Vandyck, Sir Anthony

, a most illustrious portraitpainter, whose works, lord Orford remarks, are so frequent in England, that the generality of our people can scarcely avoid thinking him their countryman, was born at Antwerp, | March 22, 1598-9. His father was a merchant, and his mother, Cornelia Kersboom, was an admired flower-painter. He was first placed with Van Balen, who had studied at Rome, but afterwards with Rubens, under whom he made such progress as to be able to assist in the works from which he learned. While at this excellent school, the following anecdote is told of him: Rubens having left a picture unfinished one night, and going out contrary to custom, his scholars took the opportunity of sporting about the room; when one, more unfortunate than the rest, striking at his companion with a maul-stick^ chanced to throw down the picture, which not being dry acquired some damage. Vandyck, being at work in the next room, was prevailed on to repair the mischief; and when Rubens came next morning to his work, first going at a distance to view his picture, as is usual with painters, and having contemplated it a little, he cried out suddenly, that he liked the piece far better than he did the night before.

Rubens, discovering in his pupil an amiable temper joined to the most promising talents, took a pleasure in cultivating both, by not concealing from him any part of that knowledge which he had himself attained by long experience. Vandyck was yet young when he was capable of executing pictures, which astonished, as much from the facility with which they were painted, as the general knowledge which reigned throughout the whole. Rubens, at this time, gave him two pieces of advice; the first was, to devote himself to portraits, in which he foresaw he would excel; and the second to make the tour of Italy, where he would have an opportunity of extending his studies. Vandyck accordingly, after making Rubens presents of two or three historical paintings, and a portrait of that artist’s wife, esteemed one of his best, set out for Italy, and made his first residence at Genoa, where he painted many excellent portraits. From thence he went to Venice, where he so deeply imbibed the tints of Titian, that he is allowed to approach nearer to the carnations of that master than even Rubens. He then went to Rome and lived splendidly, avoiding the low conversation of his countrymen, and was distinguished by the appellation of the Pittore Cavalieresco. Soon after his arrival there, he had an opportunity of exercising his abilities upon the portrait of cardinal Bentivoglio, which is justly esteemed the mostiperfect of the kind that ever came from the pencil of this- artist. While at Rome | he received an invitation to Palermo, and there he painted prince Philibert of Savoy, the viceroy, and a paintress Angosciola (see Angosciola, vol. II.) then at the age of ninety-one. But the plague soon drove him from Sicily, and he returned to Genoa, where he had gained the highest reputation, and left many considerable works in the Balbi, Durazzo, and other palaces.

He now went back to Antwerp, and practised both history and portrait. Of the former kind were many applauded altar-pieces; in the latter were particularly the heads of his contemporary artists, drawn in chiaroscuro on small panels, thirty-five of which, Walpole mentions, are in the possession of the Cardigan family. Engravings of these have ibeen published thrice, by Vanden Euden, containing fourscore plates by Giles Hendrix, containing one hundred; and lastly, by Verdassen, who effaced the names and letters of the original engravers. Some of the plates were etched by Vandyck himself in a free and masterly style.

But the advantages he reaped in his own country were not proportioned to his merits, and as he loved to make a figure, he resolved to augment his fortune by a visit to England, where he had heard of the favour king Charles I. shewed to the arts. On his arrival he lodged with Geldorp, a painter, hoping to be introduced to the king; but, owing to whatever means, this was not accomplished, and he went away chagrined. The king, however, soon learning what a treasure had been within his reach, ordered sir Kenelm Digby, who had sat to Vandyck, to invite him over. He immediately complied, and was lodged among the king’s artists at Black-friars. Thither the king went often by water, and viewed his performances with singular delight, frequently sitting to him himself, and bespeaking pictures of the queen, his children, and his courtiers; and he conferred the honour of knighthood on him at St. James’s July 5, 1632. This was the following year attended bv the grant of an annuity of 200^. a year, and with this he had the title of painter to his majesty.

According to Walpole, Vandyck’s prices were 40l. for a half, and 60l. for a whole length; but from some documents communicated by Mr. Malone, it appears that he painted, for the royal family at least, at the rate of 251. each portrait, and sometimes less. From the number of his works he must have been indefatigable; for though he | was not above forty-two when he died, they are not exceeded by those of Rubens. He lived sumptuously, kept a great table, and often detained the persons who sat to him, to dinner, for an opportunity of studying their -countenances, and of retouching their pictures again in the afternoon. In summer he lived at Eltham in Kent. He was not only luxurious in his living, but in his pleasures; and this, with a sedentary life, brought on the gout, and hurt his fortune. He sought to repair it by the silly pursuit of the philosopher’s stone, in which probably he was encouraged by the example or advice of his friend sir Kenelm Digby. Towards the end of his life, the king bestowed on him for a wife, Mary, the daughter of the unfortunate lord Gowry, and soon after his marriage he set out for Paris, in hopes of being employed in the Louvre; but disappointed in this, he returned to England, and proposed to the king, by sir Kenelm Digby, to paint the walls of the Banquetting-house at Whitehall, of which the ceiling was already adorned by Rubens -, and Vandyck’s subject was to have been the history and procession of the order of the garter. The proposal struck the king’s taste, and, in Walpole’s opinion, was accepted; though, he adds, that “some say it was rejected, on the extravagant price demanded by Vandyck I would not specify the sum, it is so improbable, if I did not find it repeated in Fenton’s notes on Waller; it was fourscore thousand pounds!” But the sum being expressed in figures, this was probably a typographical error of 80,000l. for 8000l. The rebellion, however, prevented further thoughts of the scheme, as the death of Vandyck would have interrupted the execution, at least the completion of it. He died in Blackfriars Dec. 9, 1641, and was buried in St. Paul’s near the tomb of John of Gaunt.

By his wife, Maria Ruthven, lord Cowry’s daughter, he left one daughter, married to Mr. Stepney, whose grandson, Walpole says, was George Stepney the poet. Lady Vandyck, the widow, was married again to Richard Pryse, son of sir John Pryse, of Newton-Averbecham, in Montgomeryshire, knt. by whom she had no issue. Vandyck. died rich, and was generous in his legacies, but, owing to the confusions of the times, some were with difficulty recovered, and some lost.

Walpole has enumerated the best of his pictures, but the number is too great for our limits. Among those of | transcendant excellence, however, we may notice his portrait of Charles I. a whole-length in the coronation robes, engraved by Strange, and exhibiting in his opinion one of the most perfect characters of the monarch; George Villiers, the second duke of Buckingham, and lord Francis his brother, when children, at Kensington; Philip, earl of Pembroke, at Wilton, where, Walpole says, Vandyck is on his throne, the great saloon being entirely furnished by his hand; and lastly, the earl of Strafford and his secretary at Wentworth-house. 1

1 Walpole’s Anecdotes. Argenville, To!. III. —Foppen’s Bibl. Belg. ctmpt, vol. II. Strange’s Catalogue.