196. [Flemish school]

SALLAERT, Antoon (attributed to)

José de Anchieta taming the wild jaguars.


Oil on canvas, 191 x 169 cm, unsigned (canvas mounted on modern wooden panel, several sm. paint losses, particularly at the upper section in trees, several leaves in the trees overpainted).

In wooden frame.

The Spanish Jesuit missionary José de Anchieta (1534-1579), is one of the most influential figures in Brazilian history. The priest was one of the first missionaries active in the Brazilian rain forest and is considered to be one of the founders of São Paulo in 1554 and of Rio de Janeiro in 1565. Anchieta was also involved in the religious instruction and conversion to the Catholic faith of the Indian population and is commonly known as "the Apostle of Brazil". He is still venerated in large parts of Latin America. Many legends and miracles are associated with his life, many involving his close connection with animals. On one occasion, he was fishing with another priest in the Amazon river, when two jaguars approached the company. Anchieta went to the animals and the jaguars started licking his feet, which is the here-depicted scene. Since jaguars were still quite unknown in the Low Countries, the artist painted them as leopards. In the backgound, two local Indians from the Tupi-tribe are witnessing the event. Anchieta quickly became an iconic figure for the still-young Jesuit order, for which the missionary was a stimulus and an inspiration to other young Jesuit missionaries and Catholics in general.
Also in the Southern Low Countries, Anchieta's determination and empathy for the natives was strongly admired. Already in 1578, Anchieta was corresponding with Gaspard II Schetz, Lord of Grobbendonk, one of the richest entrepreneurs in Antwerp, active in the sugar trade between Brazil and Antwerp. The commission for this painting might be found in
Schetz-d’Ursel family (probably Anthonie Schetz, 1564-1640). They were strong supporters of the Spanish-Catholic cause during the Dutch Revolt and also early proponents of the Jesuits in Antwerp, which included commissions from Antwerp Baroque painters. In 1876 a member of that family, Molly d'Ursel, married Charles, viscount de Spoelbergh de Lovenjoul (1859-1926), who is the first documented owner of the painting. He sold it in 1919 to the landscape painter Edouard van Esbroeck (1869-1949).
The artist of the painting can probably be found in the
Flemish Baroque milieu. The special attention and care given to the botanical rendering of plants, and the animals points in the direction of a workshop specialised in animals and plants in the artistic network around Jan II Brueghel (1601-1678) and Daniel Seghers (1590-1661). The latter was also a Jesuit. The leopards on the foreground are based on "The Golden Age", a painting of ca. 1625 by Jan II Brueghel and Peter Paul Rubens now in the Leiden Gallery in New York (inv. JB-100). An inventory of the artistic possessions of the Jesuit Order in Antwerp composed in 1777, also lists a large landscape with Franciscus Xaverius and two leopards, then attributed to the Brussels painter Antoon Sallaert (1594-1650), which might be identified as our painting. A painting with the same subject, also attributed to Sallaert, is now in the Abbey of Drongen, and shows some striking stylistic similarities such as the rendering of the trees and landscape.
Ref. M. Van der Vennet, "Le peintre bruxellois Antoine Sallaert", Bulletin des Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, 23-9 (1974-1980), pp. 171-197. - B. d'Ursel, "Les Schetz. La maison de Grobbendonk", Brussels 2004, p. 49, 59. - S. Kockerols, "Iconographie jésuite dans les Pays-Bas. Une représentation du bienheureux José de Anchieta, s.j., Université Libre de Bruxelles 1986.p
Prov. (Possibly) Schetz-d'Ursel family.- Between 1876 and 1919: Charles, viscount de Spoelbergh de Lovenjoul (1859-1926). - Edouard Van Esbroeck (1869-1949). - Present owners.

€ 12.000 / 18.000

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