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Overview

According to legend, Martin of Tour was a soldier in the army of Constantine the Great serving in Gaul, near the French city of Amiens, in the fourth century. On a winter's day Martin encountered a poor beggar at the city gates and cut his military cloak in half to help shield the shivering man from the cold. The night after his act of charity, Martin had a vision that Christ came to him wearing the part of the cloak he had given to the beggar, saying: "What thou hast done for that poor man, thou hast done for me." Martin, who had converted to Christianity as a child but who had entered military service at his father's behest, then left the military to devote his life to the Christian faith.

This oil sketch, which depicts the moment of Martin divided his cloak, was long believed to be executed by Anthony van Dyck around 1620 to 1621. The artist treated the subject in large scale twice over the course of his career—once for the parish church of Saint Martin in Zaventem and once for his friend Peter Paul Rubens. However, examination of the panel and the panel maker's mark indicate that the panel would not have been available for the painting prior to the late 1630s. The sketch also cannot be attributed to a later stage of Van Dyck's career, owing to certain dissimilarities with the master's work, such as the scratching technique used to indicate the decorative pattern on Saint Martin's armor—a method Van Dyck never used.

However, the Gallery's panel does exhibit certain similarities to an oil sketch by the Antwerp painter Jan Boeckhorst. Boeckhorst, who was enormously influenced by Van Dyck's style and may have known his compositions of the subject. The subject of the painting would seem also to have appealed to Boeckhorst, whose family had extremely close ties to the Church of Saint Martin in his native city of Münster. It is possible he painted this sketch in anticipation of a commission for that church that was never realized.

Provenance

Baron de Willebroek [d. 1783], Brussels; (his sale, Brussels, 25 June 1781, no. 15).[1] Possibly De Castelmore, Paris; (his sale, Paillet/Boileau, Paris, 20 December 1791 and following days, no. 47, as by Van Dyck); purchased by Paillet for François-Pascal Haudry [1718-1800], Orléans; (his private contract sale, August 1800, no. 101, as by Van Dyck).[2] Cardinal Joseph Fesch [1763-1839], Rome; his estate; sold 1844 to William Buchanan [1777-1846], London; sold 1845 to Robert Stayner Holford [1808-1892], Dorchester House, London;[3] by inheritance to his son, Sir George Lindsay Holford, K.C.V.O. [1860-1926], Dorchester House, London; (sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 17-18 May 1928, no. 65); (M. Knoedler & Co., New York); sold 1928 to Andrew W. Mellon [1855-1937], Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.; by inheritance to his daughter, Ailsa Mellon Bruce [1901-1969], Long Island, New York; bequest 1970 to NGA.

Exhibition History
1848
Pictures by Italian, Spanish, Flemish, Dutch, French and English Masters, British Institution, London, 1848, no. 9.
1887
Exhibition of the Works of Sir Anthony Van Dyck, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1887, no. 134, as by Van Dyck.
1899
Van Dijck Tentoonstelling, Museum van Schoone Kunsten, Antwerp, 1899, no. 29, as by Van Dyck.
1900
Exhibition of Works by Van Dyck 1599-1641. Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1900, no. 22, as by Van Dyck.
1998
A Collector's Cabinet, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1998, no. 20, as possibly by Jan Boeckhorst.
Bibliography
1803
Catalogue de tableaux, vendus à Bruxelles, depuis l'année 1773.... Brussels, n.d. [1803?]: 91, no. 15, as by Van Dyck.
1829
Smith, John. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters. 9 vols. London, 1829-1842: 3(1831):13, as by Van Dyck.
1841
Camuccini, Vincent. Catalogue des Tableaux composant la Galerie de feu son Eminence le Cardinal Fesch. Rome, 1841: 18, no. 351, as in the style of Rubens.
1844
George, Louis-George. Galerie de feu S. E. le Cardinal Fesch. Rome, 1844: 53, no. 68, as by Van Dyck.
1851
Mariette, P.J. Abecedario de P.J. Mariette et autres notes inédites de cet amateur sur les arts et les artistes. 6 vols. Paris, 1851-1860: 2(1853-1854):191, as by Van Dyck (reprint Paris, 1966).
1854
Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Treasures of Art in Great Britain: Being an Account of the Chief Collections of Paintings, Drawings, Sculptures, Illuminated Mss.. 3 vols. Translated by Elizabeth Rigby Eastlake. London, 1854: 2:200, as by Van Dyck.
1882
Guiffrey, Jules. Antoine van Dyck - sa vie et son oeuvre. Paris, 1882: 251, no. 203, as by Van Dyck.
1886
Hymans, Henri. "Correspondance de Belgique." Gazette des Beaux-Arts 35 (1887): 356, as by Van Dyck.
1887
Phillips, Claude. "Correspondance d'Angleterre. Expositions rétrospectives de la Royal Academy et de la Grosvenor Gallery." Gazette des Beaux-Arts 35 (1887): 261, as by Van Dyck.
1899
Law, Ernest. Van Dyck's Pictures at Windsor Castle. London, 1899: 93, 96.
1900
Cust, Lionel. Anthony van Dyck - An Historical Study of His Life and Works. London, 1900: 32, 33, 239, nos. 38, 205, nos. 134, 210, nos. 29, 218, no. 22, as by Van Dyck.
1900
Rooses, Max. Fifty Masterpieces of Anthony van Dyck. London, 1900: 96, as by Van Dyck.
1927
Benson, Robert H. The Holford Collection, Dorchester House. 2 vols. London, 1927: 2:20, no. 125, pl. 113, as by Van Dyck.
1931
Glück, Gustav. Van Dyck: des Meisters Gemälde. Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 13. Revised 2nd ed. New York and Stuttgart, 1931: 26, 520, nos. 24-26, repro., as by Van Dyck.
1940
Puyvelde, Leo van. "Van Dyck's St. Martin at Windsor and at Saventhem." The Burlington Magazine 77 (August 1940): 42, as by Van Dyck.
1941
Hughes, Bernard G. "Sir Anthony van Dyck." Apollo 34 (December 1941): 152, repro., as by Van Dyck.
1963
Millar, Oliver. Tudor, Stuart and Early Georgian Pictures in the Royal Collection. London, 1963: 104, as by Van Dyck (? "sketch of a variant").
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 122, repro., as by Van Dcyk.
1979
Stewart, J. Douglas. "'Van Dyck as Religious Artist' at The Art Museum, Princeton University." The Burlington Magazine (July 1979): 467, doubts attribution to Van Dyck.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 148, repro., as by Van Dyck.
1988
Larsen, Erik. The Paintings of Anthony van Dyck. 2 vols. Freren, 1988: 1:159, 160; 2:102, no. 237, repro., as by Van Dyck.
1991
Jaffé, Michael. "Exhibition Reviews: Van Dyck at the National Gallery of Art." The Burlington Magazine 133 (February 1991): 144, as by Diepenbeeck.
2005
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Flemish Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 2005: 5-9, color repro.