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The Saint Who Stopped an Epidemic Is on Lockdown at the Met

by staff
The Saint Who Stopped an Epidemic Is on Lockdown at the Met


He is dapper, beaming with the confidence of youth; he does not have the temperament for sheltering in place. It’s springtime, the year is 1624, and the 25-year-old Anthony van Dyck is sailing south, to Sicily, where he has been invited to paint the island’s Spanish viceroy.

Van Dyck is establishing his international career as a portraitist to the rich and famous, and he has already had some success in Genoa, London and his hometown, Antwerp. Now, in Palermo, he feels on the cusp of a breakthrough.

He gets the portrait done that spring, but then: disaster. On May 7, 1624, Palermo reports the first cases of a plague that will soon kill more than 10,000, some 10 percent of the city’s…



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