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Anthony van Dyck- Virtual Tour

Anthony van Dyck

Anthony van Dyck – Virtual Tour

Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599 – 1641) was a Flemish artist who became the leading court painter in England after success in the Southern Netherlands and Italy.

Van Dyck started painting from an early age. He gained early success as a painter, becoming a master in the Antwerp guild in 1618. He worked in the studio of Peter Paul Rubens, who became a significant influence on his work.

Van Dyck worked in London for some months in 1621, then returned to Flanders for a brief time, before traveling to Italy, where he stayed until 1627.

He spent five years after his return from Italy in Flanders, and from 1630 was a court painter for Archduchess Isabella, Habsburg Governor of Flanders. In 1632 he returned to London to be the principal court painter at the request of Charles I of England.

He is best known for his portraits of European aristocracy, most notably Charles I and his family and associates. He also painted mythological and biblical subjects.

He was also an important innovator in watercolor and etching. Charles I granted him a knighthood, and he was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral.

A Virtual Tour of Anthony van Dyck

Highlights of Anthony van Dyck’s Art

Equestrian Portrait of Charles I

“Equestrian Portrait of Charles I” by Anthony van Dyck glorifies Charles I on horseback after he becomes King of England, Scotland, and Ireland in 1625.

The portrait was painted about 1637–38, only a few years before the English Civil War broke out. Charles is depicted wearing his suit of armor, riding a heavily muscled horse with a peculiarly small head.

To the right of the picture, a page is holding up the King’s helmet. Van Dyck became the Charles’ Principal Painter in Ordinary in 1632.

He painted Charles as a heroic philosopher king, carrying a baton of command, with a long sword and wearing the medallion of the Sovereign of the Order of the Garter. His distant expression was designed to demonstrate wisdom.

The tablet tied to a branch reads CAROLUS I REX MAGNAE BRITANIAE (Charles I King of Great Britain). Museum: National Gallery, London

Charles I at the Hunt

“Charles I at the Hunt” by Anthony van Dyck depicts Charles dressed as an aristocratic gentleman, but with regal assurance, standing next to a horse as if resting on a hunt.

Charles stands as if surveying his domain with his head turned to face the viewer with a slight smile. The king was sensitive about his height, and Van Dyck compensates by placing the viewer at a low angle point of view, looking up at the king.

Charles is portraited in a wide-brimmed Cavalier hat, teardrop earring, shimmering silver satin doublet, red breeches, and turned-down leather boots.

He is girt with a sword and has one hand resting on a walking stick, while his other hand rests on his hip, holding his gloves as a sign of his assurance. The horse is bowing its head in submission to the king.

On a rock, in the lower right corner, the Latin inscription declares his rights as a king; “Carolus.I.REX Magnae Britanniae”.

Translating to “Charles I, King of Great Britain,” which was a political statement. His father James had united the crowns of Scotland and England and proclaimed himself King of Great Britain. Museum:  Musée du Louvre

Cupid and Psyche

“Cupid and Psyche” by Anthony van Dyck depicts the mythological story of Cupid finding Psyche and saving her from a dark and forbidding sleep.

There are various versions of the story, and in one version, Venus, who was jealous of Psyche’s beauty, set her several tasks with evil intent.

 Psyche’s last task was to bring Venus a small portion of Proserpine’s beauty from Hades in an unopened casket. Psyche, overcome by curiosity, opened the box that can be seen in this painting and released not beauty, but an infernal sleep. Museum: Royal Collection

Daedalus and Icarus

“Daedalus and Icarus” by Anthony van Dyck shows Icarus’s father warning his son Icarus first of complacency and then of hubris as he points to his head.

Icarus is trying to impress on his youthful son not to be complacent and fly too low as the sea’s dampness would not clog his wings.

He also warns Icarus of the hubris of flying too high to the sun where the heat will melt the wax in his wings. 

Unfortunately, the young Icarus ignored or forgot his father’s instructions not to fly too high to the sun, and when the wax in his wings melted, he tumbled out of the sky.

Icarus drowned in the area which today bears his name, the Icarian Sea near Icaria, an island southwest of Samos, Greece. Museum:  Art Gallery of Ontario

Triple Portrait of Charles I

“Triple Portrait of Charles I” by Anthony Van Dyck shows the King from three viewpoints: left full profile, face on, and right three-quarter profile.

The colors of the costumes and the delicate pattern of the lace collars are different in each portrait. The blue ribbon of the Order of the Garter appears in all three.

The King also displays the fashion of the day in which men wore their hair longer on the left side. The heads in the painting are drawn and modeled with great care by Van Dyck.

The purpose for the picture was for it to be used as a reference work by Bernini in Italy to create a marble bust of Charles I.

However, the contrast color of the blue Garter ribbon with the three different colors of the King’s costume plus the beautifully patterned lace collars have turned this reference work into a masterful artwork. Museum: Royal Collection

Biblical Subjects by Anthony van Dyck

Samson and Delilah

“Samson and Delilah” by Anthony van Dyck depicts the scene after Delila has caused Samson to lose his extraordinary power.

Delila had discovered that Samson’s strength was derived by his long hair, which she cut off while he was sleeping.

Without his long hair, his mortal enemy, the Philistines were able to capture him. This painting was inspired by the episode from the Old Testament story of Samson and Delilah.

Samson was a Hebrew hero of the ancient Israelites. He had been granted immense strength to aid him against his enemies and allow him to perform superhuman feats, including defeating an army of Philistines.

However, if Samson’s long hair were cut, then his vow would be violated, and he would lose his strength. Unfortunately, he fell in love with Delilah, who betrayed his trust. Museum: Kunsthistorisches Museum

Christ Crowned with Thorns

“Christ Crowned with Thorns” by Anthony van Dyck depicts Christ surrounded by figures who are mocking him. An armed soldier is placing the Crown of Thorns on his head.

The executioner is pulling his hair, and another offers him a cane as his scepter. Two other figures watch the scene through a window. 

Van Dyck started this painting aged 20 during his first Antwerp period when he was the leading studio assistant and pupil of Peter Paul Rubens.

It shows Rubens’ influence in its relatively somber palette and chiaroscuro. It also displays a highly realistic portrayal of musculature.

However, van Dyck seems to have made significant changes early during his stay in Italy, showing the influence of Titian and other Venetian painters in Jesus’ face. Museum: Prado Museum

The Rest on The Flight into Egypt

“The Rest on The Flight into Egypt” by Anthony van Dyck depicts the Holy Family of Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus resting during their flight into Egypt.

The Holy Family is resting, and the focus of the composition is on the seated Virgin Mary breastfeeding the Christ Child, enthroned in front of a deep forest landscape background.

The theme of the “Rest on the Flight into Egypt” was a popular subject in art. A layperson commissioned this painting for personal devotion. Museum: Alte Pinakothek

Anthony van Dyck

  • Name:          Anthony van Dyck
  • Birth:            1599 – Antwerp, Spanish Netherlands (modern-day Belgium)
  • Died:            1641 (aged 42) – London
  • Nationality:  Flemish
  • Movement:  Baroque

A Tour of Artists and their Art

Van Dyck: The Man, the Artist and his Influence

Anthony van Dyck: A collection of 449 paintings

 Anthony Van Dyck


“Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.”
– Pablo Picasso


Photo Credit: 1) Anthony van Dyck [Public domain]

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