Anthony van Dyck (Flemish, 15991641)
Oil on canvas; 39 1/4 x 29 in. (99.7 x 73.7 cm)
Purchase, 1871 (71.41)
This and other pictures of Saint Rosalie were painted by van Dyck in Palermo in the late summer of 1624. The city suffered a severe plague and was under quarantine when, on July 15, Saint Rosalie's remains were found on Mount Pellegrino. A young noblewoman who withdrew to prayer and a hermit's life, she reportedly died there around 1160. As the patroness of Palermo, she became the object of the city's prayers and the subject of many paintings during the grave events of 1624. Van Dyck depicts the saint interceding for the city; the landscape below, now badly worn, shows the port of Palermo and Mount Pellegrino. Autoradiographs have recently revealed that van Dyck painted the picture over a striking self-portrait which he had sketched out on the canvas. The painting was purchased by Antonio Ruffo, the collector who commissioned Rembrandt's Aristotle with a Bust of Homer (61.198).