PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE AMERICAN COLLECTION
Peter Snyers, Antwerp, by whom most likely inherited from Hendrik Snyers, who made an engraving after the painting);
His sale, Antwerp, 22 August 1752, lot 3;
Anonymous sale, Antwerp 23 or 25 August 1762, lot 9;
Alfred Schindler, Vienna;
His sale, Amsterdam, Fredrik Muller & Co., 13 July 1926, lot 664;
With Cassirer, Amsterdam;
A.W. Volz, The Hague;
Charles Volz, Kelsale Manor, Suffolk, England;
Mrs. Elizabeth A. Jarrett (née Volz), England, 1968;
Private Collection, Switzerland;
With Richard Feigen & Co., London and New York, by 1988;
From whom acquired by the present owner.
Antwerp, Rubenshuis; Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van-Beuningen, Antoon Van Dyck. Tekeningen en Olieverfschetsen, 1 July - 6 November 1960, no. 124a;
Cologne, Kunsthalle, Weltkunst aus Privatbesitz, 18 May - 4 August 1968, no. F12;
London, Richard L. Feigen & Co.; Seven Highly Important Pictures Including Annibale Carracci's The Madonna and Child with Saint Lucy and the Young Saint John the Baptist, 1990, no. 5.
G. Hoet, Catalogus of naamlyst van schilderyen, The Hague 1770, vol. III, p. 61;
G. Gluck, Van Dyck des Meisters Gemälde, 2nd revised edition, Stuttgard and Berlin 1931, Vienna 1926, p. 543, no. S.225;
L. Burchard in Catalogue of the Exhibition of the King's Pictures: 1946-47, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1946, under no. 292;
H. Vey, "Anton van Dycks Ölskizzen," in Bulletin of the Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten, Brussels, no. 3-4, September-December 1956, p. 186, reproduced p. 188, fig. 15;
E. Larsen, L'Opera completa di Van Dyck, 1626-1641, Milan 1971, p. 104, no. 704, reproduced p. 103 (with some doubts about the attribution to Van Dyck);
O. Millar, The Tudor, Stuart and Early Georgian Pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen, London 1969, pp. 102-103, under no. 161, reproduced fig. 28 (as probably Van Dyck);
J. Held, Flemish and German Paintings in the Detroit Institute of the Arts, Detroit 1982, p. 45 (as a variant of Van Dyck's original);
E. Larsen, The Paintings of Anthony Van Dyck, Freren 1988, vol. 1, p. 473; vol 2, p. 263, no. 643, reproduced p. 262 (with doubts about the attribution to Van Dyck);
Seven Highly Important Pictures Including Annibale Carracci's The Madonna and Child with Saint Lucy and the Young Saint John the Baptist, London 1990, no. 5.
A. Balis, "Van Dyck: Some Problems of Attribution," in Van Dyck 350, S. Barnes and A. Wheelock, eds., Washington and Hanover 1994, p. 192 (as by Van Diepenbeeck, though never seen in person);
G. Luijten, in Anthony Van Dyck as a Printmaker, exh. cat. Antwerp and Amsterdam 1999-2000, New York 1999, p. 228, reproduced (as by Van Diepenbeeck, though never seen in person);
C. Depauw, ed., Anthony van Dyck, Part VII in The New Hollstein. Dutch and Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts, 1450-1700, p. 173, under no. 543, (as by Van Diepenbeeck, though never seen in person);
H. Vey in S. Barnes et. al., Van Dyck: A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, New Haven and London 2004, pp. 253-254, under no. III.10 (leaning toward the attribution to Van Diepenbeeck);
A. Diels, The Shadow of Rubens, Print Publishing in 17th-century Antwerp, London/Turnhout 2009, p. 194 (as Van Diepenbeek, though never seen in person).
By Hendrik Snyers in reverse, circa 1642.
