Anthony van Dyck

Let the Children Come to Me

c. 1618-1620
X - Ignoring his disciples’ protests, Christ said “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19.14). Here parents present their children for his blessing. An actual family, they commissioned the work from the young artist. The unusual decision to paint them into a biblical scene was likely Van Dyck’s. Painted studies were employed for all the figures: three for the family survive, and are shown nearby. Christ and his disciples were painted with the use of tronies, characterful head studies kept in the workshop, not made specifically for this painting. While the apostles can remain less particular, the family group must be life-like and recognizable to contemporaries. The painting is deliberately bold in its execution, composition, and its treatment of the subject – Van Dyck is claiming mastery. This is an early, independent painting, and it shows a young painter at the limits of his experience.
Let the Children Come to Me
c. 1618-1620
oil on canvas
131.4 x 198.2 cm
Credit line
Purchased 1937
Accession number

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