Test your connoisseurship, ctd.

September 26 2012

Image of Test your connoisseurship, ctd.

Picture: Philip Mould & Company

It's plug time again everyone - the final episode of this series of 'Fake or Fortune?' goes out this Sunday (BBC1, 7pm). The picture above is the subject of the show - and the question for all you budding connoisseurs is, is this by Van Dyck, or not? We bought it at auction as 'after Van Dyck' - so have we blown many thousands of pounds on a worthless copy, or is there more to this picture than meets the eye?

Be brave, and send me your immediate thoughts!

[Update II - I've posted some details of the head and hands below]

[Update III - before anyone gets cross about me asking you to make judgements from a digital photo, and not the real thing, remember, it's just for fun! And the auction photo online was the first image we had of the picture, so it's 'pretend you're a dealer' day.]

Update - a reader writes:

Would have said not much chance (forgive me, unless tons of overpaint) but as it is the subject of your programme I guess it will have a happy ending!!

In the last series we had two unhappy endings, and one happy one, and one indeterminate. For this series we've had two happy endings - so are we due an unhappy one?

Using the same logic, another reader writes:

The theme in FOF seems to be discovering in those I've seen so far that the works are indeed thought to be original. Having said that this doesn't seem to have the luminosity most Van Dycks have. I'm saying "after" or "school of" not orig.


Looking at the relatively high-res image on the Christie’s site, the drawing of the both arms, the bosom, the left shoulder, and the clumsy handling of the drapery is not masterly, but that is not say it is not Van Dyck. You have probably found enough comparisons to tell us that it is a late Van Dyck (+ studio?). I recall you saying that like most artists working in England, Van Dyck gradually descended in quality.

And another:

First impressions on this painting would suggest that it's a studio piece, possibly with the head by the master. The arms and hands seem weak, and the whole body seems stiff, with none of Van Dyck's ease, I hope to be proved wrong...

From Twitter, we have shorter reasoning. My favourite so far:

So not a Van Dyck.

More optimistically:

I say yes to the van Dyck. Subject matter is right, textiles look right. Hands were not what he did best. Needs cleaning.

Which reminds me of one of my favourite Van Dyck anecdotes - when asked why he took such care over painting hands, he replied, 'the hands pay the bill'.

Another 'no' comes in:

[...] my gut feeling is that it is not by Van Dyck, mostly because of the dress which I feel should be more crisp.

And from a new contributor:

First time I have ever posted anything.

I think it is a van Dyck – the lace looks right.

One reader goes for condition:

My guess - a Van Dyke that was harshly re-lined at some point, and over-cleaned.

While another sees the hand of another artist altogether:

Regarding the Van Dyck mentioned today that was recently bought at auction, is it John Michael Wright possibly emulating Van Dyck.



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