The purchased work is a preliminary study for the large canvas by Suvée that can be seen today in the Église de l’Assomption in Paris, though it was originally intended for the Church of the Recollects in Ypres, which has since disappeared.
The ‘modello’—or design—that the Musea Brugge has purchased is painted with lively brushstrokes and shows, perhaps more than the finished painting, the personal signature style of the artist. It has a special value as a preparatory intermediate step in the working process of a great history piece.
Masterpiece in terms of religious painting
The Birth of the Virgin
is viewed by experts as Suvée’s masterpiece in terms of religious painting. Although Joseph-Benoît Suvée (1743, Bruges—1807, Rome) made multiple large religious paintings during his career, there are precious few of these that have been preserved in Flanders. The Resurrection of Christ, which is found in the St Walburg’s Church in Bruges, is classified as a masterpiece by the Flemish Community as of 2020. In the St Martin’s Church of Ypres there hangs another interesting painting by Suvée, The Adoration by the Angels.