Saint John supported by Angels

Northern Netherlands
Late Gothic | Late 15th Century | Ca. 1490/1500

Oak | Carved in high relief | Wings in gilded lime wood of later date | On later metal base
H. 14,8 cm. W. 24 cm.


With Patrick Reijgersberg v.o.f. | Haarlem | 1999
Private collection | The Hague

33e Kunst- en Antiekbeurs | ‘s-Hertogenbosch | 1999

The Mr. and Mrs. Isaac D. Fletcher Collection. In: The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, 13, nr. 3, March 1918, p. 61;
Leeuwenberg, J. (1973). Beeldhouwkunst in het Rijksmuseum. Amsterdam/The Hague, p. 101, cat. nr. 88;
Vlierden M. van (2004). Hout- en steensculptuur van Museum Catharijneconvent, ca. 1200-1600. Zwolle/Utrecht, p. 177

With proof of purchase by Patrick Reijersberg, Haarlem, dd. 19 April 1999


Placed in the middle of the group and writing on a long scroll (or banderole), the youthful Saint John records his divinely inspired revelations. This representation relates to a Burgundy sculpture in stone representing Saint John on Patmos writing on a long banderole, dating to ca. 1450–1500 and kept in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (inv. nr. 17.120.4). This composition conforms to a well-known type of the evangelist-author portrait, which shows the evangelists writing their Gospels on a scroll or codex. Due to his youthfulness, the present figure represents Saint John, who – in addition to his own Gospel – was believed to have written the Apocalypse, also known as the Book of Revelation. The specific iconography of evangelists holding the symbol of their writings in the form of a scroll is frequently portrayed in late medieval manuscripts. St. John is flanked by two hovering angels, supporting the scroll, possibly symbolising divine inspiration. This theme was also explored by Hieronymus Bosch in Saint John the Evangelist on Patmos, painted ca. 1495 (collection of the Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, Gemaldegalerie in Berlin, inv. nr. 1647A). In this picture St. John attention is wholly fixated on a celestial vision of an angel gesturing towards the Heavens at the Woman of the Apocalypse, associated with the Mother of God (Apocalypse 12:1). This fine oak group can arguable be placed within this symbolism.

In his description of the present piece Patrick Reijersberg dates the group to the end of the 15th century and places it in the Northern Netherlands. This is supported by the typical aphoristic style, the individual and naturalistic treatment of the hair and the execution in low-relief. Especially the angle-figure to the right is a stylistically closely related Hovering Angel from a Calvary located by Leeuwenberg in the Northern Netherlands and dated ca. 1515, kept in the collection of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (inr. nr. K.OG.2386; Leeuwenberg, 1973, p. 101). A second North Netherlandish example can be found in the collection of Museum Catharijneconvent in Utrecht (inv. nr. BMH bh576a; Vlierden, 2004, p. 177).