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Portrait of Willem Hondius

Portrait of Willem Hondius
with inscription ‘van Dyk.’ (on the mount, lower right)
black chalk, grey and brown wash, pen and brown ink, heightened with white
8 ½ x 6 ½ in. (21.5 x 16.5 cm)
Possibly Gabriel Huquier (1695-1772), Paris; Paris, 9 November-5 December 1772, part of lot 169 (‘Le portrait de Van-Uden, le même qui a été grave par L. Vorstermann, & de la même grandeur, il est un-peu plus que de profil, & tient une estampe & une tête d’homme vue de face, ces deux portraits au crayon noir, & au bistre, sont du plus beau de Van-Dyck.’).
Peter Adolf Hall (1739-1793), Paris (L. 1285, previously identified as the mark of Huquier); Paris, 15-22 November 1779, lot 374 (‘Autre Portrait d’Artiste [the previous lot being a portrait of Lucas van Uden], de la même suite, avec rabat à dentelles, la main gauche sur son ventre & tenant sa draperie, à la pierre noire & à la plume, 8 sur 6 de lar.’; 56 livres to Pierre-François Basan).
Count Jakob Gustaf De la Gardie (1768-1842), Löberöd (according to an inscription by Johan Olof Granberg on the recto of the mount: ‘På begäran får jag harmed förklara, att jag ovanstående svartkritsporträtt,/ med bortseende av senare isatte tuschsträck, vara ett egenhändigt, ur greve Jakob De la Gardies samling på Löberöd arbete av Anthonis van Dyck,/ framställande gravören Willem Hondius./ Stockholm 17 Nov. 1928/ Olof Granberg/ Intendent.’; a similar inscription by him, also from 1928, on the verso).
Bengt Johan Låftman (1881-1976), Helsingborg (according to letters to him by Granberg, dated 1915).
Art market, Stockholm, 1970s or 1980s, where acquired by a private collector; by descent to the current owners.
J.A. Spicer, ‘Anthony van Dyck’s Iconography: An Overview of its Preparation’, in Susan J. Barnes and Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr., eds., Van Dyck 350, Washington, D.C., 1994, pp. 346, 358, under no. 29.
M.-A. Dupuy-Vachey, ‘Lugt 1285: from Gabriel Huquier to Peter Adolf Hall’, Master Drawings, LV, no. 4 (Winter 2017), no. I,111, p. 529.
S. Alsteens, ‘Van Dyck and Willem Hondius’ (in preparation).
Willem Hondius, circa 1632 (S. Turner, Anthony van Dyck, Rotterdam, 2002, II, no. 66, ill.).

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Lot Essay

This newly discovered work by Anthony van Dyck – one of the most important Northern drawings to have surfaced in recent decades – enriches the œuvre of the outstanding portraitist of his age with a sheet that masterfully demonstrates his ability to imbue a sitter’s likeness with something more than physical beauty: acuity, depth of feeling, a strong sense of character, and a suggested refinement, both in bearing and of thought, with which he could ennoble almost anyone he depicted, regardless of rank or accomplishments. A form of flattery, to be sure, but one that derives its effectiveness from the subtlety with which it was deployed. Only slightly turned towards the left and facing the viewer in clothes of understated elegance, a man in early middle age of friendly countenance seems to avoid rather than seek our eyes, and yet his gaze has a quietly hypnotic quality. In a variation of a pose Van Dyck was fond of, the man holds with an eloquent gesture of his hand a voluminous cloak, one end thrown over his left arm, against his stomach. His hair, moustache and beard achieve the perfect balance between tousled and groomed, framing a face that could be that of a pensive poet, at the same time alert and distracted. He wears his clothes with a sartorial nonchalance that would be the envy of any dandy.

A related engraving reveals the identity of the man: Willem Hondius (circa 1598-1652), the son of the Dutch publisher and engraver Hendrick Hondius and himself a gifted printmaker (fig. 1; see S. Turner, op. cit., II, no. 66, ill.; for Hondius, see Hondius, see N.M. Orenstein, Hendrick Hondius and the Business of Prints in Seventeenth-Century Holland, Rotterdam, 1996, pp. 83-85; and K.E. Kandt, ‘Netherlandish Artists in 17th-Century Danzig: New Evidence from Archival Sources’, in Niderlandyzm na Śląsku i w krajach ościennych, Wrocław, 2003, pp. 305-309). After his father, he was the most distinguished engraver in his native The Hague when Van Dyck portrayed him. A few years later, however, in 1636, he left Holland for Danzig (Gdańsk), the port city in modern-day Poland with strong commercial ties to the Dutch Republic, where Hondius remarried and remained active as a printmaker until the end of his life.

