A copy of a portrait of Anthony van Dyck by Isabella Clara Eugenia that hung for years in an art historian’s house may be the work of the Flemish master. By a report in the Guardian, Christopher Wright, an Old Masters scholar known for uncovering little-known treasures in public and private collections, bought the painting for £ 65 (around $ 88) from a London dealer in 1970.
“I bought it as a copy, as an art historian,” he told the UK store. “I didn’t pay attention, in a strange way.” Now he plans to exhibit the piece in a public institution. It will be on permanent loan to the Cannon Hall Museum in the village of Cawthorne, Barnsley, which houses a famous collection of 17th century Dutch and Flemish paintings.
The painting, which depicts the Infanta of Spain and the Regent of the Spanish Netherlands, caught the attention of one of Wright’s visitors, Colin Harrison, senior curator of European art at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford , in England. After careful inspection, Harrison suggested that there was evidence of van Dyck’s trademarks, particularly his demanding depiction of the hands.
The work is believed to have been made between 1628 and 1632, a period when van Dyck worked as a preeminent portrait painter of the Spanish and English aristocracy. In 1632 van Dyck moved to London, where King Charles I appointed him resident court painter and knighted him. His influence as a portrait painter in Europe is immense and copies of his work are multiplying. As a result, the debate over the attribution of these works persists today.
In each copy of the portrait of Isabella Clara Eugenia, she appears in the habit of a nun. The pious dress and the dark, sober background reflect her period of mourning after the death of her husband, Archduke Albert VII of Austria, in 1621. She ruled the region until her death in 1633, a period considered to be the golden age of the Spanish Netherlands.
Wright brought the work to the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, where it was examined and restored. Courtauld’s report, written by Kendall Francis and Timothy McCall, stated that many portraits of infants of this type were created by van Dyck and his studio, often making it “very difficult” to determine the lead author. of each version. They conclude: “Skillful skill leads us to tentatively propose that [it] can be attributed to Van Dyck’s workshop and that it was completed during his lifetime and under his supervision.