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PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION

Sir Anthony van Dyck
PORTRAIT OF A MAN
Estimate
200,000300,000
LOT SOLD. 317,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
24

PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION

Sir Anthony van Dyck
PORTRAIT OF A MAN
Estimate
200,000300,000
LOT SOLD. 317,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Old Master Paintings

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New York

Sir Anthony van Dyck
ANTWERP 1599 - 1641 LONDON
PORTRAIT OF A MAN

Provenance

Wentworth Hubert Charles Beaumont, 3rd Viscount Allendale (1922–2002);
By whom sold London, Christie’s, 30 June 1961, lot  75 (as “Van Dyck,” “Portrait of a Man”), to Koetser;
With Leonard Koetser, London;
With Martin Asscher, London, by 1970;
With Newhouse Galleries, NY;
From whom purchased by Mr. & Mrs. F. Howard Walsh, Fort Worth, Texas; 
Anonymous sale, Dallas, Heritage Auction Galleries, 10 November 2006, lot 25009 (as "Van Dyck, “Portrait of a Man (Frans Snyders)”;
Where purchased by the present collector. 

Exhibited

Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada, Masterpiece in Focus: Rubens, Van Dyck, Jordaens, 3 May 2013 - 5 Jan 2014. 

Literature

"Recent Exhibitions," in The Burlington Magazine, 1961, vol. 103, p. 478, reproduced, fig. 41;
A. McNairn in, M. Laskin, M. Pantazzi (eds.), European and American painting, sculpture, and decorative arts, Ottawa 1987, p. 100;
S. Barnes, N. de Poorter et alVan Dyck:  A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, New Haven and London 2004,  pp. 30–31, under cat. no. I.14;
A. Vergara and F. Lammertse (eds.), The Young Van Dyck, exhibition catalogue, Madrid 2012, p. 199, under cat. no. 38, footnote 16 (as not by van Dyck).

Catalogue Note

This carefully modeled head study is a preliminary work for the figure of the father in van Dyck's early masterpiece Suffer Little Children to Come unto Me (National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, fig. 1). As a sketch from his early maturity in Antwerp, it is a key tool in understanding van Dyck's working method at this formative time in the artist's young career. Van Dyck would have likely painted both this work and the finished Ottawa painting when he was no older than 21 years of age, just before the autumn of 1620, when he made his first departure to London.

This painting demonstrates how fully van Dyck had absorbed the lessons of his master Rubens, as well as how soon after he had begun an independent practice that he developed his own signature style.  Though there has long been debate as to the identity of the man, as well as the family depicted in the Ottawa painting, his identity remains a mystery.1  He was most likely a studio model, and the sketch would have stayed with van Dyck in his studio as a reference point from which later figures could have been based. In fact, a number of the figures in Suffer Little Children to Come unto Me are found in later compositions by van Dyck, such as the Christ who appears in Chris and the Penitent Sinners (Bayerische Staatsgemäldegalerie, Munich), and the Apostle at left in the yellow cloak, who appears in numerous later works.2  The practice of making study heads from a live model was first introduced in the Southern Netherlands by Frans Floris and later eagerly embraced by Rubens as well as Van Dyck.  The heads became part of their studio repertory, kept on hand to be used in various multi-figured compositions throughout the artists' careers.  Rubens himself so valued Van Dyck's studies that he kept them long after his prize pupil had left his workshop, and many appear in the inventory of his studio at his death.

Suffer Little Children to Come unto Me was undoubtedly one of van Dyck's first major independent compositions, and as such, he prepared for its final execution with a number of preparatory sketches for the various figures, some of which are extant. The one which comes closest to the present work in character is today in a private collection (Barnes 2004, cat. no. I. 15). Both of these pictures employ quickly applied short white brush strokes along the hair line as finishing touches to the otherwise more polished rendering of the face. In addition, though, van Dyck incorporated other studies into the final work, including two used for the apostles to the left of Christ (Barnes 2004, cat. nos. I.90, which was sold New York, Sotheby's, 28 January 2010, lot 176; and I.91). 

Prior to a cleaning undertaken on the occasion of its exhibition alongside the Ottawa painting at the National Gallery of Canada, clumsy over paint masked the carefully applied highlights and overall highly confident execution which is so readily visible now. Though undoubtedly preparatory, this picture functions as a fully worked up portrait. Van Dyck has gone so far as to include a stone background for contrast, as well as carefully finished clothing with a sharply linear collar. Given the care with which the sketch is finished, it is unsurprising that the likeness of the subject is quite faithfully transferred to the final painting.

We are grateful to Susan Barnes for confirming the attribution, based on firsthand inspection. 

1. See Literature, Barnes 2004, p. 31. 
2. Ibid, cat. nos. I.17, I.20, 1.21. 

Old Master Paintings

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New York