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Past Exhibition

Portrait Study of a Commander on Horseback Triumphing over Evil, and Crowned by Victory

man on horseback, over woman and person on ground, being crowned by angel

Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641)
Portrait Study of a Commander on Horseback Triumphing over Evil, and Crowned by Victory, 1621–ca. 1627
Pen, brush, and brown ink, with brown wash, over black chalk
8 1/2 × 7 1/4 in. (21.5 × 18.4 cm)
The British Museum, London

This drawing records Van Dyck’s most ambitious equestrian portrait, though the painting it probably prepared never seems to have been executed. A young man, wearing armor and a billowing commander’s sash, tramples with his spirited horse the two personifications of evil, one of which is holding a bunch of snakes. The hero is crowned with laurels by the winged figure of Fame, possibly in reference to a specific military victory. The style and flamboyant composition situate the drawing firmly in Van Dyck’s Italian period. Mostly executed in brush over a sketch in black chalk (still visible in parts), the drawing is a masterly example of Van Dyck’s ability to convey form and intensity of light in a single stroke.