The Representation of Martyrdoms During the Early Counter-Reformation in Antwerp

Freedberg, David A.

No one who has passed through those rooms in the Antwerp Gallery which contain the works of the generation before Rubens can fail to have been impressed by a group of vivid and often gruesomely depicted martyrdoms. They are, notably (and for the time being I give the current Gallery attributions) : The Martyrdom of Saints Crispin and Crispinian, by Hieronymus Francken, The Charity and Martyrdom of Saints Cosmas and Damian, Diocletian condemns St Sebastian to Death and St Sebastian beaten with Rods, and Two Scenes from the Martyrdom of St George, all by Ambrosius Francken.

As far as I know, the taste for martyrdoms in Antwerp at the closing of the sixteenth century has not yet been specifically discussed nor has the context in which they were produced received much attention. These are the matters I wish to deal with here, posing questions rather than answer- ing them : not all of the documents which may throw light on these paintings have been discovered, and only a few of the attributional problems are capable, at this stage, of definitive solutions.

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Academic Units
Art History and Archaeology
Published Here
April 6, 2010