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Ducamps, Jean
St. Matthias
around 1615-1625

A man with a fine, prominent nose and a thin moustache and beard turns his head to look behind him as he gathers his mantle and appears to set off in the opposite direction. In his left hand he holds not a staff but an axe, whose large rounded blade can be distinguished in the dark upper right-hand corner of the painting. It must be his attribute and the instrument of his martyrdom, identifying him as St. Matthias, the “thirteenth disciple” who was chosen by lot to replace Judas, as told in Acts 1:15–26. Not a common subject in paintings, Matthias does appear regularly in printed series of saints and martyrs, sometimes with a sword, but most often with an axe. Here, the grim tool receives its echo in the sharp facial features of the saint. Eyelids, nose and lips are boldly accentuated through the dramatic contrast of sharp light against inky shadows, which points toward this painting’s origins among the followers of the revolutionary Italian painter of the Baroque era, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571–1610).

 
Ducamps, Jean
Cambrai, France 1600-Madrid, Spain 1648
St. Matthias
around 1615-1625
Oil on canvas
height / width: 114.00 x 86.20 cm; 44.88 x 33.94 in.
Gift of Alfred and Isabel Bader, 1986
29-137

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