Anthony van Dyck: Saint Martin dividing his cloak (1618)

(Saint Martin's Church, Zaventem, Belgium)

According to Catholic texts Saint Martin of Tours was the son of a Roman tribune who joined the Roman army at the age of 15. Saint Martin probably served in the Equites catafractarii Ambianenses, a heavy Roman cavalry which was stationed in Amiens, France. one day Saint Martin was riding on his horse when he approached the gate of Amiens. There he was confronted by a scantily clad beggar. Saint Martin immediately cut his military cloak in half and shared it with the beggar. Later that night Jesus appeared to Saint Martin in a dream. In that dream Jesus said to Angels that "Martin, who is still but a catechumen, clothed me with this robe.". Saint Martin soon left the army and later became the Bishop of Tours. This painting was ordered by Ferdinand van Boisschot, Baron of Zaventem for the Church in Zaventem were it still remains. The order for the painting was originally intended for Peter Paul Rubens but he gave it to his most talented pupil, the 20 years old Anthony van Dyck. The style of the painting resembles Rubens so it is likely that is was based upon a sketch from Rubens. This painting is from 1618.

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