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Title The Miracle of St Bernard in a Garland of Flowers
Collection Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Artist Seghers, Daniel (Flemish painter, 1590-1661)
Quellinus, Erasmus, II (Flemish painter and draftsman, 1607-1678)
Date Earliest about 1645
Date Latest about 1655
Signed yes

St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), founder of the Cistercian Order, was always strongly associated with the cult of the Virgin. Both Christ and the Virgin are supposed to have appeared to St Bernard in visions at different times. Here he is depicted kneeling before the Virgin and Child while angels above and beside him hold his mitre and crozier. Mary's breast is bared to feed her child, but a spurt of milk reaches the saint's lips. The Virgin is seen as a compassionate mediator between Christ and mankind. The garland surrounding the cartouche, upon which the scene is painted in monochrome imitating a sculptured relief, contains ivy, snowdrops, narcissi, tulips, roses, hyacinths, bluebells, pinks and hollyhocks.

The source of the idea appears to be the De Laudibus Beatae Marie Virginis, widely attributed to St Bernard but in fact the work of Arnold of Bonneval, Bishop of Chartres (d. 1156), where a passage relates the Virgin's celestial milk to Christ's sacramental wounds, revealed at the Last Judgement. In another account from the fourteenth century, the saint was said to have prayed before a statue of the Virgin saying the words, 'Show yourself as mother [of all mankind]', at which drops of milk spurted onto the saint's lips.

This type of devotional picture, intended for private meditation and combining fictive bas-relief with highly naturalistic flower painting, was popular in the Low Countries during the seventeenth century. Daniel Seghers was the leading exponent of the genre. Such pictures were often painted in partnership and here Quellinus has provided the fictive sculptural relief.

Current Accession Number 1981P81
Former Accession Number P.81┤81
Inscription back c 'E QUELLINUS/DANIEL SEGHERS.SOCTIS JESV'; front lc 'Daniel Seghers. Soc. Jesu'
Subject religion; still life
Measurements 100.5 x 73 cm.0 cm (estimate)
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Purchased from Leger Galleries Ltd with the aid of the Public Picture Gallery Fund and the V & A Purchase Grant Fund 1981
Provenance Singer Gallery, Prague; Princess Charles d'Arenberg, Brussels; Giroux Gallery, Brussels, 15 November 1926, lot 72; Mrs Franz Plotz sale, Sotheby's, 11 July 1979, lot 109.
Principal Exhibitions Belgian Royal Academy, Brussels , 1886, cat. no. 208; Royal Academy, London, 1953; Old Master Paintings, Leger Galleries, London, 1981, cat. no. 12.
Publications Kieckens, J. F., Daniel Seghers de la Compagnie de JÚsus. Peintre de Fleurs. Sa vie et ses oeuvres, Riksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie, n.d., p. 109; Burke Gaffney, M. Daniel Seghers (1590 - 1661). A Tercentenary Commemoration, 1961, New York, Washington, Hollywood, p. 28; Hairs, 1965, p. 122; de Bruyn, J. P., Jaarbock Koninklijk Museum, 1980, p. 275; Foreign Paintings in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, A Summary Catalogue, 1983, no. 134.
Notes Quellinus co-operated wth Seghers, who painted the flowers, on many occasions to paint the bas-relief in garlands. It is, however, unusual to find a painting signed by both artists.

Label on back reads 'D. Seghers et E. Quellinus/Fleurs et medaillon/S.A.S. Madame la Princesse Charles d'Arenberg [;].'

Rights Owner Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Author Dr Patricia Smyth



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