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Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641)


Etching by Anthony Van Dyck, first state (of seven)

Comparison of this early impression of the pure etching with the later, reworked version reveals just how comprehensive Neeffs' changes were. Without the additional engraving we can clearly see Van Dyck's enthusiastic rendering, with his head standing alone on an expanse of empty space. He uses the etching needle to model his face using stippling effect, and short, curved lines for his hair. The only wrongly placed line is the accidental mark through the curl of his moustache. The position of the head on the plate suggests that Van Dyck intended a body to be added to fill the rest of the space, but perhaps he changed his mind as it was not progressed further in his lifetime, even with a borderline.

The image is based on a painted self portrait, executed around 1630 (private collection). In the painting Van Dyck wears a chain around his neck, but here the collar is not extended further than a single outline. The glance over the shoulder had been used by artists before Van Dyck to convey powers of intellect. The turn of the body in space is a particularly effective, suggesting that his attention is being momentarily distracted from something else. With proud bearing, Van Dyck projects an aura of confidence.

Click on the link below to view this print's record in the Museum's Online Public Access Catalogue