Family Portrait (1621)

Van Dyck, Anthony (1599-1641)

Family Portrait
Oil on canvas, 113.5 x 93.5 cm
Hermitage MuseumSaint Petersburg

In this, one of the most marvellous works by the famous Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck, the compact composition creates an impression of trusting closeness and agreement between the married couple, seen with their daughter seated on the wife’s lap. In the woman’s flourishing, rosy face and her open, welcoming gaze, we can see intelligence, a sense of her own merit and a certain independence. In the man the artist emphasised restraint, modesty and seriousness. Van Dyck‘s early portraits demonstrate a strong link with the national traditions of Flemish portraiture, found in the lack of any idealisation of the sitter, in simplicity of composition, in the static poses and virtuoso depiction of texture. Van Dyck carefully depicted the fine lace ruff and sleeves of the man’s attire and the tightly starched ruff of the woman. The purple velvet drapery, the golden inset in the woman’s dress, the child’s green dress and the pink coral necklace set off the rest of the colours. It is possible that the family is that of the landscape painter Jan Wildens. (SHM)