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François-Joseph Navez

Old Hermit Comforting a Sick Child


François-Joseph Navez
Charleroi 1787 – Brussels 1869


Old Hermit Comforting a Sick Child




Oil on canvas


100 x 72 cm


Purchase, the Museum Campaign 1988-1993 Fund, inv. 2015.1


Western Art

Heir to the tradition of the celebrated French painter David, Navez is now hailed as the foremost representative of Belgian painting between the periods of Neo-Classicism and Romanticism. After time spent in Rome that proved essential to his training, Navez appeared on the scene as an artist of some talent. Students flocked to his studio in Brussels. In 1852, Navez married his daughter, Marie, to Jean-François Portaels, a student. He saw Portaels as his successor in the leadership of the Brussels school and as director of the Académie royale des beaux-arts there. His joy was short-lived, however, as Marie fell victim to a chronic illness of some kind. The two painters decided to bring her to the French Doctor Louis Fleury’s Bellevue hydrotherapy clinic in Meudon, near Paris. During one such visit, in the studio rented by Portaels, Navez painted Old Hermit Comforting a Sick Child, which he dedicated to Dr. Fleury. The pyramidal and moving composition’s foreground features a suffering young woman supported by a Capuchin monk leaning against a cornerstone: is this a portrait of his daughter in agony?

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