Van Dyck painted this touching but elegant grisaille in Antwerp after his return from Italy.1 The Flight into Egypt is based on his own painting of The Virgin and Child, in the Royal Collection, Windsor, which was in turn inspired by Titian's Madonna and Child with St. Stephen in the Musée du Louvre, Paris. There is a drawing after the painting, preserved in his Italian Sketchbook in the British Museum, London.2 In the Windsor picture Van Dyck presents the two figures against a dark, neutral background, but here he introduces a rocky landscape with Joseph and a donkey in the middle ground at the upper left. By doing so, he transforms the work from a more universal devotional subject into a specific scene from the early life of Christ. The panel was later used as the model for an engraving published after Van Dyck's death, which occasioned people to question its attribution, but now Susan Barnes and other specialists in the current generation of art historians have returned it to Van Dyck's oeuvre. Barnes writes: "I've carefully examined the ex-Feigen grisaille variation on the Queen's second Antwerp Madonna and Child ... [and] I am writing to let you know that in my opinion the sketch is a beautiful, original work from Van Dyck's own hand."3
During the course of his career Van Dyck painted compositions on small panels in monochrome – usually in grey or brown but sometimes in other colors. Although they are often classed together under the rubric of oil sketches, his use of grisailles and other monochrome oils is in itself a very complex process, illustrative of his remarkable versatility. In some cases he made summary sketches as preparatory designs for larger compositions; in others, as here, he made meticulous copies, or ricordi, of finished paintings. For the Iconography, a series of more than 100 portrait engravings after famous people, in which he was greatly involved toward the end of his stay in Antwerp, the situation was still more complex. Van Dyck used his own black chalk drawings and oil sketches as well as oil sketches by his assistants as models for the finished prints.
During the same period he also painted at least three other small monochrome panels after his own compositions: a brunaille, in the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, after the altarpiece with The Ecstasy of St. Augustine, of circa 1628, for the Sint-Augustinuskerk in Antwerp; a panel in pale violet, in the Courtauld Galleries, London, after The Crucifixion with St. Francis of circa 1629, in the Kapucijnkerk in Dendermonde; and a grisaille formerly in the Sparre Collection (see Fig. 2), sold London, Sotheby's, 5 December 2007, lot 6 after the altarpiece of The Crucified Christ Adored by Saints Dominic and Catherine of Siena, also of circa 1628-29, for the Dominican Convent of St. Catherine. Although The Rest on the Flight into Egypt is less complex in design, the style and treatment of the four panels are clearly related. In its degree of finish and the overall polish of the foreground figures, the present work is closest to the Sparre Crucifixion. The Virgin's features and hands can be compared to the figure of St. Catherine and the narrow, interrelated folds on her sleeve and the wider, softer folds of her skirt are very similar to the drapery in that panel and also to The Crucifixion with St. Francis.
The Rest on the Flight into Egypt is first described in the sale catalogue of the collection of Peeter Snyers as "The Virgin and Child, very pretty, in grisaille, by the same [Van Dyck], height 1 foot 4 thumbs, width 1 foot 1 thumb, 125 guilders".4 It was accepted in the modern literature by Glück, Burchard and Vey and later, following first hand inspection, by Julius Held, who is quoted in the 1990 exhibition catalogue as saying that he "unequivocally upholds the authorship of the painting".5 Doubts about the attribution grew up in the 1990s, largely centering on the relationship of the panel to an engraving by Hendrik Snyers from circa 1642 (see Fig. 3). It was suggested by scholars who had not seen the work in person that the grisaille was in fact by Abraham van Diepenbeeck, who received a patent that year to publish Van Dyck's designs and who published Snyers engraving. He would therefore, it is argued, want to provide as many new designs by the artist as possible.6 However, it is equally likely that Van Dyck himself created it as a model for a print. He was very aware of the importance of engravings in furthering his reputation, but because of his involvement with the Iconography, he may not have had the time to supervise another print project and so the panel languished in his workshop. The three contemporaneous panels above, were also used as the models for prints and, with the exception of St. Augustine, only engraved after Dyck's death. Even apart from stylistic differences between The Flight into Egypt and Diepenbeeck's own works, it is extremely difficult to explain why he would have transformed the subject. There is no commercial reason for his doing so, and, in fact, altering the design would take it further from Van Dyck and thus presumably make it less marketable. The transformation of the subject is, on the other hand, characteristic of Van Dyck's subtle intelligence; after all, he began the process by reinterpreting a composition by Titian. In the end, the traditional attribution to Van Dyck can be upheld on both intellectual and stylistic grounds.
1. The Windsor picture on which this is based has been dated to various points during his second Antwerp period, that is 1627-32, and presumably this panel would have executed shortly thereafter.
2. British Museum, iregistration no. 1957.1214.207.11, on folio 11, verso.
3. S. Barnes, in an email to a third party on conversation 10 October 2011 and confirmed in further emails and conversation, October and December 2011.
4. See Literature, H. Vey (2004), p. 253.
5. See Literature above.
6. See Balis and Luijten in Literature above. The later commentators then followed their lead.
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