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Portrait of a Lady of Quality

Anton van Dyck

(1599 - 1641) | 818.1.42

Date : 1631 | Medium : Oil on canvas

Anthony van Dyck is famous above all for his portraits, and with good reason. Not only did he renew the genre in the first half of the 17th century, just like Velázquez, by adding a sense of reality, a taste for psychology and a new closeness to the viewer, but he also travelled all over Europe and enjoyed enormous success in the royal courts of the entire continent, from London and Antwerp to Genoa. In this respect he also recalls Rubens, to whom he was even closer, given that he learned his trade and the new science of colouring at Rubens’s studio, with the result that for centuries to come Van Dyck was to be referred to as ‘the pupil of Rubens’. 

The ‘pupil’ had talent, however, and they were legion, starting with a magnificent pictorial technique. In this Portrait of a Lady of Quality, the treatment of the eyes and especially the eyelashes, the outlines of the cheeks and the nose, and the play of light on the forehead all show this great artist’s characteristic touch. 

Van Dyck also had his own style. Where Rubens’s portraits are imbued with sobriety, majesty and grandeur, Van Dyck is lighter, more familiar and more realistic. This lady of quality seems very close to us. She almost seems to want to talk to us, with her mouth slightly open and that slight turn of her head, a characteristic feature that recurs in many of the artist’s portraits.