As the letter of the portrait indicates, Hondius himself was responsible for the print in the same sense, which can thus be considered a self-portrait. The print belongs to one of Van Dyck’s most ambitious undertakings, a print series which eventually comprised one hundred plates, and which became known as the Iconographie, after an eighteenth-century edition (J.A. Spicer, ‘Anthony van Dyck’s Iconography: An Overview of its Preparation’, in Van Dyck 350, Washington, D.C., 1994, pp. 326-364; C. Depauw and G. Luijten, Anthony van Dyck as a Printmaker, exhib. cat., Antwerp, Museum Plantin-Moretus, Stedelijk Prentenkanbinet, and Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, Rijksprentenkabinet, 1999-2000, pp. 72-91, nos. 5-29, ill.; Turner, op. cit., IX, pp. xxv-liii; and S. Alsteens and A. Eaker in Van Dyck. The Anatomy of Portraiture, exhib. cat., New York, The Frick Collection, 2016, pp. 21-27, 134-135, nos. 34-64, ill.). The title of the first known seventeenth-century edition, which was published in Antwerp in 1645 or 1646, after Van Dyck’s death, gives a clearer indication of its content: ‘Images of the most eminent learned men, painters, printmakers, sculptors, as well as lovers of painting, depicted from life by the painter Anthony van Dyck and engraved at his expense’ (Icones principum virorum doctorum, pictorum, chalcographorum, statuariorum, nec non amatorum pictoriae artis ab Antonio van Dyck pictore ad vivum expressae eiusque sumptibus aeri incisae). The series also includes some of the crowned heads, military commanders and noblemen and noblewomen of the time. Much more easily accessible than the artist’s portrait paintings, which would have been displayed in private homes and palaces, it is these prints that assured the fame of Van Dyck’s genius as a portraitist, and that made him the most influential model for artists working in the genre for generations and centuries to come. Countless copies of varying quality survive after these prints, a few of them deceptively close to the originals. Indeed, a copy of the portrait print of Hondius, painstakingly finished in red chalk, was recently on the market (sale Hôtel Drouot (Millon), Paris, 24 November 2022, lot 39).

Much regarding the production of the Iconographie is still unclear. Van Dyck followed in a tradition of series of portraits of artists and other famous men, three of which had been published – coincidentally or not – by Hendrick Hondius (N.M. Orenstein, Hendrick Hondius, Roosendaal, 1994, nos. 80-115, 116-155, 156-208, ill.). Van Dyck probably started working on the first prints in the series shortly after returning to Antwerp from Italy in 1627. These early plates were first etched by Van Dyck himself, and some count among the most admired of seventeenth-century prints, despite the artist’s initial lack of experience with the medium; the early states were later finished with the burin by some of Antwerp’s most gifted engravers, most notably Paulus Pontius, Lucas Vorsterman and Pieter de Jode the Younger. They worked after drawings by Van Dyck, more than forty of which survive today (H. Vey, Die Zeichnungen Anton van Dycks, Brussels, 1962, I, pp. 40-51, nos. 240-281, II, figs. 294-333; C. Brown, The Drawings of Anthony van Dyck, exhib. cat., New York, The Pierpont Morgan Library, and Fort Worth, Kimbell Art Museum, 1991, pp. 190-193, nos. 54-63, ill.; Depauw and Luijten, op. cit., nos. 7, 7b, 11a, 19a, 23A, 24a, 25a, 26a, ill.; Alsteens and Eaker, op. cit., nos. 37, 38, 41, 43, 45, 46, 48, 53, 58, 59, 62, 63, ill.). In the creation of some of the plates, monochrome oil sketches, most of them in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch at Boughton House, also seem to have played a role (H. Vey in S. Barnes et al., Van Dyck. A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, New Haven and London 2004, p. 365, nos. III.145-III.167, ill.; Depauw and Luijten, op. cit., nos. 22a, 23b, 26b, 27a, ill.; Alsteens and Eaker, op. cit., nos. 40, 42, 44, 47, ill.).

