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SIR ANTHONY VAN DYCK (ANTWERP 1599-1641 LONDON)
SIR ANTHONY VAN DYCK (ANTWERP 1599-1641 LONDON)
SIR ANTHONY VAN DYCK (ANTWERP 1599-1641 LONDON)
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PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN
SIR ANTHONY VAN DYCK (ANTWERP 1599-1641 LONDON)

Head study of a bearded man

Details
SIR ANTHONY VAN DYCK (ANTWERP 1599-1641 LONDON)
Head study of a bearded man
oil on canvas, laid on panel
13 ¾ x 9 5/8 in. (34.9 x 24.5 cm.)
Provenance
The Earls of Rosse, Birr Castle, Co. Offaly, Ireland, until 2014.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 10 July 2015, lot 113, where acquired by the present owner.

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Francois de Poortere
Francois de Poortere International Director, Head of Department

Lot Essay

This swiftly painted head study was executed by the young van Dyck in circa 1617, while the artist was working in the Antwerp studio of Peter Paul Rubens. It appears to have been painted as a preparatory work for his altarpiece of The Descent of the Holy Spirit (Bildergalerie, Schloss Sanssouci, Potsdam), where van Dyck used it for the Apostle standing at the left of the composition, dressed in a whitish-grey cloak.

The model for van Dyck’s sketch appears to have sat for numerous studies by the artist and his features can be identified in several of the painter’s large early works, as with the Suffer the Little Children and Come unto Me of circa 1618-20 (National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa) and the roughly contemporary Crowning with Thorns (Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid). Van Dyck also painted another study of the model’s head (sold Sotheby’s, New York, 28 January 2010, lot 176), which, like the present picture, was executed on canvas, an unusual support for such works, especially in the context of Rubens’ studies which frequently used paper.

At some later point in its history, the present study was adjusted to create the appearance of a more ‘finished’ work, and as with many of van Dyck’s head studies, was adapted by a later hand into a larger picture, turning the figure into Saint Peter. The original canvas was inserted into a larger canvas, onto which the body of Saint Peter was painted, with both canvases laid onto panel. These subsequent interferences have since been removed, restoring van Dyck’s lively sketch to its original, spirited appearance.

Dr. Christopher Brown and Rev. Susan Barnes independently endorsed the attribution following firsthand inspection in advance of the 2015 sale.

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