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Anthony van Dyck, Portrait of Giovanni Battista Cattaneo

Key facts
Full title Portrait of Giovanni Battista Cattaneo
Artist Anthony van Dyck
Artist dates 1599 - 1641
Date made about 1625-7
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 73.5 × 60.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1907
Inventory number NG2127
Location Room 21
Collection Main Collection
Portrait of Giovanni Battista Cattaneo
Anthony van Dyck

Anthony van Dyck spent much of his twenties in Italy and in particular Genoa, where a wealthy merchant aristocracy were eager patrons for his flattering and engaging style of portraiture. Many of these were painted full-length, images of graceful figures, clearly aware of their status. This is a more modest, half-length portrait, but the sitter still looks down at us with a confident, unwavering gaze.

The painting is in rather poor condition, so we can’t be sure that it is by Van Dyck himself, rather than a follower. But an inscription on the letter in the sitter’s right hand reads ‘To Giovanni Battista Cattaneo, Genoa’ (it is barely legible here, but clear in another version of the painting in a private collection). The Cattaneo were prominent Genoese nobility who included doges, cardinals, scholars, and statesmen. This painting and several other portraits by Van Dyck were in the family collection until the early twentieth century, including Portrait of a Woman (also in the National Gallery’s collection).

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