John Singer Sargent (1856–1925)
Padre Sebastiano (also known as Padre Albera)
Oil on canvas
22 1/4 x 28 in. (56.5 x 71.1 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Was it only a few weeks ago that we were in the midst of "Year of the Priest" ? Seems like a long time ago.
Sargent (January 12, 1856 – April 14, 1925) was American and the leading portrait painter of his era - "the Gilded Era" in the Anglo-American world. He was a friend of Henry James and Gosse. He was very much an Anglophile.
By 1900, Sargent was at the height of his fame. He began to travel more and to devote relatively less time to portrait painting
In 1906 his mother died. In 1907, at the age of fifty-one, Sargent officially closed his studio. In that same year, Sargent painted his modest and serious self-portrait, his last, for the celebrated self-portrait collection of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. From 1907 on, Sargent largely forsook portrait painting and focused on landscapes in his later years.
He died in England and is buried near Woking in Surrey.
"Every summer he [Sargent] would depart for the Continent, accompanied by his sister Emily, sketching companions like the de Glehns and the Stokeses, his other sister Violet and her children, and old family friends. He would first go to the Alps, to Purtud in the Val d'Aosta, or the Simplon Pass, to avoid the heat, descending into the plains of Italy or Spain in the autumn. He was often away for three or four months, sketching compulsively, and bringing back with him quantities of studies in oil and water-colour. He exhibited and sold a few, gave many away, but the residue were littered haphazardly around his studio, or stuffed into drawers." (J. Lomax and R. Ormond, John Singer Sargent and the Edwardian Age, London, England, 1979, p. 93)
As regards the painting of Padre Sebastiano and the sitter, information is rather scanty. In 1911 The Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased it and "The Hermit" directly from the artist.
It was one of a number of paintings/works by a very private man on a religious theme. The Crucifixion is a recurrent theme.
Apparently the artist was friends with Padre Sebastiano and the painting was done out of friendship. No money changed hands.
The painting was executed on one of the many trips the artist made to Italy
The earnest young priest in his room. He is seated at his writing-table with books and papers strewn about. His bed is old and unmade. His wardrobe is a pole suspended from two walls. A breviary sits on the shelf beside the bed. He is certainly not a society figure, the type who was accustomed to engage the services of the internationally renowned artist
A large writing table separates artist and sitter.