First Antwerp Period

  • oil painting portrait of old man with mustache and beard with white ruffle collar, circa 1613

    Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641)
    Portrait of a Seventy-Year-Old Man, 1613
    Oil on canvas
    24 3/4 × 17 1/8 in. (63 × 43.5 cm)
    Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten van België / Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels

    The inscription at the top of this canvas declares it to be the portrait of a man aged seventy and the work of the fourteen-year-old Van Dyck, identified by his monogram, AVD. As such, it is his earliest dated work, and the inscription makes a bold declaration of ambition and pride on the part of a prodigy keenly aware of his gifts. In its coloration and loose manner of painting, the picture brings to mind portraits by Jacopo Tintoretto and may reflect the young Van Dyck’s exposure to Venetian paintings in the collections of Antwerp connoisseurs like his masters Hendrick van Balen and Peter Paul Rubens, before he traveled to Italy himself.

  • head and shoulders oil portrait of a young man in partial profile

    Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641)
    Self-Portrait, ca. 1613–15
    Oil on panel
    10 1/8 × 7 5/8 in. (25.8 × 19.5 cm)
    Gemäldegalerie der Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna

    One of Van Dyck’s earliest known works, as well as his first known self-portrait, this painting is dated, on the basis of his appearance, to the first half of the 1610s, when he was about fifteen. The thick application of the paint is different from that of the other early self-portraits. Despite the bold execution, the artist probably considered the painting a finished work. Within decades of his death, it was acquired for the celebrated Viennese collection of the second Prince of Liechtenstein.

  • oil painting of self portrait of Anthony van Dyck, young man, wearing hat, white lace collar and green cloak

    Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641)
    Self-Portrait, ca. 1615–17
    Oil on panel
    14 3/8 × 10 1/8 in. (36.5 × 25.8 cm)
    Rubenshuis, Antwerp

    In recent decades, this portrait has generally been considered to be the work of Van Dyck’s master, Peter Paul Rubens. However, new technical research supports the traditional attribution to Van Dyck. Nonetheless, both the more formal attire and smoother manner of painting, akin to that of Rubens, present a stark contrast to another self-portrait. As Rubens’s most gifted collaborator in the second half of the 1610s, Van Dyck became particularly skilled at adapting his style to that of the older artist.

  • painting of male youth looking to the side, with red curly hair, wearing black

    Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641)
    Head Study of a Youth, ca. 1615–17
    Oil on paper
    20 1/8 × 16 1/4 in. (51.2 × 41.4 cm); original size, 14 × 10 1/2 in. (35.6 × 26.7 cm)
    National Gallery of Art, Washington; Gift of Adolph Caspar Miller

    Although Van Dyck seems to have based the features of the young man on his own, this oil sketch is probably not a self-portrait but rather a tronie (head study) the artist could reuse in his history paintings. Figures with similar heads can be found in several compositions by the young Van Dyck. This sketch was enlarged by a later hand to give it a more finished — and salable — appearance. Oil sketches such as this are regularly recorded in seventeenth-century Flemish collections and attest to the early appreciation of even the more roughly executed examples of Van Dyck’s talent.

  • oil painting of young woman with red hair, looking downward

    Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641)
    Head Study of a Red-Haired Young Woman Looking Down, ca. 1618–20
    Oil on paper
    22 1/4 × 16 3/8 in. (56.5 × 41.6 cm)
    The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Gift of Mrs. Ralph J. Hines, 1957

    Head studies of unknown sitters, an important subcategory of Van Dyck’s early portraits, served as preparatory works that would often be repurposed in historical or devotional compositions. The melancholy young woman shown here provided the prototype for the Virgin in a later painting. Intriguingly, an early biographer also claimed that Van Dyck once recruited his sister Susanna as the model for Mary Magdalene. With her long nose, pallid complexion, and russet hair, the young woman in this sketch does indeed bear a family resemblance to Van Dyck’s own self-portraits.

  • black and red chalk drawing of man wearing cloak, stiff ruffled collar, and holding hat

    Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641)
    Portrait Study of a Standing Man (Alexander Vincque?), 1616 or before
    Black and red chalk on buff paper
    20 3/4 × 13 3/4 in. (52.6 × 35 cm)
    National Gallery of Art, Washington; Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund

    This study corresponds closely to the portrait of a merchant in Antwerp traditionally identified as a member of the Vincque family. The somewhat coarse style indicates that the drawing — and thus the painting — must predate Van Dyck’s more refined study of a Jesuit missionary, made in January of 1617. It is therefore probably Van Dyck’s earliest preserved drawing and as such suggests that he had a flourishing practice as a painter well before becoming a master in 1618. The full-length format of the picture attests to the family’s social ambitions and their faith in the capacities of the young artist.

