The Young Van Dyck
Friday 16 November 2012
From 1617 or slightly earlier to 1621 Van Dyck worked in Rubens’s studio where he revealed himself superior to the other assistants. This is demonstrated by the fact that he is the only one to be mentioned by name in a contract that Rubens signed and which states that various works should be painted by his hand and by “Van Dyck and other pupils”.
It should be emphasised that despite the closeness that he achieved to Rubens’s style, Van Dyck eventually evolved a highly unique manner, evident in some of the exceptionally original masterpieces to be seen in the present exhibition such as Saint Jerome in the Desert (Gemäldegalerie, Dresden) and The Taking of Christ (Museo del Prado), which was probably one of the last works that he executed before leaving for Italy in the autumn of 1621 and the largest composition that he painted during his early period.
The exhibition ends with Van Dyck’s portrait of Rubens’s first wife, Isabella Brandt of 1621 (National Gallery of Art de Washington), which he gave his master as a gift before leaving for Italy, according to contemporary accounts. In that work and other portraits of this period Van Dyck reveals a highly personal style defined by the fluid, slender forms and elegant poses, characteristics that would subsequently make him one of the most influential portraitists in the history of European art.