Anthony van Dyck was born in Antwerp in 1599 and studied under the greatest painter of his day, Peter Paul Rubens. He was the second of two foreign portraitists (the first was Holbein) to be brought over the English court after the Reformation. Van Dyck was commissioned first by James I, then by his son. Van Dyck's role was to flatter the English court and glorify its monarch, whom he painted frequently. Van Dyck died young, at the age of forty-two, but he was extremely prolific, sometimes working on several paintings at once. Fortunately, many of the sketches for his great works are preserved in the Russian museums and have been reproduced in this book. These include his Italian notebooks, Van Dyck having taken an eleven-year leave of absence from the English court to sketch and paint in Italy. The paintings span the period both before and after Van Dyck settled in England. The early works include Portrait of a Young Man (1630), Head of an Apostle and Portrait of a Young Woman and her Child. Later works include the Portrait of Sir Thomas Challoner, who ironically became one of the signatories to the death warrant of Charles I.
Natalia Gritsai is an art historian and head of the 13th-18th Century section of the Western European Art Department of the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.
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