$7m Van Dyck to sell at Sotheby's

Just a few weeks back, the remarkable sale of a Van Dyck self-portrait gave the auctioneers an excellent reason to enjoy Christmas that little bit more. The painting had been estimated at a more than respectable £2-3m.

Eager bidders quickly pushed the price past that, to a world record £8.33m - a world record for the artist.

The same auction house, Sotheby's, will no doubt be hoping to repeat this trick in its upcoming sale of Old Master Paintings in New York. Their highest hope will be for Two Studies of a Bearded Man which is currently on long loan to a museum in Tennessee.

The painting, by a young Van Dyck, is an example of the then new technique of painting study heads from a live model, which he was experimenting with whilst in Rubens's studio.

It was relatively uncommon for an artist to do two studies of a model on the canvas, but this obviously had advantages in experimenting with the different problems the painting raised, as well as the interest of uniting the figures into one scene.

The painting is estimated at $5-7m, but given last month's auction, it is difficult to predict what bidders will make of it.

Van Dyck Two Studies of a Bearded Man
Van Dyck's Two Studies of a Bearded Man
(Click to enlarge)

A more modestly priced Van Dyck is a portrait of Nicolas Rockox. The rediscovery of the painting 20 years ago intrigued art historians as the work is a little different in kind from Van Dyck's other works. Notably, the circular painting has a diameter of just over 6in.

The painting has been marked 1636, but this has been called into question, and it has been suggested it may have been created in 1632 or even earlier, when both painter and subject were in Antwerp.

For us, the portrait has another minor point of interest: it is of a collector! Rockox was interested in collecting in general, but was particularly interested in coins.

The painting is expected to sell for $1-1.5m, though again, this seems difficult to estimate now. Sotheby's auction takes place on the January 28 2010.


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