Anthony van Dyck, Self Portrait (1627)
Kathleen and I were recently at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and noticed something new – a self portrait by van Dyck! The museum tag states that it was lent by someone named Scott Minerd. It is hung right next to their first van Dyck, The Betrayal of Christ. Both are at eye level.* So far there is no mention of the painting on the museum’s website.
Looking for the painting in the 2003, Van Dyck: A Complete Catalogue of Paintings, turns up the entry in an appendix. The authors question its authenticity and consider it a variant of similar paintings in the Uffizi and one in a private collection in Melbourne, Australia. That said, it does not appear that they ever saw the painting in person. In fact, the image in the catalog is in greyscale.
Furthermore, they state:
“The surface has been so abraded that it is difficult to assess the original quality of the portrait . . .”
Be sure to pay close attention to the surface qualities of the paint as you look through these images.
To my eye, this painting is in wonderful condition for a 400 year old oil painting on canvas. The whites are still white. While there is noticeable cracking, it is mostly limited to the thicker areas of paint. That, of course, is what one would expect.
In the detail above, look at the mustache, where it crosses over his frontal cheek. What masterful thin veils of strokes!
There is a nice contrast here (above), from the thick, liquid paint on the neck to the thicker, white paint on the collar. Then, the thinner black paint of the cloak. In person, the black reminds me of what ivory black looks like when it’s thickly mulled.
Also notice the warms and cool notes in the flesh. For more on that, see the section titled, silver and gold, near the end of this post, here.
Here’s some hair.
Earlier I quoted the authors of Van Dyck: A Complete Catalogue of Paintings, where they noted abrasions on the painting’s surface. I saw none myself.
Still, I do question the authenticity of the painting, although I am not yet fully convinced either way. I do lean towards it being a van Dyck, and of course, I want it to be one.
On the negative side, the hand looks to have been painted a bit differently than the rest of the painting.
Overall, it’s thinner and far less liquid than the flesh on the face.
Then again, we know that van Dyck had a passion for Titian and this hand looks like something Titian might have done.
More importantly, resolving the hand as fully as the face would have drawn one’s attention to it – not a good thing.
Anthony van Dyck, Self Portrait (1641), detail
An interesting comparison is his self portrait of 1641 (above) It was painted in the year he died.
All the images in this post (except the final one) were shot with my iPhone 5S and gently processed in Lightroom 4.
*As I recall, The Betrayal of Christ has been skyed for a number of years. It was not, when I copied it in the early 2000’s. Skying is the practice of hanging a painting so high on a wall that it cannot be seen up-close. Often, the painting is tilted forward from the top. In the case of the MIA’s skyed paintings, they are usually flat against the wall.
Update 5 March, 2015:
Bendor Grosvenor, of Art History News, has some fascinating information about this painting, posted just today!