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Hendrick van Steenwyck the Younger (Antwerp c. 1580 - The Hague? 1649)

The Liberation of St Peter c.1615

Oil on copper | 12.5 x 12.5 x 0.05 cm (support, canvas/panel/stretcher external) | RCIN 404719

Middle Closet, Hampton Court Palace

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  • According to Karel van Mander, Hendrick van Steenwyck the Elder, c.1550-1603, was a pupil of Hans Vredeman de Vries (1527-1606). His son Hendrick the Younger was born in Antwerp in c.1580 and in 1585, after the Spanish reconquest of Antwerp, Hendrick the Elder took the family to Frankfurt in order (in van Mander’s words) ‘to escape the cruelties that Mars, a bitter enemy of art, inflicted on the people there’. Having trained with his father, Hendrick II probably returned to Antwerp some time in the first years of the seventeenth century, before departing for London. There he seems to have lived from 1617 to 1637, during the heyday of the courts of James I and Charles I. He finished his career in The Hague in Holland.

    The Liberation of St Peter and Figures on a Terrace (Royal Collection) are two tiny roundels that can both be dated to c.1615; they are similar but not identical in size and technique. They may have been conceived as a pair or been joined in the collection of Charles II (or before) as a ‘marriage of convenience’. They demonstrate two aspects of Steenwyck’s art: the bright fantasy palaces, learned from De Vries, and the expressive torch-lit dungeons, possibly inspired by prints after Adam Elsheimer (an artist he might have known in Frankfurt in the 1590s).

    Both the scenes have morals that complement each other, whether or not they are conceived as a pair. Figures on a Terrace reminds us of the vanity of human pleasure; the Liberation of St Peter conveys the hope that the soul will be liberated from the tomb.

    The painting appears in Pyne's illustrated 'Royal Residences' of 1819, hanging in The Queen's Closet at Kensington Palace (RCIN 922154).

    First recorded in the collection of Charles II hanging in the King's Closet of Whitehall Palace (no 387)

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on copper


    12.5 x 12.5 x 0.05 cm (support, canvas/panel/stretcher external)

    18.5 x 18.7 x 1.9 cm (frame, external)

  • Category
    Object type(s)