photo credit: Walker Art Gallery
The VADS catalogue entry for this painting records that Van Dyck received a gold chain worth 750 guilders in December 1628 for a portrait of the Infanta Isabella. This may have been for the full-length portrait in the Galleria Sabauda, Turin, of which WAG 1191 has hitherto been regarded as a three-quarter length variant by the studio. Fergus Hall suggests that the quality of the Walker Art Gallery’s painting points to it being an autograph repetition by Van Dyck himself, or possibly the prime version which may have served as the prototype for the Turin full length variant.
Isabella Clara Eugenia was the daughter of King Philip II of Spain. She and her husband Archduke Albert were made joint rulers of the Spanish Netherlands in 1598, and she became Governor following the Archduke's death in 1621. As a widow she joined the Third Order of St Francis – a division of the Franciscan order for laymen and women – and she is shown here wearing the habit of the order.
The painting was given to the Walker Art Gallery by the Royal Insurance Company in 1954. Purchased in Holland c.1800 or earlier for £300 by the London print dealer Thomas Philipe, from descendants of the family to whom the sitter had given the portrait; Philipe sale, Thomas King's, London, 23 May 1817, lot 23, purchased by (?) Andrew Geddes; Andrew Geddes; purchased from Geddes by the Earl of Hopetoun in 1821, with the involvement of Andrew Wilson; by descent to the Marquis of Linlithgow; sold Christie's 18 June 1954, lot 39.
The circumstances of the painting's acquisition by Thomas Philipe are recounted in a memorandum from Andrew Wilson to Lord Hopetoun dated 11 January 1821 (Hopetoun House, Hopetoun Muniments, Bundle 620).
The full VADS entry is here.
It certainly looks better than studio alone, though I would like to see a higher resolution image. It appears stylistically similar to the version of Jan van Malderus that I believe Fergus was responsible for discovering. By comparison to the many known copies and versions of Van Dyck's portrait of the Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia that are mentioned in the 2003 catalogue raisonné, the Walker version does appear to stand out in terms of quality. The suggestion that the 3/4 length portrait (WAG 1191) might be Van Dyck's "first intention", or prime copy of Rubens' portrait of the Infanta, does not seem unreasonable. Ludwig Burchard appears to have been the first to propose this.
I have attached the high-resolution image.
It would be very useful to see the head and hands close uo with a high res image. They look very well conceived. There also appear a number of chunky pentimenti suggesting a prime version. See the small changes made near the right elbow over the plinth and lower left edge of the black dress . A much larger one suggesting the head was started about 4 or 5 inches higher, is just dicernable.
I imagine there are changes in the hands.
Is there a chance of a better image?
I was able to study this picture last year when visiting the Walker. In my opinion, there's little doubt it is by Van Dyck. The only version I have not been able to compare it to, either in high resolution or in person, is the full length in Liechtenstein. But from the vivacity of the handling, the Walker seems to me mostly autograph throughout. Of course, we then need to go into the question of what the head was based on, and so on.
I believe other Van Dyck scholars are willing to consider the Walker picture to be autograph, but will consult with them further before quoting on here.
Bendor, I emailed Christopher Brown, Susan Barnes and Malcolm Rogers last week, and will be sending the PCF high-resolution image today.
Compare with the painting in the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California (M.1966.10.10.P; CR 19-2, 111; Paris 2017-18, 16) (fig. 103). Van Dyck painted a similar full-length version in 1628 based on the Rubens prototype (Barnes-de Poorter-Millar-Vey 2004, III.90) and Vorsterman engraved this portrait, also based on a grisaille, in a three-quarter length format for the "Iconography" (New Hollstein Van Dyck, I, 23).
How do I edit my remark above? Anyway, I just wanted to point out the similar Rubens painting of Isabella Clara Eugenia. There are also doubts in this case which is the prime version.
Having just returned from Turin this evening where I saw Van Dyck's very high quality full length portrait and having been for 4 years a curator of foreign art at the Walker Art Gallery in the 1970s,where I saw this painting every working day, I am convinced that the Walker's painting is a high quality studio version, but not up to the standard of the Galleria Sabauda picture.
Simon, please email email@example.com if you would still like to edit this, as we have to do that. If an entire comment is no longer wanted, it can be deleted.
I am impressed by the quality of the Walker painting, as seen in a high-resolution image. I would suggest that the issue of pentiments identified by Simon Gillespie needs exploring with technical help. In addition to the ones he mentions, to my eyes it looks as if the right fold of the cutrain has been shortened by quite a few inches (sorry, cm's). I would tend to support 'autograph'.