Sir Anthony van Dyck
- Anthony van Dyck
- Head of a boy with clasped hands, a study for Suffer Little Children to Come unto Me
- oil on paper, laid down on canvas
- 17 3/8 by 12 in.; 44 by 30.5 cm.
Thence by descent in the family to William Alexander Louis Stephen, 12th Duke of Hamilton (1845-1895), Hamilton Palace, Scotland;
His sale, London, Christie's, 8 July 1882, lot 1033, to E. Warneck for £47 and 5 shillings;
Edouard Warneck, Paris, 1882-1926;
His sale, Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, 27 May 1926, lot 37, to Blumenreich;
With Leo Blumenreich, Berlin;
Fritz Hess, Berlin;
His sale, Lucerne, Cassirer-Fischer, 1 September 1931, lot 13, 10,500 Swiss francs, to Haas;
Anonymous sale, London, Phillips, 20 April 1993, lot 47 (as studio of van Dyck);
Deborah Gage, London, 1996.
Baltimore 1999, no. 16;
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, The Young van Dyck, 20 November 2012 - 3 March 2013, no. 37.
Hamilton Inventories, Beckford MSS, Bodleian Library, Oxford, vol. 12, inventory of 13 October 1704 at Kinneil Castle, Scotland, inv. no. 273;
Hamilton Inventories, Beckford MSS, Bodleian Library, Oxford, vol. 13, inventory of 7 June 1759 at Hamilton Palace, Scotland, inv. no. 72;
W. Bode, Rembrandt und seine Zeitgenossen, Leipzig 1906, p. 264;
R. Oldenbourg, "Studien zu van Dyck", in Münchner Jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst, vol. IX, 1914-1915, p. 232;
W. Bode, Die Meister der Höllandischen und Vlämischen Malerschulen, Leipzig 1919, p. 347-348;
H. Rosebaum, "Über Früh-Portraits von van Dyck", in Der Cicerone, vol. XX, 1928, p. 365;
L. Burchard, "Christ Blessing the Children by Anthony van Dyck", in The Burlington Magazine, 72, 1938, pp. 29-30, reproduced fig. B;
K. Garas, "Ein unbekanntes Porträt der Familie Rubens auf einem Gemälde van Dycks", in Acta historiae artium academiae scientiarum hungaricae, 63, 1955, p. 199, cat. no. 10;
H. Vey, Die Zeichnungen Anton van Dycks, Brussels 1962, p. 102;
E. Waterhouse, Anthony van Dyck: Suffer Little Children to Come unto Me, Masterpieces in the National Gallery of Canada, vol. II, Ottawa 1978, p. 16, cat. no. 9;
I. Compin, "La donation Hélène et Victor Lyon", in La Revue du Louvre, 23, 5/6, 1978, p. 384;
J. Rupert Martin and G. Feigenbaum, Van Dyck as a Religious Artist, exhibition catalogue, Princeton 1979, p. 92;
A. McNairn, The Young van Dyck, exhibition catalogue, Ottawa 1980, p. 155;
M. Laskin and M. Pantazzi, Catalogue of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa: European and American Paintings, Sculpture and Decorative Arts, 1300-1800, vol. I, Ottawa 1987, p. 100;
E. Larsen, The Paintings of Anthony van Dyck, Freren 1988, vol. II, p. 108, cat. no. 255;
S.J. Barnes, Van Dyck a Genova, Grande Pittura e Collezionismo, exhibition catalogue, Genoa 1997, pp. 74-75, reproduced;
New Orleans 1997, pp. 42-44, cat. no. 17, reproduced p. 43;
Baltimore 1999, pp. 42-44, cat. no. 16, reproduced inside cover and p. 43;
C. Brown, Van Dyck 1599-1641, p. 108, under cat. no. 8, note 1, reproduced fig. 1;
S.J. Barnes, N. De Poorter, O. Millar, H. Vey, Van Dyck, A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, New Haven 2003, p. 31, cat. no. I.15;
J.J. Pérez Preciado in, The Young van Dyck, exhibition catalogue, A. Vergara and F. Lammertse ed., Madrid 2012, pp. 194-195 cat. no 37 and p. 199, under cat. no 38, reproduced p.195.
Numerous preparatory sketches from van Dyck’s early period in Antwerp survive today, though later in the artist's career the practice appeared to tail off. He commonly created swift yet detailed studies in oil on paper, many of which were later mounted onto panel. The effect of oil on this medium is very different from its sleek appearance on panel and the result provides surprising insight into the artist’s technique and application of paint.3 It is clear that the characterization of the sitter was of the utmost importance in this case and as such the paint is more concentrated and heavily worked up in the face and hands. In these key areas the paint is densely applied in a thick impasto and the texture is almost dragged and grainy. Less important areas, such as his clothing, are indicated in thin, broad strokes and the overall effect is swift and spontaneous. As José Juan Pérez Preciado writes:
“instead of trying to capture the details of the boy’s features, the artist seems to have concentrated his efforts more on reflecting the psychological qualities and the attitude that the child was to convey in the final painting.”4
The sitter’s eyes are cast downward in humility, but the artist also conveys a certain “nervous tension” in the boy’s demeanor, as Oliver Millar notes.5 The artist skillfully expresses the subtle emotion of the child; his hands are gingerly pressed together and there is a slight tautness at the corners of the mouth.
The vivacity and naturalness of the sitters in the right hand section of in the finished Ottawa composition suggest these figures are portraits of a real family, incorporated into the biblical scene.6 Klara Garas, Ellis Waterhouse and Alain McNairn considered it a strong possibility that the family portrayed was that of Peter Paul Rubens and his first wife, Isabella Brant.7 By that reasoning, the boy in this sketch would be Rubens' eldest son, Albert, who was born in 1614. Nora de Poorter, amongst others, have since rejected the hypothesis, however, finding the resemblance to Rubens and Isabella Brant less convincing and questioning the inclusion of a fourth child in addition to their own three offspring.8 The identity of the boy and his family thus remain a mystery.
A workshop version of this sketch, showing the boy without hands, is now in the Museé du Louvre, Paris (inv. no. 1961-83). That study was also offered in the 1926 Warneck sale (see Provenance) and its inclusion alongside the present sketch led to the assumption that the Louvre picture was also an autograph work. The quality, however, is inferior to that of the present painting and as such the Louvre picture is now considered to be a workshop variant.9
1. New York, Sotheby's, 30 January 2014, lot 24; New York, Sotheby's, 28 January 2010, lot 176.
2. J.J. Pérez Preciado, under Literature, p. 194, note 5.
3. New Orleans 1997, under Literature, p. 42.
4. J.J. Pérez Preciado, op. cit.
5. New Orleans 1997, op. cit.
6. N. de Poorter, under Literature, p. 31, under cat. no. I.14.
7. A. McNairn, K. Garas, E. Waterhouse in, The Young van Dyck, exhibition catalogue, A. McNairn ed., Ottaway 1980, cat. no. 71.
8. N. de Poorter, op. cit.