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image SG71

The hermit Saint Arsenius, stained glass panel, Netherlandish, 1600

Clear glass with black paint

Height: 730mm
Width: 576mm

Museum number: SG71

Curatorial note

The weeping hermit prays on the bank of a stream, holding a rosary and resting a wooden cross on his knee. A skull lies on the ground. He receives a ray of light from a group of cherubs in which is inscribed Arseni, fuge, tace, quiesce. Almost hidden amongst the rich foliage in the middle ground is a view of the Saint walking in a hortus conclusis or walled garden before a colonnaded temple; there is also a cluster of men beside a well watching one man washing another's feet. A ruined hermitage can be seen in the far distance.

Arsenius had been appointed tutor to the sons of Emperor Theodosius, about 450 A.D. After ten years he was called to a monastery and left Constantinople for Alexandria. He shunned the company of men, lived in utter poverty and was known for weeping over his own shortcomings and those of the world. It was said his beard reached to his girdle but his tears wore away his eye-lashes.

Popham suggested Saenredam as the source of the composition although the design is not included in the Bartsch volume of his engravings. A panel of a similar size, described under ‘Graisaille [sic] Lights, 1620-1628’ as ‘St Arsinius weeping’, was sold at Christie’s on 17 June 1808, Lot 53, for £37.


Bernard Rackham, A Guide to the Collections of Stained Glass, Victoria and Albert Museum. London: V&A Department of Ceramics, 1936
Journal of the British Society of Master Glass Painters, X (1948): 181
Walter L. Strauss, ed., The Illustrated Bartsch. New York: Abaris Books, 1980, Vol. 4
Catalogue of the Stained Glass in Sir John Soane's Museum, Special Issue of the Journal of Stained Glass 2004, pp 198-199

If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk