By descent to John Lawrance Venables-Vernon, 9th Lord Vernon (1889–1963);
By whom sold through Colnaghi and Knoedler in 1917 to;
William Butterworth, Illinois;
His wife, Katherine Deere Butterworth (d. 1954), Moline, Illinois;
Her nephew Colonel Charles Deere Wiman, Moline, Illinois;
His widow (1970);
Given by their daughter, Patricia Wiman Hewitt, to Brandywine Conservancy, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania;
By whom sold, New York, Sotheby's, 19 May 1994, lot 19.
J. Smith, A Supplement to the catalogue raisonné of the works of the most eminent Dutch, Flemish and French painters, London 1842, p. 393, no. 88;
J. Guiffrey, Antoine van Dyck: sa vie et son œuvre, Paris 1882, p. 307, no. 974;
W. R. Valentiner, 'Die Van Dyck Ausstellung in Detroit', in Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, LXIII, 5/6, August 15, 1929, pp. 108–09, reproduced;
G. Glück, Klassiker der Kunst, Van Dyck, Des Meisters Gemälde, New York 1931, pp. 209, 541, reproduced p. 209 (as a Genoese Officer);
S. J. Barnes, Van Dyck in Italy, Ph.D diss., New York University 1986, p. 264, no. 45 (as a member of the Raggi family);
E. Larsen, The paintings of Anthony Van Dyck, Freren 1988, vol. II, p. 433, no. A70 (as of Raffaele Raggi, a copy);
S. J. Barnes, N. de Poorter, O. Millar, H. Vey, Van Dyck: A complete catalogue of the paintings, New Haven & London 2004, p. 220, no. II.89, reproduced.
Despite the decline of armour as practical dress on the battlefield during the age of the gun, the imagery implied by it might have taken an added significance due to the recent conflicts endured by the Genoese nobility. In March 1625 Genoa was besieged by Spanish forces to remove the Franco-Savoyard occupiers who had installed themselves within the city only months previously. The eventual relief of Genoa a month later marked a new era of independence and prosperity during the backdrop of the destructive Thirty Years War. Portraits such as these could be considered to display the continued visual appeal of the traditional armoured warrior, ready and able to defend when threatened and attack when provoked.2 The solemn pose of the sitter, with his hands ready to remove his sword from the scabbard, implies readiness for action.
Although the identification of the sitter of this painting is uncertain, it has been suggested that the figure is the model for the imaginary portrait of Prefect Raffaele Raggi (active between 1479–1524) in the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. (fig. 1).3 The Genoese Raggi were one of the leading families during the foundation of the republic in 1528, a century before the painter’s visit to the city. Tommaso Raggi (1597–1679), who raised an army at his own expense in 1625, was also painted in armour by Van Dyck in the style of Titian’s lost portrait of Charles V.4 Barnes also proposed that the sitter might have been an unknown member of the Raggi family, whose identity has since been lost.5 However, it is also possible that Van Dyck may have made use of prints or images of the sixteenth century Prefect, which have since been lost.
The use of full plate armour is a common feature of many of Van Dyck’s male Genoese sitters. This particular harness worn by the sitter, which displays rather rounded pauldrons and breastplate, is highly reminiscent of Italian armours produced in Milan or Brescia during the first decades of the century.6 Compared with the highly personalised and decorated armours encountered in several of his Genoese portraits, such as is worn by Filippo Spinola in a contemporary portrait at Cincinnati Art Museum, the blackened steel of this armour affords the wearer a much more sober appearance. It is quite plausible that patrons would have requested to have been painted in their own harnesses, especially due to the expense of these highly valued objects. The armour reappears only once in Van Dyck’s Italian works, in a portrait of an unknown sitter preserved in the University of Rochester, New York. Curiously, a near identical armour appears in a contemporary painting of David arming himself by Jan Roos (1591–1638), last recorded in a private collection in Genoa.7 Roos and Van Dyck were known to have collaborated on several occasions, as both Flemings were working in the city during the same period. The harness in this painting forms part of a group of breastplates, shields and weapons displayed as part of an elaborate still life centred on the themes of warfare. It is not known whether the armour featured in this still life might have belonged to the Genoese Raggi, or were purely decorative props.
