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Anthony van Dyck, Portrait of the Abbé Scaglia

Key facts
Full title Portrait of the Abbé Scaglia
Artist Anthony van Dyck
Artist dates 1599 - 1641
Date made 1634
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 200.6 × 123.2 cm
Acquisition credit Accepted by HM Government in lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to the National Gallery, 1999
Inventory number NG6575
Location Room 21
Collection Main Collection
Portrait of the Abbé Scaglia
Anthony van Dyck

The Abbé Scaglia (1592–1641), whose full name was Cesare Alessandro Scaglia di Verrua, was a cleric and diplomat well known in Rome, Madrid, London and Paris for his service to the House of Savoy and Philip IV of Spain. Scaglia was also an art collector of renown who knew, among others, Rubens, Van Dyck, Jordaens and Velázquez. After they met in the 1620s, Scaglia became one of Van Dyck’s most important patrons.

In this portrait, painted in Antwerp in 1634 when Scaglia was 42, Van Dyck shows him as a living statue, his pose and toga-like robes recalling Roman sculptures. Atop a body elongated to give elegance and life sits the head of a man who has seen much of life. He is a formidable figure used to moving in the highest echelons of court circles, whose expression, hard to read, nevertheless confirms Rubens’s estimation of him as ‘a man of the keenest intellect’.

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