Sotheby’s to Auction Oil Study by Sir Anthony Van Dyck

Sotheby’s is to auction the oil study A Bearded Man with Hands Raised by Sir Anthony Van Dyck (estimated at £200,000-300,000) in its 6th July 2011 sale of Old Master and British Paintings.

The work, depicting a bearded man with his torso uncovered, was painted when the great 17th Century Flemish artist was working in the studio of Pieter Paul Rubens c.1616, and Sotheby’s has identified the model as one whom Van Dyck used for a variety of sketches – some of which were used in completed paintings, including The Betrayal of Christ, located at Corsham Court. In the 2004 catalogue raisonné, the painting was known only from the old photograph depicting it prior to cleaning and restoration, and was included under ‘Questionable Attributions’. However, all scholars who have viewed the painting since it was consigned to Sotheby’s agree that it is an autograph work by Van Dyck.

George Gordon, Sotheby’s Co-Chairman, Old Master Paintings, Worldwide, commented: “This work fits like a glove into Van Dyck’s oeuvre. The painting is a fine example of his working methods at the time he was painting in Rubens’ studio in Antwerp. This is a study of a man who appears in several of the artist’s works. It is a face we recognise from other finished works, with the model depicted in exactly this pose. Sotheby’s has carried out extensive discussions with experts, and every single scholar who has seen it accepts without reservation that this is the work of Van Dyck.”

The work was originally a study painted from life of a man warming his hands in front of a fire – the red glow illuminating his chest and shoulder. The sky and open book in front of him are thought to be later additions, made to transform the working sketch into a more or less finished picture. The brushwork, especially in the modelling of the shoulder and neck and the highlight on the far shoulder – done with two short, swift brushstrokes – are highly characteristic of the artist. The lightly sketched-in indications of the fingers and thumb on the far hand are also reminiscent of his work.

Image: Sir Anthony Van Dyck, Study of a Bearded Man with Hands Raised, c. 1616, oil on canvas, 89 by 55.5 cm, Est. £200,000 – 300,000. Photo: Sotheby’s

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