“Van Dyck's handsome portraits had given me so fine an idea of the beauty of all English ladies, that I was surprised to find that the Queen, who looked so fine in painting, was a small woman raised up on her chair, with long skinny arms and teeth like defence works projecting from her mouth” (Sophia, later Electoress of Hanover)
|The mother of all Swagger Portraits: |
"Charles I at the Hunt" by Anthony van Dyck (1635)
|Idle Hands - Anthony van Dyck's portrait of Charles' Queen Henrietta Maria (1632)|
He was the star pupil of Rubens’ workshop back home in Antwerp, an acknowledged master at the age of 19 himself and the darling of Flemish society. But they didn’t employ Rubens in the diplomatic service for nothing. While he tolerated the rise of a new star in the Flemish art world, the old master knew that painting the likenesses of the good burghers of Antwerp and becoming something of their mascot while the cash taken from the moneybags allowed for the extravagant lifestyle van Dyck cherished, he would never truly rival the master with something considered inferior art. Van Dyck painted fashionably while Rubens perpetuated himself with the plus-sized sujets of the Grand Manner. A well planned artistic offside trap and, in his vanity, van Dyck fell for it. And if it hadn’t been for King Charles’ patronage, it might have been the end of his career. Thus, van Dyck could not only eternalise an iconic beard style and cavalier costumes but paint a few pieces in the Baroque Grand Manner, even if they were not quite that what he became famous for. Ironically enough, van Dyck was sick unto death already when Rubens died in 1640 and even though the way was free for the arguably greatest Baroque portraitist to step out of the master’s shadow and follow in his footsteps towards the contemporary Grand Manner, alas, it was not to be. While young Rembrandt about the same time managed to step away from being committed to painting the likenesses of the upper crust and become, arguably, "one of the great prophets of civilization", van Dyck’s legacy is usually fixed on being first and foremost that of a dandy, a courtier and a court painter. Although he is, along with Holbein and his contemporary Diego Velázquez, to be considered one of the greatest and most influential of the genre. And nobody else would work out the peculiarities of pre-Civil War cavaliers and their king with a “totally natural look of instinctive sovereignty, in a deliberately informal setting where he strolls so negligently that he seems at first glance nature's gentleman rather than England's King" in a period when the place was yet to become Merry Old England.
|Anthony van Dyck, a self-portrait from 1640|