Private collection, Belgium
Theophile Lybaert was born in Ghent, Flanders in 1848. He studied at the Academy of his hometown and later worked for one year in Jean-Léon Gérôme’s studio in Paris. Gérôme was known for his highly finished and realistic paintings as well as for his orientalist subject matter. Under his influence, Lybaert created historical and orientalist paintings. He also showed a keen interest for old masters and especially for early Flemish painting and was called the “Memling of the 19thcentury”. Lybaert died in Ghent in 1927.
The present drawing probably dates from the late 19th century and exhibits Lybaert’s fine and extremely meticulous technique, as well as his concern for realism. Although the title ‘Souvenirs d’autrefois’is inscribed on a label on the reverse in the artist’s own hand, the exact subject is not known. It may derive from a Medieval legend or neo-Gothic story. This beautiful work clearly reflects the influence of the English Pre-Raphaelites.
The neo-Gothic movement was particularly strong in secular and religious art in Belgium and France near the turn of the 19th Century, recalling a period of splendor for the Roman Catholic Church. In the second half of the 19thcentury, neo-Gothic churches began to appear everywhere and received appropriate decoration, including numerous wall and easel paintings. Lybaert was the author of many stations of the cross, including a set for the church of Saint-Sauveur in Ghent.
Lybaert was known for presenting his works in elaborate frames and this work maintains the artist’s original architectural design. This gold surround adds a deeper aspect to the piece, mingling a sculptural element with the two-dimensional nature of the work, making this piece more than just a highly finished drawing, but also a unique object d’ art.