Van Dyck - or Rubens?

June 11 2011

Image of Van Dyck - or Rubens?

Picture: Sotheby's

Sotheby's announced today a highlight of their forthcoming July Old Master sales. Portrait of a Carmelite Monk (oil on panel, 62.3 x 48 cm) is being hailed as a new discovery of an early work by Van Dyck. The estimate is £600-800,000.

It is an exquisite painting, and looks to be in fine condition. Colours on panel tend to last better than when on canvas, and here one senses the freshness of the painting, as if it was made only recently. One also sees how the paint has been physically worked up with layers of impasto, in an almost sculptural manner. 

Traditionally, the painting has been attributed to Rubens. But Sotheby's has given it instead to Van Dyck, and dated it to c.1617-20. George Gordon, Sotheby's co-Chairman, observes:

...that while Rubens’ portraits are always formally composed, the current work, especially the way the young monk’s head is turned to one side, creates an impression of spontaneity. In addition, the brushwork in the present picture, which is painted in oil on oak panel, is clearly legible throughout most of the painting and is more reminiscent of Anthony Van Dyck when he worked in Rubens’ studio, than of his teacher. Specifically, the use of thick paint to denote highlights in the sitter’s habit is a characteristic of Van Dyck’s personal style at this date, and can be seen in a series of paintings the artist made of the Apostles.

It has become something of a fashion to re-attribute Rubens's made between c.1616-21 to Van Dyck, who was by far Ruben's best pupil. I haven't seen the painting myself, but to be honest my initial hunch from the image is that this leans more towards Rubens. 

Either way, it looks like a bargain at that estimate, and will surely sell for more. 

Notice to "Internet Explorer" Users

You are seeing this notice because you are using Internet Explorer 6.0 (or older version). IE6 is now a deprecated browser which this website no longer supports. To view the Art History News website, you can easily do so by downloading one of the following, freely available browsers:

Once you have upgraded your browser, you can return to this page using the new application, whereupon this notice will have been replaced by the full website and its content.