Anthony van Dyck, 'Portrait of George Gage with Two Attendants', probably 1622–3
George Gage was an English diplomat and art dealer. He was also a secret agent.
Dressed elegantly in black, Gage is shown leaning nonchalantly against a stone pedestal. He appears to be in negotiation with two men who are offering him a sculpture. His hands, with graceful long fingers, express calmness and refinement. He seems in command of the situation.
Gage spent time in Italy and the Netherlands, negotiating deals for the great English collectors of the early 17th century. He most likely met the painter of this portrait, the young Van Dyck, in Antwerp, where he successfully completed an art deal with Van Dyck’s master, the famously tough negotiator Rubens.
Gage’s bargaining skills were legendary, and in 1621 he was sent to Rome on a secret mission to obtain papal dispensation for the marriage between the future King Charles I and the Spanish Infanta. He was able to combine his diplomatic activities with art dealing and he played a role in enabling Charles to amass his great art collection.
Gage returned again to Rome the following year, when Van Dyck was also in the city, and where this portrait was probably painted. Gage’s informality in the portrait indicates the two had become friends by this time.