Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of a Lady in a black dress, c.1625 

Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641)

Portrait of a Lady in a black dress, c.1625, Sir Anthony Van Dyck
Oil and Canvas
17th Century
26 x 21 inches, 66 x 53.5 cm
2nd Lord Meadowbrook; from whom purchased by John Jackson, R.A.; with Agnew's, London; Julius Böhler, Munich; from whom purchased by Count Alessandro Contini-Bonacossi, Florence, 1924; Reinhardt, New York, 1927; Senator and Mrs. Simon Guggenheim, New York, by 1931, by whom gifted to the Denver Art Museum, 1962; de-accessioned 27th January 2010, Christie’s New York, lot 325, sale no. 2282 as ‘attributed to Van Dyck’.
Susan Barnes, Nora De Poorter, Oliver Millar and Horst Vey, Van Dyck – A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings (Yale, New Haven and London, 2004), p.233, no. II.111
To view works by Van Dyck for sale please go to www.philipmould.com.

This portrait shows one of Van Dyck’s most attractive Italian period sitters. Although it was long known as a Van Dyck, and was even owned by leading collectors such as Lord Meadowbank and the English portraitist John Jackson RA, substantial layers of dirt and over-paint caused the picture’s status to be doubted, and it was thus de-accessioned by the Denver Art Museum. Now restored, the picture, which is included in the Van Dyck catalogue raisonné, has once more been accepted as a fully autograph work by scholars, including Susan Barnes, the author of the section on Van Dyck’s Italian period paintings.

As is often the case with Van Dyck’s Italian period paintings, which are generally thinly painted on a coarse canvas over a single layer of ground preparation, the portrait had long ago been subjected to a campaign of excessive restoration. Restoration ‘over-kill’ has often happened throughout history, and this rescued portrait makes a graphic illustration: instead of partly leaving the thinned areas of the drapery, a restorer, possibly in the early part of last century, decided to give her an entirely new dress. Despite the delicacy and impact of a first class Van Dyck head, the picture was therefore demoted by the Denver Museum of Art in the United States, and sold by them through Christies in New York. Conservation by Philip Mould Ltd has now removed the added dress and the awkward over-paint in the face, and although somewhat sketchy in appearance, it has resumed an honest, and far more convincing Van Dyckian appearance in which the artist’s imprint can be read comprehensively throughout.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.