Art e Dossier

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Art History

Antoon Van Dyck: biography

Antoon van Dyck, the son of a wealthy silk merchant, was born in Antwerp on 22 March 1599. Since early childhood he demonstrated considerable artistic talent and at the age of ten was accepted into Hendrik van Balen’s atelier. He opened his own studio in 1615 and three years later was already a member of the painters’ guild. During that period he began working with Rubens, whom he assisted in making the cartoons of the Decius Mus Addressing the Legions for Franco Cattaneo (1617-1618) and decorating the ceiling in the church of Jesus in Antwerp (1620). After a brief stay in England (1620), he lived in Italy from 1621 to 1627, mainly in Genoa. The artist made two trips to Rome, in 1622 and 1627, he also visited Florence, Bologna and Venice. During his sojourn in Palermo (April to September 1624) the Confraternity of the Rosary of St. Dominic gave him the commission for the Madonna of the Rosary. In July of the following year the artist went to Marseilles and Aix-en-Provence to see Peirsec, a friend of Rubens. Upon his return to Antwerp in 1626 he began working intensely and even became court painter to the Archduchess Isabelle (1628-1629). Then, in 1629, after another English sojourn, he painted Rinaldo and Armida for King Charles I. In 1632 Van Dyck was traveling again, first he stopped in Holland at the court of Frederick Henry, then in Brussels and finally in London where he was knighted and appointed official painter to the King. He returned home for a brief period in 1634 and in October was appointed “honorary dean” of the Guild of St. Luke. He went back to London the following year. He painted many portraits for the English king, including Charles I in Three Positions, that would serve as a model for Benin’s bust of the king. His output was almost exclusively dedicated to portraits, of members of the royal family and the entire English aristocracy. Upon the urging of the king he married Mary Ruthven, lady-in-waiting to Queen Henrietta Maria (1639), and a daughter Justiniana was born to the couple two years later. In 1640 he went to Paris where he hoped to obtain the commission for the Grande Gallerie du Louvre which was actually given to Poussin. He returned to London early in 1641, and died in December of that same year. Sir Anthony van Dyck was buried in St. Paul’s, but his tomb was destroyed in the great fire of London in 1666.

The works