The first mention of the series dates from the winter of 1631, a few months before Van Dyck moved to London and became court painter to King Charles I. During a visit to The Hague, on 28 January 1632, Van Dyck portrayed the secretary of Stadtholder Frederick Henry and homo universalis Constantijn Huygens, as the latter recorded in his diary. The print after Huygens’s portrait was engraved (in Antwerp, by Paulus Pontius) within a few weeks, because Huygens had seen it by March of the same year, and dedicated a poem to it and to ‘Van Dyck’s book of images of illustrious men’. Whether a first edition of the series actually came out that spring remains an open question, however. As mentioned above, the first known edition dates from a few years after Van Dyck’s death. In any case, the drawing of Hondius presented here and the print must date from the same winter as the portrait of Huygens, Van Dyck’s only firmly documented visit to the Dutch capital. That the two artists met should not surprise, given the status of Hondius father and son as the best engravers in the city. Van Dyck must have been pleased with the result of Hondius’s work for him, and employed him for another print in the series: the portrait of the Antwerp painter Frans Francken the Younger, for which a drawing survives in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (fig. 2; inv. V 15 (PK); see Vey, op. cit., 1962, I, no. 252, II, fig. 311; and A.W.F.M. Meij, Rubens, Jordaens, Van Dyck and Their Circle. Flemish Master Drawings from the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 2001, no. 64, ill.; for the print, see Turner, op. cit., II, no. 62, ill.).

As the comparison between the drawn portraits of Francken and Hondius show, there is considerable, even surprising variety in the models Van Dyck made for the series: some are done in chalk in a rather swift manner, like the Rotterdam sheet; others are more elaborately finished, with wash and sometimes even pen and white heightening. The drawing under discussion belongs to the latter category, and is among the most beautiful and best preserved of its kind. It corresponds rather closely with the print, the main difference being the buttons, which Van Dyck in his drawing indicated with quick curls of the pen, without the buttonholes visible in the print. Another difference is the way the lace of the cuff is detailed. Otherwise Hondius followed the drawing closely, and included the details Van Dyck added in pen; this even goes for the elbow of the left sleeve, which Van Dyck drew with a swift stroke of the pen, faithfully replicated by Hondius with his burin. Also with the pen, Van Dyck clarified the contours of Hondius’s thumb, as he did those of the little finger, which he also shortened by covering the extremity with dark brown ink.

Among the drawings for the Iconographie that can be cited as stylistic comparisons are the portrait of the Antwerp collector Jacomo de Cachiopin at the Musée du Louvre (inv. 182 DR), with the penwork in the face, the buttons, and the pommel of the sword; that of the Louvain scholar Theodoor van Thulden in the same collection (inv. 19907), with penwork in the lace collar very similar to that in the collar and cuff of the portrait of Hondius, and touches of white bodycolor; of the landscapist Jan Wildens at the British Museum, London (inv. 1925,0711.2), with penwork in the collar, and a plain gray background; of the Antwerp sculptor Hubert van den Eynden (fig. 3) and the Italian painter Orazio Gentileschi, a colleague of Van Dyck at the English court, also in the British Museum (inv. 1900,0824.141, Gg,2.238), and of the painter Hendrick van Steenwijck the Younger at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt (inv. 791), all three of which show a similar degree of finish, including in the background (for these drawings, see Vey, op. cit., 1962, I, nos. 256, 275, 268, 270, 273, 276, II, figs. 313, 317, 323, 325, 327, 329; and Alsteens and Eaker, op. cit., nos. 45, 58, 63, ill.). In the portrait of Van den Eynden just mentioned, Van Dyck used a particularly felicitous blend of chalk and gray wash, an effect that also contributes much to the beauty of the portrait of Hondius, especially in the sleeves, the collar and the face; the chalk used in these drawings has a very similar, somewhat unusual grainy quality. Unlike most of these drawings, the portrait of Hondius belongs to a small group of print designs for the Iconographie in the same direction as the print; the majority of the drawings were reversed in the printmaking process. Perhaps significantly, among the drawings not reversed is the sheet related to the one other print which Hondius made after Van Dyck’s design, the portrait of Francken already mentioned above (other designs not reversed are the portraits of Don Carlos de Coloma, Adriaen van Stalbemt and Sebastiaan Vrancx; see Vey, op. cit., 1962, I, nos. 259, 267, 250, II, figs. 312, 321, 303; for the related prints, see Turner, op. cit., I, no. 19, ill., III, nos. 92, 101, ill.).

