Probably John, 1st Earl Spencer (1734-1783);
George John, 2nd Earl Spencer (1758-1834) (L.1530);
probably his sale, London, T. Phillipe, 10-17 June 1811, lot 692 ("Rubens: An old man's head with a large beard, red and black chalk, very fine.");
Private Collection, Belgium;
sale, Paris Christie's 15 November 2006, lot 77 (as Flemish School, 17th Century)
Although the sitter's copious beard does make his identification rather hard, those features that can still be seen appear to correspond well with those of Eerryk de Putte, known as Erycius Puteanus (1574-1646), a notable historian and philologist at the University of Louvain, who also worked in Italy, where he had the honour of being the first foreign Doctor at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan. Around 1627-35, Van Dyck made a drawing of Puteanus, now in the British Museum, which served as the basis for his engraved portrait in the Iconography, and there is also a painting of roughly the same date, in Raleigh, North Carolina.1 In the present drawing, the sitter is clearly somewhat older, and the most likely dating would seem to be circa 1638-39.
1. See C. Brown, Van Dyck Drawings, exhib. cat., new York, Pierpont Morgan Library, and Fort Worth, Kimbell Museum, 1991, pp. 198-9, no. 56
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