Portrait of a Carmelite Friar

oil painting portrait of man in white robe with cropped hair, circa 1618

Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641)
Portrait of a Carmelite Friar, ca. 1618
Oil on panel
24 1/2 × 18 7/8 in. (62.3 × 48 cm)
Private collection

When this painting recently resurfaced, both its provenance and its reputed subject, the confessor of Peter Paul Rubens, supported an attribution to Van Dyck’s master. However, the style points to Van Dyck himself, who by this time was a close collaborator of the older painter. It would be hard to find in Rubens’s oeuvre a parallel for the fragmented rendering of the face, with its thick highlights, touches of pink and black, and use of hatching to evoke the whiskers around the mouth. As in many of his early works, Van Dyck seems to be showing off his precocious technical skill. The painting, which combines sketch-like execution with an attention to the model’s individual features, was most likely made as the portrait of a friend or relative.

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