The collector’s mark at lower right of the current drawing, long thought to be that of the French printmaker Gabriel Huquier (as in F. Lugt, Les Marques de collections de dessins et d’estampes, The Hague, 1921, no. 1285), has recently been identified as that of another artist active in Paris in the eighteenth century: the Swedish-born Peter Adolf Hall (Dupuy-Vachey, op. cit.). A miniaturist of renown, Hall also assembled a very distinguished collection of drawings, in which works by Jean-Antoine Watteau and by two of Hall’s friends, Jean-Honoré Fragonard and Hubert Robert, featured prominently. Not surprising in a portraitist, Hall also greatly admired Van Dyck; in fact, his own work was sometimes compared to that of the Flemish master, for instance by Denis Diderot, who called Hall ‘un Vandyck dans son genre’ (Salons IV. Héros et martyrs. Salons de 1769, 1771, 1775, 1781. Pensées détachées sur la peinture, Paris, 1995, p. 218). A manuscript inventory of Hall’s drawings and the catalogue of their sale in Paris on 15-22 November 1779 give a detailed idea of the collection, and allowed its recent reconstruction. Several Van Dycks from Hall’s cabinet can now be found at the Louvre (inv. 19911, 19914, 19915; see Vey, op. cit., 1962, I, nos. 91, 173, 174, II, figs. 122, 217, 218; and Dupuy-Vachey, op. cit., pp. 512, 513-514, nos. I,73, I,76, I,82, figs. 34, 36). The portrait of Hondius can easily be identified in the two documents: the inventory simply lists it as ‘le portrait de Hondius’ (Dupuy-Vachey, op. cit., fig. 7), whereas the sale catalogue describes the drawing in detail, albeit without identifying the sitter by name (see Provenance).

At the 1779 sale the drawing was knocked down to the printmaker, publisher and expert Pierre-François Basan, who must have been bidding on behalf of a client. This may well have been a compatriot of Hall; by the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century, the drawing is recorded in one of the best-known Swedish collections of drawings, that of Jakob Gustav De la Gardie (Lugt, op. cit., no. 2722a). The drawing remained in the country until its recent rediscovery. It is only the third drawing by Van Dyck for the Iconographie to appear on the market in over a century. The two others were both also offered at Christie’s, and acquired by American museums. In 1970, a previously unknown portrait of the sixteenth-century sculptor Jacques Dubroeucq was sold at King Street on 1 December of that year (lot 54), and later given by Eugene V. Thaw to the Morgan Library and Museum, New York (inv. 2004.38; see Brown, op. cit., no. 57, ill.). In 1984, in the first sale of drawings from the collections of the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth (Christie’s, London, 3 July 1984, lot 55), a portrait of Van Dyck’s first teacher, Hendrick van Balen, was included, and acquired at the auction by the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (inv. 84.GB.92; see Vey, op. cit., 1962, I, no. 257, II, fig. 310; and Eaker in idem and Alsteens, op. cit., no. 37, ill.). With the exception of the magnificent group of portraits in black chalk remaining at Chatsworth (inv. 995-997, 999-1002A; see Vey, op. cit., 1962, I, nos. 242, 245, 260, 261, 271, 277, 278, II, figs. 294, 295, 308, 309, 316, 328, 331; M. Jaffé, The Devonshire Collection of Northern European Drawings, Turin, 2002, I, nos. 953-957, 959-961, ill.; Alsteens and Eaker, op. cit., nos. 38, 41, 43, 48, ill.), the portrait of Hondius is now the last known drawing for the Iconographie still in private hands. Its rediscovery marks a major addition to the work of one of the great masters of the Baroque, and its sale offers a truly rare opportunity to acquire a Flemish seventeenth-century drawing of the finest quality.

Fig. 1. Willem Hondius, after Anthony van Dyck, Willem Hondius. Engraving (second state). Frits Lugt Collection, Fondation Custodia, Paris.

Fig. 2. Anthony van Dyck, Frans Francken the Younger. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam.

Fig. 3. Anthony van Dyck, Hubert van den Eynden. British Museum, London.

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