Italian Period

  • brown ink drawing of seated clergyman in headpiece and robe, circa 1623

    Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641)
    Guido Bentivoglio, Seated (?), 1623
    Brush and brown ink over black chalk (and graphite?)
    15 5/8 × 10 3/8 in. (39.6 × 26.3 cm)
    Musée des Beaux-Arts de la ville de Paris, Petit Palais, Paris

    The most impressive of the few extant drawings for portraits from Van Dyck’s Italian period, this has traditionally been considered a study for the portrait of Cardinal Guido Bentivoglio, also in this exhibition. Despite differences in the pose, the thin face with mustache, goatee, and deep-set eyes and the spiky hem of the lace rocchetto help support this identification. The drawing’s size and use of black chalk underdrawing with bold brushwork set it apart from nearly every other portrait drawing by Van Dyck. It could have served to work out the composition, as well as to show his patron the artist’s intentions for the final result.

  • painting of male cleric seated in red robe with white lace in lap, holding paper

    Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641)
    Cardinal Guido Bentivoglio, 1623
    Oil on canvas
    76 3/4 × 57 7/8 in. (195 × 147 cm)
    Galleria Palatina, Palazzo Pitti, Florence

    One of the masterpieces of seventeenth-century portraiture, Van Dyck’s painting of Cardinal Guido Bentivoglio is renowned for the sensitivity of the sitter’s likeness, the elegance of the pose, the daring of its coloring, and the grandeur of its setting. Bentivoglio, who was also a diplomat, patron of the arts, and historian, lived in Flanders in the early seventeenth century, but Van Dyck made the portrait in 1623 in Rome, where he likely resided at the cardinal’s palace. The painting allowed Van Dyck — while drawing inspiration from Italian models, notably Titian — to assert himself as the leading portraitist of his age. An eighteenth-century source records how "the whole of Rome rushed to see that marvel of art, and everyone wanted to be painted by the hand of our artist."

  • painting of young man wearing black leaning on table, with two men holding statue

    Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641)
    George Gage with Two Men, ca. 1622–23
    Oil on canvas
    45 1/4 × 44 3/4 in. (115 × 113.5 cm)
    The National Gallery, London

    While Van Dyck may already have met the diplomat and artistic agent George Gage in Rubens’s Antwerp studio, the style and setting of the portrait he made of him indicate it was painted in Rome, where Van Dyck and Gage may have befriended each other. Against a dark landscape, two men present a marble sculpture to the Englishman, whose nonchalant pose evokes his worldliness. Gage was indeed involved in the procurement of ancient statuary for English patrons. The informality of the portrait — evident in the composition, as well as in the varying degrees of finish — contrasts with most of Van Dyck’s Italian portraits, including those of Guido Bentivoglio and the Genoese lady displayed in this gallery.

  • oil painting of woman standing in lavish gold and white dress with large blue collar, next to red curtain and chair

    Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641)
    Genoese Noblewoman, ca. 1625–27
    Oil on canvas
    90 7/8 × 61 5/8 in. (230.8 × 156.5 cm)
    The Frick Collection; Henry Clay Frick Bequest

    Van Dyck spent most of his Italian years in Genoa, a thriving Mediterranean port with an important Flemish community. In the wake of Peter Paul Rubens, who had preceded him there in the first decade of the century, he provided the city’s noble families with grand portraits, many of which still adorn their palaces. This portrait of a luxuriously dressed young woman standing against a loosely defined architectural background is a typical example. Although she remains unidentified, the sash across her torso and the black edges of her cuffs seem to indicate she is a widow.

  • pen and brown ink sketch of standing woman in nun's habit

    Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641)
    Standing Woman in a Nun’s Habit (Archduchess Isabella Clara Eugenia?), ca. 1627
    Pen and brown ink on paper
    6 3/16 × 4 1/4 in. (15.7 × 10.8 cm)
    Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Helen and Alice Colburn Fund

    Throughout his career, Van Dyck used pen to record initial ideas for portraits, but judging from the rare extant examples, these studies increasingly lost the level of detail of the earlier sheets. Instead, they adopt the more modest appearance exemplified by this sketch. The format indicates a woman of aristocratic or high ecclesiastical standing, possibly Archduchess Isabella Clara Eugenia, daughter of King Philip II of Spain and (with her husband) regent of the Southern Netherlands during the early decades of the century. On becoming a widow in 1621, she joined the order of the Poor Clares, and Van Dyck depicted her (albeit not from life) in her nun’s habit in a full-length portrait of 1628 (Galleria Sabauda, Turin).

  • 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.

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