Carel Fabritius

The Sentry

Artistic qualities encounter an enigma here: A dozing sentry being watched by a small dog. An apparently everyday scene, and yet this oil painting raises many questions which have not been answered to the present day: What was borne by the column? Why is Anthony the Great, the patron saint of farmers and livestock reproduced on the arch? And is the person in the background a friend or an enemy?

What is clear is that the second figure was only first discovered following restoration work in 2004. Yet Carel Fabritius (1622-1654) did not paint over this person himself. So who did so after the artist’s death? The outstanding painter and pupil of Rembrandt died at the young age of 32 in the "Delftian thunderstorm" when an explosion occurred in the Delftian gunpowder magazine in 1654. Not only did it destroy large sections of the city, but also Carel Fabritius’s studio. Just a few of his pieces have been preserved, with only 14 of the Dutchman’s works still in existence, as per the latest findings. Our painting has a unique place in this set together with the Goldfinch in the Mauritshuis in The Hague –both of them were painted in the year the artist died.

Fabritius can be placed on an equal ranking with Rembrandt and Vermeer, and was regarded as the founder of the Delftian school. Works from this school are characterised by the application of bright, friendly colours and the various geometric shapes found in architecture.