London.- Visitors to the Rubenshuis in Antwerp will soon be able to admire a magnificent work by Tintoretto and his studio which was in the possession of David Bowie for almost 30 years. This powerful work, depicting an angel warning Saint Catherine of Alexandria of her martyrdom, has been acquired by a European collector in Sotheby's sale of the art collection of the legendary musician in London last Thursday*. Minutes after the auction, the new owner declared his intention to place the work on long-term loan to the Belgian museum. This gesture not only acknowledges the profound influence of Tintoretto and Venetian art on Rubens but also pays tribute to David Bowie's life-long love of museums and generosity with loans.
Acquired by the artist in the 1980s, this monumental oil on canvas boasts an exceptional unbroken provenance. It was produced in the later 1570s, when Jacopo Tintoretto (1515-1594) was directing the busiest painter’s workshop in Venice. The work of the master is particularly evident in the deft and confident handling of the angel’s head in profile, the anatomy of his muscular shoulders and arms (which Jacopo first painted nude before covering with an additional layer), and Catherine’s answering gesture, with its skilful foreshortening of her left arm and hand holding the Crucifix.
The altarpiece was commissioned by members of the Scuola di Santa Caterina for the Church of San Geminiano in the heart of Venice. Facing the Basilica in the Piazza San Marco, the small but elaborately decorated church was designed by Jacopo Sansovino and also held his tomb, along with an altarpiece by Giovanni Bellini and organ shutters by Paolo Veronese. A pen drawing of the present composition by Sir Anthony Van Dyck (Chatsworth House, Derbyshire), executed on his visit to Venice in 1622, speaks of his admiration for Jacopo’s painting. Displayed in situ until 1807, when the church was destroyed under Napoleon to make way for the new wing of the Procuratie, the canvas was transferred to the Accademia before being acquired by the art dealer Angelo Barbini, along with paintings by Titian, Paris Bordone and Veronese.