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Van Dyck's Painting During a Plague

Updated: Mar 22

In the Spring of 1624, Anthony van Dyck traveled to Palermo, Italy, by invitation only to get caught up in a devastating plague that killed 10% of the town’s population. During this time a state of emergency was declared and he was quarantined within the town. Hospitals overflowed. As the plague progressed townspeople dug up the remains of Saint Rosalie and paraded her bones throughout the streets. The plague soon came to an end and the people credited St. Rosalie with their relief.

Van Dyck worked on this painting while in quarantine as well as after the plague subsided. It seems to have an uncanny feeling of desperation, depicting Rosalie as entreating God on the town’s behalf. It’s moving and is something that may not have touched me as much had we not been dealing with the coronavirus as a society. I thought I’d share it with you all.

What are your thoughts on the piece? How does it strike you?

For more information, there’s an interesting article by the New York Times:

And here’s the Met Museum link (click on NOTES at the bottom for interesting details): Interestingly, this painting was one of the museums first acquisitions.

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