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Jan Mostaert, Saint Christopher
Mid-16th century
Material and technique
oil and tempera on wood
113 x 159 cm
Alessandro Zuccari
In the middle of a broad landscape and occupying most of the painting strides the large figure of St. Christopher, dressed as a pilgrim, crossing the river with the baby Jesus on his shoulder. Although the artist draws on popular iconography, he also emphasizes an often neglected element, the saint’s hut, which is depicted in detail on the left. According to Jacobus de Voragine, St. Christopher built a small hut on the bank of the river after a hermit, who had instructed him in the Christian faith, suggested he ferry travellers across the water in order to serve ‘the greatest king of all’, whom he sought.
The painting, probably dated around 1520, is a replica, signed by the artist, of the Saint Christopher now in the Mayer van den Bergh Museum in Antwerp. However, unlike the Antwerp version, which has been cropped on two sides, the painting in Palazzo Koch is virtually intact. In the best Flemish tradition, Mostaert pays great attention to detail and to the realistic depiction of materials. This is evident from the interior of the hut, which is represented as a still life. At the same time the painter also focuses closely on the landscape, rendering its disparate elements with great skill.
Saint Christopher
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