The Saint Who Stopped an Epidemic Is on Lockdown at the Met

By Jason Farago
“Saint Rosalie Interceding for the Plague-stricken of Palermo,” by Anthony van Dyck, made during the artist’s time in quarantine, is itself quarantined, in its assigned place for “Making the Met.” The commemoration of the museum’s 150th birthday, due to open next week, has been postponed because of the coronavirusCredit...Vincent Tullo for The New York Times
It’s springtime, the year is 1624, and the 25-year-old Anthony van Dyck is establishing his international career as a portraitist to the rich and famous, but then: disaster. On May 7, 1624, Palermo reports the first cases of a plague that will soon kill more than 10,000, some 10 percent of the city’s population. “Saint Rosalie Interceding for the Plague-stricken of Palermo,” painted almost 400 years ago and now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is one of five surviving pictures of Rosalia made during van Dyck’s days in quarantine. It was, in fact, one of the Met’s very first acquisitions, bought a year after the museum’s founding in 1870. [More]
Van Dyck had to invent an iconography for the little-known Rosalia, creating her as an incarnation of beneficence in chaos. Palermitans could pray to her remains in the cathedral, but only while observing strict social distancing.Credit...via The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Anthony van Dyck, “Self-Portrait” (ca. 1620–21).Credit...via The Metropolitan Museum of Art