  • black and blue-green chalk sketch of man standing in Chinese costume and hat

    Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641)
    The Jesuit Nicolas Trigault in Chinese Costume, 1617
    Black chalk and blue-green fabricated chalk
    16 3/4 × 9 5/8 in. (42.4 × 24.4 cm)
    The Morgan Library & Museum, New York

    Like Rubens’s drawing, this sketch must have been made on the occasion of the visit of the Jesuit Nicolas Trigault to Antwerp in January 1617. The two artists probably shared the same piece of blue-green chalk to highlight the collar and hem of the priest’s robe, but otherwise the drawings could not differ more. Apart from the pastel, Van Dyck restricted himself to black chalk and treated the costume and Trigault’s features in a much more summary and angular manner than Rubens. This drawing demonstrates that by age seventeen the artist had completely refined his graphic style.

  • chalk drawing of man standing in Chinese dress robes, with handwritten text

    Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640)
    The Jesuit Nicolas Trigault in Chinese Costume, 1617
    Black, red, and white chalk, yellow (fabricated?) chalk and blue-green fabricated chalk, pen and brown ink, on buff (?) paper
    17 1/2 × 9 3/4 in. (44.6 × 24.8 cm)
    The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Purchase, Carl Selden Trust, several members of the Chairman’s Council, Gail and Parker Gilbert, and Lila Acheson Wallace Gifts, 1999

    This magnificent drawing represents Nicolas Trigault, a Flemish Jesuit missionary to China. Rubens, who had close ties to the Jesuits in Antwerp, dated the drawing in January 1617, when Trigault visited the city to raise funds and recruit new missionaries. His costume combines a Korean cap and the robe of a Chinese scholar, conveying the Jesuits’ desire to assimilate into Chinese culture while keeping a certain distance from it. Rubens beautifully captured the cut, texture, and weight of the robe and recorded the sensitive features of the priest. Although the drawing was formerly attributed to Van Dyck, its technique, style, and finish point firmly to Rubens, whose handwriting can be recognized in the Latin inscription describing the missionary’s costume at upper right.

  • 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.

  • oil portrait of a man with a beard, wearing black with white lace collar and cuffs

    Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641)
    Frans Snyders, ca. 1620
    Oil on canvas
    56 1/8 × 41 1/2 in. (142.5 × 105.4 cm)
    The Frick Collection; Henry Clay Frick Bequest

    Frans Snyders was celebrated for his paintings of animals and still lifes and counted the king of Spain among his clients. At the end of the 1610s, Van Dyck collaborated with Snyders on several paintings, and these joint projects may have led him to sit for this portrait by Van Dyck, who was approximately twenty years old at the time. A likely occasion for the commission of this and the depiction of Snyders’s wife, Margareta de Vos, was the couple’s purchase of a large house on Antwerp’s most prestigious street, which still survives today. The architectural setting of a terrace overlooking parkland evokes the sitters’ status as wealthy patricians, while locating the portraits in a single space.

  • oil painting of seated woman in back dress with gold, with large white stiff collar

    Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641)
    Margareta de Vos, ca. 1620
    Oil on canvas
    51 1/2 × 39 1/8 in. (130.7 × 99.3 cm)
    The Frick Collection; Henry Clay Frick Bequest

    Margareta de Vos was the daughter of a distiller and sister of three painters. In Van Dyck’s depiction, De Vos’s gleaming and starched millstone collar would have served as a striking token of prosperity, while his alterations to the composition of her head are now visible to the naked eye. The glass vase of flowers in De Vos’s portrait represents one of the most virtuosic passages in all of Van Dyck’s work, transmuting bold and unerring strokes of blue and buttery yellow paint into reflections on the surface of the vase.

  • oil painting of self portrait of, Anthony van Dyck, young man leaning with ring on pinkie finger

    Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641)
    Self-Portrait, ca. 1620–21
    Oil on canvas
    47 1/8 × 34 5/8 in. (119.7 × 87.9 cm)
    The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Jules Bache Collection

    Van Dyck produced a number of self-portraits around 1621 that show a marked development in mood, style, and purpose from his earlier self-portraits. While his previous self-portraits are intimate in character, these later works demonstrate the considerable status the young artist had by then achieved. They illustrate to perfection Giovan Pietro Bellori’s description of Van Dyck as appearing "resplendent in rich attire of suits and court dress," and "by nature grand and eager to become famous." This painting may have been made in England during Van Dyck’s short stay in the winter of 1620 and attests to his transformation into a sophisticated courtier.

  • pen and brown ink sketch of man in hat with plume, seated on upright horse, next to man bending over

    Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641)
    Portrait Study of a Man on Horseback with His Groom, 1620–21
    (or 1628–32?)
    Pen and brown ink
    9 1/16 × 9 5/8 in. (23 × 24.5 cm)
    The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Gift of Harold K. Hochschild, 1940

    Throughout his career, Van Dyck proved himself an inventive painter of equestrian portraits. Here, he shows the horse not in profile but turning away from the viewer, an idea developed in the portrait from around 1630 of Albert de Ligne, Count of Arenberg (Holkham Hall), referred to in the inscription at lower left. While the drawing has been related to that painting, the relative finish and robust style suggest that it should be dated before 1621. Because none of the sitters from Van Dyck’s early years in Antwerp hailed from the aristocracy to which this mounted commander clearly belongs, the drawing was probably made during Van Dyck’s stay in England in 1620–21, possibly for a never executed portrait of his main patron then, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham.

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