ANTON VAN DYCK
Portrait of Hendrick van Steenwyck the Younger
Black chalk, washed in grey, stylus
Inv. No. 791
27.3 × 20.9 cm
Already as a young man, Anthony van Dyck attained outstanding success as a portrait painter throughout Europe. It may well have been this circumstance that led him – between about 1626 and 1635 – to publish a series of portrait engravings and etchings which came to be known in the eighteenth century as the Iconographia. Anthony van Dyck’s »iconography« is a gallery of famous men of his day, princes and generals, diplomats and scholars, but above all artists and connoisseurs of art, whose likenesses van Dyck was especially keen on handing down to posterity. He took the opportunities offered by meetings with these persons to capture their features in drawings and oil sketches, on the basis of which printmakers produced engravings and etchings. Approximately seventeen of the etchings were executed at least in part by van Dyck himself. It was probably in the first half of the 1630s, and in London, that van Dyck met the Flemish painter Hendrick van Steenwyck the Younger (ca. 1580–before 1650), who had made a name for himself chiefly with scenes of architectural interiors. The drawing shows him as a lively and energetic man who fixes the viewer with a stern gaze, while indicating his profession with the sheet of paper he holds in his hand. After executing the portrait with great care in black chalk, van Dyck applied a grey wash with a brush to produce areas of light and dark, creating the effect of physical volume and space. The drawing was covered with red chalk on the back and then traced with a stylus on the front – the means by which the engraver Paulus Pontius (1603–1658) transferred the image to the copper plate. The values of lightness and darkness so carefully developed by van Dyck were then reproduced by Pontius in the engraving by means of more or less dense hatching. This drawing was an acquisition by Johann Friedrich Städel, who aimed to achieve a comprehensive overview of the history of art with his collection. Städel will no doubt have been interested in possessing both a masterly drawing by van Dyck and, in the same work, a portrait of another painter.