Saint Helena Carrying the True Cross of Christ

Jan Salomon de Bray

Jan Salomon de Bray - Saint Helena Carrying the True Cross of Christ
It is by Jan Salomonsz de Bray, a major painter of historical scenes and portraits and the son of painter Salomon de Bray. His life is most closely tied to the city of Haarlem, where he was elected several times to lead of the St Lucas Guild. He worked for the intellectual (mainly Catholic) elite, and received many institutional city commissions. The painting capturing St Helen on her knees, clad in an ermine cloak and with a crown on her head, probably comes from the artist’s early period, i.e. 1650-1660. At that time, De Bray’s work was greatly influenced by the work of his father, but was gradually crystallizing into a more original form of expression that was further influenced by the work of painters Pieter de Grebber and Pieter Soutman. The painting of St Helen is conceived in an elegant and polished style, her profile rendered in an especially fine manner. St Helen was the mother of the first Christian Roman ruler Constantine the Great, together with whom she established Christian churches throughout the Roman Empire. According to legend, she found the cross on which Christ had been crucified on her pilgrimage in Syria and Palestine. This cross thus became her main attribute. Unfortunately, we do now know who commissioned this painting, though it may be assumed to have been a Haarlem Catholic. De Bray, too, was probably Catholic, as his contacts with the Catholic clergy in Haarlem, and later in Amsterdam, suggest.
measurements: height 101 cm
width 87,6 cm
material: canvas
technique: oil
inventory number: O 19138
gallery collection: Collection of Old Masters
author of the entry PhDr. Andrea Steckerová, Ph.D.