Friars Around a Hearth (formerly Interior with Monks)

Alessandro Magnasco (Italian, 1667-1749)
c. 1725
Oil on canvas 
36-1/2 x 52-1/4 in. (93 x 132.7 cm) 
Credit Line:
The Norton Simon Foundation 
Accession Number:
© The Norton Simon Foundation 
On View

In a dimly lit room, friars dressed in gray and brown habits, or robes, seek warmth around a smoky fire. They belong to a Christian religious order, likely the Capuchins, which required its followers to take a vow of poverty. The artist’s dynamic brushstrokes create a sense of movement, as if we can see the friars arranging themselves on benches and stretching their limbs. Throughout, Alessandro Magnasco inserts moments of humanity and even humor. In the foreground a friar uses his rope belt as a cat toy, and near the upper right corner of the hearth, an elderly man rests an arm on his companion’s knee. Typical of Magnasco’s ambivalent depictions of religious groups, this painting neither mocks nor glorifies austere monastic life, but rather invites the viewer to explore multiple interpretations.


[Stephan Bourgeois, Paris and New York, sold ca. 1911 to];
Sir William van Horne (1843–1915), Montreal, Canada, by descent to his heirs;
Margaret van Horne (grand-daughter-in law to Sir William), sold 1967 to;
[Mortimer Brandt, New York];
[Edward Speelman, London/A.G., Zug, Switzerland, offered 25 February 1972 and subsequently sold 6 November 1973 to];
The Norton Simon Foundation.

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