Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Study of an Angel after Van Dyck 1750s

Thomas Gainsborough RA (172788)

Study of an Angel after Van Dyck, Thomas Gainsborough RA
Oil on canvas
18th Century
18 x 15 inches 47.6 x 40 cm
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This striking portrait of an angel is derived in style from Sir Anthony Van Dyck's great alterpiece, ''Saint Augustine in Ectasy''. Completed in 1628, the alterpiece was a major commission hanging alongside Peter Paul Rubens and Jacob Jordeans in the church of Saint Augustine in Antwerp.

The dramatic pose and detailed expression of Gainsborough's Angel might not have been taken directly from the original alterpiece, however we do know that Gainsborough was an assiduous copyist and admirer of Van Dyck and that the composition in Antwerp was also circulating in a number of identical panel sketches or modelli, and as a print by Pieter de Jode.

Gainsborough has portrayed his Angel in a shoulder length study, looking slightly downward. His Angel departs from the Antwerp one in its intimacy and informality of expression. The brushwork in the angel's robes and hair are distinctive, and can be found in a number of other portraits by the artist.

Van Dyck was a powerful influence on British artists, especially on Thomas Gainsborough. A collection of letters from Gainsborough's correspondence contains great admiration for the paintings of Van Dyck at Wilton House and in other private collections. At his death in 1788 we also know that he had in his possession prints and studies from a number of Flemish artists.
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