Van Dyck's 'Matthew the Apostle' returns to Antwerp

25th of September 2018

After more than 40 years in private ownership, the early Van Dyck masterpiece 'Matthew the Apostle' is returning to Antwerp thanks to the King Baudouin Foundation, which acquired this painting as the result of a bequest. Now that it has been restored, this work of art will be exhibited publicly in the Rubens House. As such, it will be the only composition from the renowned Böhler series on view in a Belgian public collection.

Preserving, protecting and restoring major artefacts from Belgium's cultural heritage and making them available to the general public: that is what the King Baudouin Foundation has been doing for more than 30 years now. When the Foundation received this early Van Dyck work from the Generet Fund following a bequest, it contacted the Rubens House for an opinion. It soon became apparent that this was a very special painting, forming part of a series of apostles Van Dyck depicted between 1618 and 1620. This was probably inspired by Rubens, who had himself painted such a series for the Duke of Lerma around 1610. Today, Van Dyck's 'Böhler series', named after German art dealer Julius Böhler, who acquired the series of paintings of apostles from a private Italian collection around 1914, is scattered around the world. Eight of the 13 compositions have survived, some of them in private ownership, but 'Matthew the Apostle' is the only work from this series – and also the only painting of an apostle by Van Dyck – remaining in Belgium.

In light of its clear status as a masterpiece to be protected and passed on to future generations, the King Baudouin Foundation funded a detailed analysis of the portrait of this powerful and at the same time contemplative male figure, and its urgently needed restoration. The restoration has now been completed and therefore this work by Rubens' most talented apprentice has been put on public view in the Rubens House. This long-term loan is the seventh addition the King Baudouin Foundation has made to the Rubens House's collection, having previously made such loans to this collection including Theodoor Rogiers' silver ewer and basin, Lucas Faydherbe's statue of Hercules, the 'De Ganay manuscript' after Peter Paul Rubens and two paintings by Jacob Jordaens. As part of the city of Antwerp's cultural festival 'Antwerp Baroque 2018. Rubens inspires', the Rubens House is putting 'Matthew the Apostle' very much centre stage.