One of the foremost Flemish painters of the seventeenth century, Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641) was a prodigy, demonstrating great promise during his early years in the studio of Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) and already internationally famous by his early twenties. In 1620, he moved to England to work for King James I, leaving for Italy the next year. He returned to Antwerp in 1627 and divided the remainder of his career between the South Netherlands and England, attracting honors and royal and noble patronage in both places.
Like Rubens, van Dyck recognized the value of printmaking as a means of disseminating a painter’s works and of spreading his fame throughout Europe. His portraits were particularly well known, and beginning in the late 1620s van Dyck embarked on the earliest stage of a long-term project intended to highlight this aspect of his oeuvre: the series of portrait engravings known today as the Iconography.(1) The Crocker drawing is closely related to the Iconography’s portrait of Paulus Halmalius, or Paul van Halmale (1562–1648), a senator, magistrate and art collector who held the honorary post of Ouderman of Antwerp.(2) Van Dyck may have intended to etch the portraits in the Iconography himself, but he made only eighteen plates, arranging for professional printmakers to engrave the rest. Pieter de Jode II (1601–1674?), the engraver of the portrait of Halmalius, executed twelve plates for the series.
It is difficult to situate the Crocker drawing within the preparatory steps van Dyck followed for most of the Iconography portraits. Most of the engravings in the series reproduce paintings by van Dyck, with the intermediary steps of a black chalk drawing and then a carefully modeled wash or oil sketch or a touched counterproof.(3) The present drawing, however, differs from the other black chalk sketches, which tend to anticipate details of costume and features as seen in the engraving quite closely. In contrast, the collar, the arrangement of drapery, and even the shape of Halmalius’s face all vary between the Crocker drawing and the finished engraving. Instead, a second drawing of Halmalius now at Chatsworth is more typical of the preparatory drawings, anticipating the engraving in the sitter’s elegant proportions and in details of costume.(4) Moreover, the combination of red and black chalk as well as the nearly square format of Crocker drawing set it apart from the other preparatory chalk sketches.
The painting of Halmalius, if it ever existed, has been lost.(5) In only one other case in the Iconography, two chalk drawings survive, one more closely related to the etching than the other. In that instance, as with the Paulus Halmalius, no associated painting is known, and Joneath Spicer posits that van Dyck made the more distantly related sketch from life.(6) Although Horst Vey viewed the Crocker drawing as a copy with changes from the Chatsworth version, Michael Jaffé considers the present sketch “an original… of high quality drawn by Van Dyck, with numerous pentimenti.” These pentimenti, as well as the sitter’s comparatively unidealized appearance, suggest that the Crocker version may have been made from life, with the Chatsworth sketch an intermediate step in refining the image for publication in the Iconography.
Stacey Sell, in William Breazeale, with Cara Denison, Stacey Sell, and Freyda Spira, A Pioneering Collection: Master Drawings from the Crocker Art Museum, exh. cat. Sacramento and tour, 2010
(1) The literature on the complex history of the Iconography is extensive. For the best reconstruction of van Dyck’s changing intentions and preparatory techniques, with extensive bibliography, see Joaneath Spicer, "Anthony van Dyck's Iconography, an Overview of its Preparation," in Van Dyck 350, Studies in the History of Art, vol. XLVI, Washington, 1994, pp. 327–358. For a concise discussion of the series and its art historical context, see Ger Luijten, “The Iconography: Van Dyck’s Portraits in Print,” in Carl Depauw and Ger Luijten, Anthony van Dyck as a Printmaker, New York, 1999, pp.73–103. For states and editions, see Marie Mauquoy-Hendricx, L'iconographie d'antoine van Dyck, catalogue raisonné, 2 vols., Brussels, 1956 and Simon Turner, The New Hollstein: Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings, and Woodcuts, 1450–1700, Anthony Van Dyck, Part I, Rotterdam, 2002.
(2) ibidem, p. 152, and Mauquoy-Hendrickx 1956 as in note 1 above, p. 128.
(3) Spicer 1994 as in note 1 above, p. 334. Although a counterproof for this print does exist in the British Museum, it is not touched with oil or wash (inventory number 1841,1211.42). For a summary of varying views of the preparatory steps, see Spicer 1994, p. 353, note 65, with bibliography. There is also an oil sketch in Hamburg, and others “of lesser quality” (E. Larsen, The paintings of Anthony van Dyck, Freren 1988, no. 534).
(4) Vey 1962 as in Literature above, no. 254, and Jaffé 2002 as in Literature above, p. 33.
(5) As Spicer points out, van Dyck’s use of the term “pinxit”in the published engravings appears to be a deliberate choice, indicating the existence of an actual painting.
(6) Spicer lists two preparatory drawings for the portrait of Pieter Brueghel the Younger (Mauquoy-Hendricx 1956 as in note 1 above, no. 2). Spicer 1994 as in note 1 above, pp. 334 and 357.
Inscriptions: verso, dark brown ink, lower left along bottom margin: A: Van Dyck fe:; mount, recto, black chalk, center bottom margin: Anton van Dyck f.
Marks: verso, lower left corner: Lugt 474? (pseudo-Crozat) (also resembles Lugt 1893 and 481)
Provenance: Edwin Bryant Crocker, Sacramento, by 1871; gift of his widow Margaret to the Museum, 1881.Literature: William Breazeale, with Cara Denison, Stacey Sell, and Freyda Spira, A Pioneering Collection: Master Drawings from the Crocker Art Museum, exh. cat. Sacramento and tour, 2010, no. 20; Michael Jaffé, The Devonshire Collection of Northern European Drawings, London, 2002, no. 50; Horst Vey, Die Zeichnungen Anton van Dycks, Brussels, 1962, p. 320, under no. 254 (as "eine Kopie met Veränderungen"); Drawings of the Masters, exh. brochure, Sacramento, 1959, no. 5; Numa S. Trivas, Old Master Drawings from the E. B. Crocker Collection, the Dutch and Flemish Masters, unpubl. ms., Sacramento, 1942, no. 35; Alfred Neumeyer, “Anthonie van Dyck,” in Old Master Drawings, vol. XIV, nos. 54–56, September 1939–March 1940, pp. 56–57