Dirck van Delen was born around 1605 in Heusden near 'S-Hertogenbosch in the Northern Netherlands. He spent much of his career in Middelburg, where he joined the guild in 1639. The present work is dated 1646, during a period when Van Delen painted a series of imaginary Baroque churches on an imposing scale. Details of this scene are borrowed from his own earlier works: the two angels in the spandrels of the cupola in the middle distance, as well as the a monumental archway with receding corridor and lighted crossing, can be compared with his Christ healing the lame of 1636 now in the Charitable Institutions, Middelburg (see Utrecht, Centraal Museum, Saenredam, Exhibition catalogue, Utrecht, 1961, no. 228.). The figures in this painting were added by Cornelis van Poelenburch, Van Delen's frequent collaborator in the 1640s and 1650s. During this period, Van Poelenburch used Van Delen's fantastically grand church interiors to lend gravity to religious subjects, as can be seen in Church Interior with the Parable of the Pharisee and Publican, signed and dated 1653 by Van Delen and signed by Poelenburch (Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown; see N.C. Sluijter-Seijffert, Cornelis van Poelenburch (ca. 1593 - 1667), Enschede, 1984, p. 193, no. 78). In this work, however, the exotic appearance of the figures suggest they may relate to a literary theme, although no specific subject has been identified.
Signature: Signed and dated 'D van Delen fecit 1646' (lower left, on the column)
To be included in Bernard Vermet's forthcoming catalogue raisonné on Dirck van Delen, as datable to circa 1645 and with figures by Cornelis van Poelenburch.
The Mauerbach Benefit Sale, Christie's, Vienna, 29 October 1996, lot 35, as Bartholomeus van Bassen and Cornelis van Poelenburch, where acquired by the present owner.