This volume contains twenty papers which were either delivered or written for the colloquium held in Antwerp at the time of the various exhibitions devoted to Van Dyck in 1999. They cover a wide range of subject matter from specific points connected with Van Dyck’s oeuvre to more general subjects such as contemporary artists and the artist’s influence and fortuna critica. (I can only comment on a selection.) The contents are grouped under three headings. At the end our perception of Van Dyck may not be greatly changed but some useful discussions and some relevant new information have filled out our understanding of the artist.
The first section, ‘Van Dyck in the Netherlands and Italy,’ contains two articles on the perennial problem of drawings which have been attributed to both Rubens and Van Dyck. In her article Anne-Marie Logan discusses a number of these, offering sensible, well-balanced opinions. Part of her discussion is directed to the case of the landscape drawings recently removed from Rubens and given to Van Dyck by Martin Royalton-Kisch. On balance she is inclined to retain the traditional attribution to the older artist. Arnout Balis, on the other hand, takes four drawings after the antique, usually, if not universally, givern to Rubens and argues that they are by Van Dyck. Frans Baudouin examines the evidence for the journey or journies to The Hague and concludes that Van Dyck made two visits there, both in 1631. Horst Vey discusses the little recognized fact, already noted by him in 1962, that there were two group portraits by Van Dyck in the Brussels Town Hall, which were destroyed by the French in 1695. David Howarth examines a series of ‘Entry books’ written by Balthasar Gerbier in the Public Record Office, London. Apart from adding local color to a number of transactions, he is able to establish that Van Dyck had returned to Antwerp by October 1633, that is five months earlier than previously supposed. He also provides further evidence for believing that Van Dyck never intended to settle permanently in England in the 1630s. Fiona Healy examines Van Dyck’s treatment of the Virgin and Child, and the section ends with an eloquent essay on Holbein and Van Dyck by Kristin Belkin.
‘Van Dyck and England’ opens, as is eminently appropriate, with some refreshingly trenchant remarks by Sir Oliver Millar on the problem of compiling a catalogue raisonné of the artist’s paintings. Travelling from the Scottish Lowlands to the north-west Norfolk coast – a low road if ever there was one – in order to determine the best version of a particular portrait, Sir Oliver reflects on the admirable advice given to him as a student: ‘never discuss a work of art you haven’t seen’, however tortuous the journey, one might add. Arthur Wheelock offers an illuminating ‘in-depth’ study of Washington’s ravishing Henrietta Maria and Jeffrey Hudson, now beautifully restored, with pertinent remarks about the roles of the Queen and her dwarf. The donné of Jeremy Wood’s study of English patrons according to their religion – the Catholics were, perhaps surprisingly, the least active – is the discovery of the Earl of Bradford’s commonplace books containing remarks about art and religion. Emilie Gordenker’s piece on costume stems from her book on the subject, which is reviewed in this issue.
Under ‘Van Dyck’s Personality and Reception,’ Katlijne Van der Stighelen takes Valentiner’s damning assessment of Van Dyck’s character and achievement to pieces by scrutinizing it against seventeenth-century sources. Douglas Stewart undertakes a constructive sorting out of the oeuvres of Thomas Willeboirts Bosschaert – also discussed by Axel Heinrich–– and Pieter Thys, with occasional reference to Van Dyck. Stephanie Dickey identifies a close similarity between the working methods of Van Dyck and Rembrandt as printmakers, not only in technique but also in manner of presentation. She concludes with a study of Lievens as the artistic link between the northern and southern Netherlands. The volume ends with a nice piece by Jeffrey Muller on Flemissh nationalism and stereotyped views of Van Dyck between the two great wars.