Portrait Study of James, William, and John Herbert, Standing on Stairs, Facing Right

black and white chalk sketch of three men standing on stairs, on blue paper

Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641)
Portrait Study of James, William, and John Herbert, Standing on Stairs, Facing Right, 1633–35
Black chalk, heightened with white chalk, on blue paper
17 3/8 × 10 5/8 (42.2 × 27. 1 cm)
École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris

This recently reattributed drawing is a sketch for the pose of three of the sons of Philip, Earl of Pembroke, in Van Dyck’s largest surviving painting, a portrait of the Herbert family almost seventeen feet wide. Van Dyck made no attempt to indicate anything of the boys’ features and probably did not work from life. He seems to have considered the drawing as a functional step toward the complete portrait, giving us a glimpse of his draftsmanship at its roughest and most energetic. A contemporary source describes such drawings by Van Dyck as "figures & postures all in Suden [sudden] lines, as angles."

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