck, Self-Portrait, 1620-21, Oil on canvas, 119.7 x 87.9cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Jules Bache Collection, 1949 (49.7.25) Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource/Scala, Florence

LONDON.- Dulwich Picture Gallery presents Van Dyck in Sicily: Painting and the Plague (15 February - 27 May 2012), the first ever exhibition to focus on the prolific year and a half that Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) spent in Sicily between 1624 and 1625. The exhibition reunites for the first time the 16 works, all portraits and paintings of religious subjects, that are documented, or believed to have been painted during that year in Palermo. The most significant group of paintings produced by Van Dyck in Palermo are the images of the city’s patron saint, Rosalia. Not only did Van Dyck create Rosalia’s iconography as we know it today, but he also witnessed the events of that summer that fixed the saint’s role for the city. The saint is still to this day highly venerated by the citizens of Palermo. The exhibition brings together every painting of Rosalia by Van Dyck, not only from America, but also from London, Spain and Puerto Rico, allowing them to be seen in the same room for the first time.

The exhibition will also mark the first time in the UK that Van Dyck’s portrait of Emanuele Filiberto, the Viceroy of Sicily, from the Gallery’s own collection will be seen alongside the spectacular suit of armour worn by the Viceroy in the portrait. Other outstanding works lent by museums in Europe and beyond will contribute to this unique view of the artist.

Soon after Van Dyck’s arrival in Sicily in 1624, plague struck Palermo, killing most of the population. That same year, the bones of Saint Rosalia were discovered in a cave on the Monte Pellegrino where she was said to have died as a hermit in the Middle Ages. Her bones were carried in a procession through the city, after which the plague ceased. Saint Rosalia was immediately proclaimed protector of Palermo, and Van Dyck painted a series of images showing the Saint interceding for the city against the plague.

The exhibition is curated by Dr. Xavier Salomon, Curator of Southern Baroque, Department of European Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and will feature 16 works from the UK (The British Museum, London; Tatton Park; Apsley House; Sackville Collection, Knole;), Spain (Armeria Real, Madrid; Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid); the US (The Menil Collection, Houston; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Houston Baptist University, Texas); the Liechtenstein Collection, Vienna; The Museo de Arte de Ponce, Puerto Rico; Museo Diocesano di Palermo, Palermo; and Galleria Sabauda, Torino.

The exhibition is the second in The Melosi Series: Rediscovering Old Masters and follows Salvator Rosa: Bandits, Wilderness and Magic in 2010. The series has been made possible through the generosity of the American Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery inc; The Arthur and Holly Magill Foundation; The Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery, Apollo Magazine as Media Partner and Arturo and Holly Melosi.


Sir Anthony van Dyck, Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy, Prince of Oneglia, 1624, Oil on Canvas, 126 x 99.6 cm, © By permission of the Trustees of Dulwich Picture Gallery


Van Dyck, Sir Anthony (1599-1641), Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness, c. 1624-5, Oil on canvas, 141 x 115 cm, Houston Baptist University, Permanent Collection and gift from the Morris Collection Houston TX,  Houston Baptist University

Sir Anthony van Dyck, Saint Rosalie interceding for the Plague-stricken of Palermo, 1624. New York, Metropolitan Museum of art. Oil on canvas, 99.7 x 73.7cm. Image copyright The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource/Scala, Florence

Sir Anthony van Dyck, St Rosalie in Glory, 1624, Oil on canvas, 165 x 138cm, The Menil Collection, Houston