The visual source of many of Van Dyck’s armoured portraits can often be found in sixteenth-century Italian portraiture, and especially those of the Venetian painter Titian. Titian’s Il Bravo, preserved in the Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna, has often been cited as the source for several of Van Dyck’s half-length armoured portraits from this period, including the Washington picture.8 It is likely that the backwards looking tilt of the unknown sitter’s head might have been inspired by the Italian master’s work. The inclusion of Titian’s painting in Van Dyck’s Italian sketchbook, preserved in the British Museum, makes a strong case for this.9 However, the particular pose of this portrait, showing the sitter in side profile with a firm grasp on the pommel and scabbard, also shows a remarkable likeness to that of a North Italian armoured portrait in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (fig. 2). Scholarship has also suggested that it might be a copy of a lost work by Titian.10 An earlier portrait of a man in armour, attributed to Francesco Granacci (fig. 3), also depicts an armoured warrior in a similar pose with hands ready on his sword. Although it is tempting to think that Van Dyck might have encountered one of these images during his travels, neither are to be found in the British Museum sketchbook. Whether his borrowings from sixteenth-century paintings were employed to suggest continuity with the past, and be hung harmoniously alongside earlier family portraits, remains unclear.
One painted copy of this painting is known, the composition with the figure at knee-length in an interior which appeared in the M. Biondi Sale, Milan, 2 December 1929, lot 62.
Another version of the painting is recorded in a drawing by Lorenzo de Ferrari.11 This alternative version places the figure within an architectural setting, and features the Order of Calatrava on the sitter’s breastplate. Curiously, a black and white photograph preserved in the Witt Library shows the current portrait bearing the same cross on figure’s armour. This device was presumably removed at some point between Knoedler’s sale of the picture in 1917 and the reproduction of the portrait by Glück in 1931. It is difficult, but not impossible, to suggest that the current portrait might once have been the picture seen and drawn by Ferrari. Ferrari also produced a drawing of the Cincinatti portrait of Fillipo Spinola, which was part of the Genoese Balbi collection during the artist’s lifetime. It is plausible that this alternative version could have also once formed part of this family collection, and might be identified as one of two unidentified sitters wearing armour as recorded by Ratti in 1780.12
Presumably on the basis of an old photograph, Eric Larsen published this picture, which he did not reproduce and whose whereabouts were unknown to him, as a copy of the Washington portrait of Raffaele Raggi.13 Neither the sitter's physiognomy, nor his pose, nor the overall composition are the same, and it is clear that neither work is a copy of the other. Larsen's view was rightly ignored by Barnes et al., and in the context of the rest of his book, his rejection of it speaks strongly in favour of Van Dyck's authorship.
Fig. 1. Sir Anthony Van Dyck, Portrait of the Prefect Raphael Raggi, oil on canvas, 131 x 105.5 cm. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Fig. 2. Attributed to North Italian School, Portrait of a nobleman in armour, oil on canvas, 92.5 x 70 cm. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
Fig. 3. Attributed to Francesco Granacci, Portrait of a man in armour, oil on panel, 70.5 x 51.5 cm., NG895. National Gallery, London.
1. G. P. Bellori, Le vite de’ pittori, scultori ed architetti moderni, Rome 1672, p. 225.
2. For a discussion on armour as a complex tool for self-fashioning see C. Springer, Armour and Masculinity in the Italian Renaissance, Toronto 2010.
3. See Barnes under Literature, p. 197, no. II.55, reproduced.
4. Idem, p. 198, no. II.56, reproduced.
5. Idem, p. 220.
6. A decorated armour of this style, dated to the 1620s, is preserved in the Museo Civico Marzoli, Brescia, inv. no. 856, reproduced in L. G. Boccia et al., Armi e Armature Lombarde, Milan 1980, p. 175, no. 213.
7. See A. Orlando, 'Gli anni Genovesi di Pieter Boel', in Paragone, XLIX, no. 581, July 1998, reproduced as no. 35.
8. Op. cit., p. 197.
9. British Museum, London, inv. 1957, 1214.207.65.
10. A. Boschetto, Giovan Gerolamo Savoldo, Milan 1963, p. 223.
11. See Genueser Zeichungen des 16. bis 18. Jahrhunderts im Hessischen Landesmuseum Darmstadt, exhibition catalogue, Darmstadt 1990, no. 77.
12. C. G. Ratti, Instruzione di quanto può vedersi di più bello in Genova in pittura, scultura, ed architettura ecc., Genoa 1780, pp. 193, 195.
13. See under Literature.
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