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Anthony van Dyck, 'Portrait of Cornelis van der Geest', about 1620

Key facts
Full title Portrait of Cornelis van der Geest
Artist Anthony van Dyck
Artist dates 1599 - 1641
Date made about 1620
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 37.5 × 32.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1824
Inventory number NG52
Location Room 20
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Portrait of Cornelis van der Geest
Anthony van Dyck

Cornelis van der Geest was one of the most prominent art collectors of his day, so this commission must have been extremely important to Anthony van Dyck, who was only 21 at the time.

He has taken a relatively conservative approach, using a traditional format: a close up of just the sitter’s face, framed by a white ruff. But his brushwork is virtuosic. For the hair and beard he employed long, wispy strokes, while elsewhere he used much thicker paint – to add texture to the edges of the ruff, for example. The moisture in the sitter’s eyes is evoked with delicate flecks of white. The positioning of van der Geest’s head and gaze is also subtly effective. He looks very slightly back at us, as though he has just reacted to our presence.

The painting was later extended, almost certainly not by van Dyck, to bust length, and showed part of the sitter’s hand. The large frame now covers the additions.

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