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Anthony van Dyck, Lord John Stuart and his Brother, Lord Bernard Stuart

Key facts
Full title Lord John Stuart and his Brother, Lord Bernard Stuart
Artist Anthony van Dyck
Artist dates 1599 - 1641
Date made about 1638
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 237.5 × 146.1 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1988
Inventory number NG6518
Location On loan: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, Chimei Museum, Tainan City, Taiwan
Collection Main Collection
Lord John Stuart and his Brother, Lord Bernard Stuart
Anthony van Dyck

This life-size double portrait shows the youngest sons of the 3rd Duke of Lennox: Lord John Stuart, on the left, with his brother Lord Bernard Stuart. They were only about 17 and 18 but they ooze aristocratic superiority and are dressed in extravagant fashion.

Van Dyck’s ability to evoke the textures of silk and satin was one reason his portraits were so popular with the aristocracy at the time. Here he has enhanced the effects further by using the clear lines and muted colours of the background as a foil for the folds and rich colours of the fabrics.

He has also evoked a tension in the brothers' relationship. They stand close, their postures overlapping, each with his left hand on his hip and his torso turned towards the other. But their eyes do not meet. One leans back rather passively, while the other, who looks directly us, takes an active step forward, his spurs and sword clearly on display.

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