Christie’s has announced that a striking head study by Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641), which was recently re-discovered on the BBC television progamme The Antiques Roadshow, will be offered at Christie’s Old Master & British Paintings Evening Sale, on Tuesday 8 July (estimate: £300,000-500,000, illustrated above). This work is a preparatory sketch for van Dyck’s full-length group portrait of The Magistrates of Brussels, which was painted in Brussels in 1634-35, when the artist was at the height of his powers. The painting was bought 12 years ago by Father Jamie MacLeod from an antiques shop in Cheshire for just £400. The proceeds of the sale will go towards the acquisition of new church bells for Whaley Hall Ecumenical Retreat House in Derbyshire to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War. This work will be exhibited for the first time ahead of the sale when it goes on free public view at Christie’s New York on 31 May to 3 June; it will also be on view in London ahead of the sale, on 5 to 8 July.
The sketch was largely obscured by later over-paint and, as a result, had been overlooked by van Dyck scholars. Recent cleaning and restoration of the picture has revealed a swiftly executed head study entirely consistent with three other known sketches for the Magistrates of Brussels picture, a work that hung in the Brussels Town Hall until it was destroyed during the French bombardment of the city in 1695. The painting can be compared with two other head studies, of almost identical dimensions (52 x 46 cm.), which are now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, and a third in a private collection. All share the same unusual priming technique used in the preparation of the canvas, with the application of a grey wash over a red ground.
Freddie de Rougemont, Christie’s Specialist: “We are delighted to present this beautifully observed head study by Sir Anthony van Dyck for sale, particularly after its exciting re-discovery on the Antiques Roadshow. The picture is of great importance as it provides a fascinating insight into van Dyck’s working method and also constitutes a significant surviving document for the artist’s lost group portrait of The Magistrates of Brussels.”
Father Jamie MacLeod, Whaley Hall Ecumenical Retreat House in Derbyshire: “It has been a blessing to own this magnificent portrait which has given me great pleasure over the years. I will be sad to part with it, though the proceeds will be put to excellent use, going towards the acquisition of new church bells for Whaley Hall Ecumenical Retreat House in Derbyshire to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World in 2018.”