Gaspar de Crayer, Le Couronnement de Sainte Rosalie, 1644

In the course of this year, the Museum of Fine Arts Ghent (MSK) is lending three paintings and a selection of drawings by Gaspar de Crayer (1584–1669) to the Musée de Flandre in Cassel, France. The works will be featured in the exhibiton ' Entre Rubens  et Van Dyck. Gaspar de Crayer, un peintre de Cour' (30 June – 4 November 2018), devoted to this unjustly forgotten master of Baroque art.

The MSK is taking this opportunity to honour the painter and underline his close ties to the city of Ghent. A few of De Crayer’s paintings, too large to travel, will be featured in the installation 'Gaspar de Crayer and Ghent: An Unbreakable Bond'. The presentation is also an incentive to discover the city, since works by the artist can been seen in several Ghent churches.

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Between Rubens and Van Dyck
Born in Antwerp in 1584, Gaspar de Crayer’s artistic development was influenced by Peter Paul Rubens, Jacob Jordaens, and Anthony van Dyck, which does not mean that his works were a slavish imitation of those of the masters. He owes his reputation to his talent as a painter of portraits and religious scenes, as well as his compositional skill. Until the 20th century, he was considered one of the major Baroque painters next to Rubens and Van Dyck.

De Crayer in Brussels and Ghent
De Crayer left Antwerp and very likely settled in Brussels where he studied under Raphael Coxie (around 1540–1616), son of the better-known painter Michiel Coxie. At the time, Brussels was home to the Archduke Albert and Archduchess Isabella as well as the country’s elite, and De Crayer painted many portraits of the nobility. In 1635, he was appointed court painter.

Gaspar de Crayer, The judgment of Solomon, ca. 1620-1622
Gaspar de Crayer, The judgment of Solomon, ca. 1620-1622

With time, he became known for his large religious compositions and was commissioned to paint altarpieces and devotional paintings across the Netherlands. Very early in his career, he received commissions in Ghent, where his works can be found in churches, convents, and at City Hall. After the French Revolution, several of his works were integrated into the collection of what would become the MSK. De Crayer’s works can also be seen in St. James Church, St. Bavo’s Cathedral, St. Peter’s Church, and City Hall. 

In 1664, Gaspar de Crayer and his wife moved to Ghent, where he would remain until his death. He spent the last years of his life working on religious commissions. He died in 1669 and was laid to rest in the Dominican Church, since destroyed. His tomb lies beneath a depiction of the Resurrection of Christ by his own hand.

A Roomful of De Crayers
Presented in the main hall of the MSK, the installation 'Gaspar de Crayer and Ghent. An unbreakable bond' brings together a selection of works by the master.

The installation features monumental works such as 'The Judgment of Solomon' (c. 1620–1622, made for the Hall of Justice of the Château des Comtes), 'The Adoration of the Virgin and Child by Several Saints' (made for the Great Beguine Convent of St. Elizabeth), and 'The Coronation of Saint Rosalia' (made for the Jesuit Church of Ypres). And the 'Portrait of the Bishop Antonius Triest', Ghent’s greatest patron, speaks to De Crayer’s talent as a portrait painter.

Gaspar de Crayer, The coronation of Saint Rosalia, 1644
Gaspar de Crayer, The coronation of Saint Rosalia, 1644