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Sir Anthony van Dyck

1 of 30 portraits of Sir Anthony van Dyck

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Sir Anthony van Dyck

by Sir Anthony van Dyck
oil on canvas, circa 1640
22 in. x 18 1/8 in. (560 mm x 460 mm) oval
Purchased with support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Art Fund in honour of David Verey CBE (Chairman of the Art Fund 2004-2014), the Portrait Fund, The Monument Trust, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Aldama Foundation, the Deborah Loeb Brice Foundation, Sir Harry Djanogly CBE, Mr and Mrs Michael Farmer. Matthew Freud, Catherine Green, Dr Bendor Grosvenor, Alexander Kahane, the Catherine Lewis Foundation, the Material World Foundation, The Sir Denis Mahon Charitable Trust, Cynthia Lovelace Sears, two major supporters who wish to remain anonymous, and many contributions from the public following a joint appeal by the National Portrait Gallery and the Art Fund, 2014
Primary Collection
NPG 6987

On display in Room 4 on Floor 3 at the National Portrait Gallery


The frame of this painting, crested with the…

Sitterback to top

  • Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641), Painter. Sitter associated with 30 portraits, Artist or producer associated with 1023 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641), Painter. Artist or producer associated with 1023 portraits, Sitter associated with 30 portraits.

This portraitback to top

This portrait is one of three known self-portraits painted by van Dyck when he was in England, and it probably dates from the last years of his life. The artist shows himself fashionably dressed but apparently in the act of painting, the line of his right shoulder and sleeve suggesting his hand raised in the process of applying paint to a canvas just out of sight. The broad handling of the paint in the costume, compared with the face, may indicate that this area of the painting is unfinished, or it may be that this is simply a more experimental work than his formal court portraits. The frame of this painting, crested with the sunflower motif associated with the artist, is of outstanding importance and is likely to have been designed with van Dyck's involvement.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Portraits, p. 32
  • Smartify image discovery app
  • Catharine MacLeod, Van Dyck: The Last Self Portrait, 2014, p. 19
  • Catharine MacLeod, Van Dyck: The Last Self Portrait, 2014, p. 6
  • Catharine Macleod, Van Dyck : the last self-portrait, 2015, p. front cover, back cover, 4, 6, 18, 22, 23, 25, 26, 28
  • Edited by Rab MacGibbon and Tanya Bentley, Icons and Identities, 2021, p. 119
  • Rab MacGibbon, National Portrait Gallery: The Collection, p. 31
  • Ribeiro, Aileen; Blackman, Cally, A Portrait of Fashion: Six Centuries of Dress at the National Portrait Gallery, 2015, p. 90
  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 85 Read entry

    Anthony Van Dyck was by far the most influential painter to have worked in Britain during the seventeenth century, and arguably the most influential portrait painter ever to work in this country. Flemish by birth, he found patronage in a number of European cities, but his longest stay was in England, which he made his home from the beginning of his second visit in 1632 until his death in 1641. Van Dyck decisively turned British portraiture away from the stiff, intricately detailed, formal approach of Tudor and Jacobean painting, developing a distinctive fluid, shimmering style that was to dominate portraiture in Britain right up until the early years of the twentieth century. He was knighted by Charles I on his arrival in England and appointed Principal Painter to the King; he achieved a status that marked him out as the first British ‘celebrity’ painter.

    This is one of three known self-portraits painted by Van Dyck during his time in Britain. He shows himself fashionably dressed but apparently in the act of painting, the line of his arm suggesting his hand raised in the process of applying paint to a canvas. The marked contrast between the broad, rapid, confident handling of the costume and the high level of finish in the face may suggest that the costume is unfinished, or it may be that this self-portrait is simply more experimental than his grand, commissioned portraits.

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Mediaback to top


Events of 1640back to top

Current affairs

Second Bishops' War. James Graham, Marquess of Montrose, leading the Scottish armies, occupies northeast of England. Defeat at the Battle of Newburn forces impoverished Charles to sign Treaty of Ripon.
Long Parliament. Habeas Corpus Act is passed, abolishing the Star Chamber. Impeachment of Royalists, Earl of Strafford and Archbishop Laud.

Art and science

Author, James Howell, writes Dodona's Grove, a historical allegory of events since 1603. A renowned royalist, Howell's anti-parliamentary remarks in the book would later attract accusations from parliamentarians.
The last Caroline masque before the outbreak of civil war, Salmacida Spolia by Sir William Davenant, is performed at Whitehall Palace.


Frederick William becomes Elector of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia. The Elector's policy of religious tolerance benefited his state during the religious struggles dominating the Thirty Years' War.
The Bay Psalm Book is published, the first book to be printed in British North America.

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