Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of a Gentleman, thought to be Abbe Cesare Alessandro Scaglia (1592-1641) 

Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641)

Portrait of a Gentleman, thought to be Abbe Cesare Alessandro Scaglia (1592-1641), Sir Anthony Van Dyck
Oil and Canvas
17th Century
46 7/8 x 39 3/8 in (119 x 100 cm) (current stretcher size)
Presumably in the possession of the Portland family by the time of Henry Bentinck, 2nd Earl and 1st Duke of Portland (1682-1726); William, 2nd Duke of Portland (1709-1762), at Bulstrode Park, Buckinghamshire, where recorded by John Achard, the 2nd Duke’s tutor as 'A portrait of a Senator of Antwerp, half length, black hair, a plain band, in a Black flower velvet cloak, by Vandike'; thence by descent to the 2nd Duke's son, William Henry Cavendish Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland (1738-1809), also at Bulstrode, where recorded in his posthumous inventory, compiled by Thomas Hill, Jun., no. 13; thence by descent to his son, William Henry, 4th Duke of Portland (1768-1854), by whom moved with other pictures from Bulstrode to Burlington House, London, in 1810, then later moved to Welbeck Abbey, Nottinghamshire (Catalogue of c.1812, no. 77, as 'Senator of Antwerp. Vandyck.'); thence by descent at Welbeck, where recorded in the ‘Large Drawing Room’ in an inventory of 1831 (no. 77), by Dr. Waagen (1857) and in the Red Drawing Room by Charles Fairfax Murray (1894); thence by descent, until sold at Christie’s, London, 7th December 2010, lot 18, as ‘Portrait of a Gentleman, traditionally called a Senator of Antwerp’, with dimensions of 48 ¾ x 38 1/8 inches.
G.F. Waagen, Galleries and Cabinets of Art in Great Britain (London, 1857), p. 514; A. Guiffrey, Antoine van Dyck: Sa vie et son oeuvre (Paris, 1882), p. 285; C. Fairfax Murray, Catalogue of the Pictures belonging to His Grace the Duke of Portland, at Welbeck Abbey, and in London, London, 1894, p. 25, no. 92, illustrated, 'An early picture by Vandyck, in what is usually called his Italian or Genoese manner.'; L. Cust, Anthony Van Dyck, An historical Study of his Life and Works (London, 1900) pp. 51 and 245, no. 142, as 'Painted in Italy.'; E. Schaeffer, Klassiker der Kunst: Van Dyck (Stuttgart and Leipzig, 1909) pl. 219, as painted 1622-7; R. Witt, Exhibition of Flemish and Belgian art (1300-1900): Illustrated souvenir, London, p. 53. Apollo, IX, 1929, p. 248, ill.; G. Glück, Van Dyck: Des Meisters Gemälde, London, 1931, pl. 279, p. 549, as of the Antwerp period; R.W. Goulding, revised by C.K. Adams, Catalogue of the Pictures belonging to His Grace the Duke of Portland, K.G. (Cambridge, 1936), p. 33, no. 92; E. Larsen, L'opera completa di Van Dyck, Milan, 1980, p. 88, no. 526, as 'uno splendido dipinto, risalente al secondo periodo di Anversa. Databile fra il 1626 e il 1632.' E. Larsen, The Paintings of Anthony van Dyck (Freren, 1988), II, p. 235, no. 582; H. Vey, in S.J. Barnes, N. de Poorter, O. Millar and H. Vey, Van Dyck: A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings (New Haven and London, 2004), p. 384, no. III.184, ill., as painted in the second Antwerp period, but with no specific date given.
London, Royal Academy, Exhibition of Flemish and Belgian Art (1300-1900), 8th January-5th March 1927, no. 153; Bruges, Groeningemuseum, L'art flamand dans les collections britanniques, August-September 1956, no. 88; Nottingham, University Art Gallery, Paintings and Drawings by Van Dyck, 28th February-24th March 1960, no. 7 (catalogue by Oliver Millar); Philip Mould Ltd, London, Finding Van Dyck, 15th June – 13th July 2011.
To view works by Van Dyck for sale please go to www.philipmould.com.

This portrait has until recently been in the collection of the Earls and Dukes of Portland, and their family. It was sold at Christie’s, London, from their estate in December 2011, where it was catalogued as ‘Portrait of a Gentleman, traditionally called a Senator of Antwerp’. When sold at auction, the picture had substantial layers of brown over-paint in the background, and further areas of black in the drapery. The paint in the background extended up to the sitter’s hair and face, and in some cases went over the hair. One small area of the background had been opened up to the right of the sitter to reveal the much cooler grey underlying paint of the background, but further cleaning had been halted. Immediately prior to the sale, the picture was given a surface clean and re-varnish. No mention of the over-paint or the addition was made in the catalogue entry.

Conservation by Philip Mould Ltd has established that the over-paint had been added to incorporate an additional strip of canvas of about 6 inches at the top of the picture (see enclosed photograph). It is not known when this addition was applied. However, the lining is thought to be at least a century old. It is possible that the strip was added to allow the picture to fit into a more standard size English 18th Century frame sometime in the 19th Century. A significant re-organisation of the pictures at Welbeck must have taken place during the time of the eccentric fifth Duke of Portland (1800-1879). He was highly introverted – his staff were not allowed to speak to him - and built a network of tunnels around the estate at Welbeck, including a large subterranean picture gallery of 160 x 63 feet. The remainder of the house, much of it apparently painted pink, was stripped of pictures and furniture, and it is possible that the present work was over-painted then.

Fortunately, the over-paint proved relatively easy to remove, and the original background, painted in Van Dyck’s typically thin and glazey manner, has been well-preserved. A sketchy column has emerged on the right. The blacks in the drapery have also lasted well. There are some minor losses along the central bar where the picture seems once to have hung too loosely on its stretcher. What appears to be an early and somewhat erratic cleaning test left an area of abrasion on the left hand side of the background. This has now been retouched. The 18th Century gilt frame has been maintained around the painting, and has been resized.

The state of preservation of the picture, together with difficulty in gaining first-hand inspection of it, has caused difficulty for scholars. The picture only has a very brief entry in the 2004 Van Dyck catalogue raisonné (encl.). There has also been disagreement in dating the picture, with early sources calling the portrait a work from Van Dyck’s later Italian period (1621-7). Now, however, there is agreement that it is a second Antwerp period picture (1627-32). While the picture certainly seems to have echoes of Van Dyck’s time in Italy, not least in the sophisticated rendering of the drapery, the closer and finely obvserved handling of the paint in the face points clearly to Van Dyck’s return to Flanders, where he was immediately in competition with his one-time master, Rubens. Comparison with other early second Antwerp pictures, such as Van Dyck’s Portrait of Nicholas Lanier [Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna) and his Portrait of Endymion Porter [Private Collection], allows a dating to c.1627.

The portrait evidently lost its identity many years ago, and has been called simply ‘A Senator of Antwerp’. Comparison of the facial features, however, reveals a close similarity with Cesar Alessandro Scaglia, a leading European diplomat and one of Van Dyck’s more prolific patrons. Two later portraits of Scaglia by Van Dyck painted in 1634/5, both in the National Gallery, London, share the same colouring, the low and broad cheekbones, the sculpted nose and sunken eyes. The fashion worn here would also be appropriate for Scaglia. For a fuller discussion on the possibility of the sitter being Scaglia, see the essay by Dr. Toby Osborne, Scaglia’s biographer, in our exhibition catalogue, Finding Van Dyck (encl.).
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