01 Oct, 2009

Van Dyck expected to fetch up to £3m

Posted by: admin In: Guardian

Last self-portrait by Van Dyck, owned by same family for nearly 300 years, is to be auctioned by Sotheby’s in December

The last self-portrait painted by Sir Anthony van Dyck, within months of his death in 1641, is to be sold by trustees of the family which has owned it for almost 300 years, and is expected to fetch up to £3m.

It was described as one of the artist’s masterpieces by David Moore-Gwyn, deputy chairman in the UK of Sotheby’s, which will auction the painting in December. “This is by far and away the most important portrait by Van Dyck to come to auction in my 35-year career at Sotheby’s,” he said.

It was one of the stars of the recent exhibition on Van Dyck and Britain, at the Tate. It shows the artist in typically flamboyant dress ‑ a black and white silk slashed doublet, with the neat little beard he made so popular it has been called a Van Dyck ever since.

He painted it in London in 1641, soon before he died in his house at Blackfriars and was buried at Old St Paul’s under a monument paid for by the king. Charles I had good reason to be grateful to his favourite portraitist who, in paintings such as a famous barn door-sized image of the king in armour on horseback, made his diminutive form into a towering emblem of wisdom and majesty.

It is one of only three Van Dyck self-portraits painted in England: one belongs to the Duke of Westminster, and the other is in the Prado in Madrid. This one is said to have belonged to a disciple, the painter Sir Peter Lely, who lavished equal flattery on the court of Charles II. It has been in the same family since 1712, when it was bought by Sir Francis Child, a goldsmith who became lord mayor and one of the richest bankers in London.

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