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Portrait of Jean-Baptiste Janssens Van Bisthoven

 

Sir Anthony Van Dyck
Flanders; 1599-1641
Portrait of Jean-Baptiste Janssens Van Bisthoven, c. 1630
oil on canvas; 79 x 48 inches
Gift of Mrs. Walter O. Briggs, 1947

This imposing portrait of a Jesuit scholar and educator, from an eminent patrician family of Antwerp, reveals the characteristics of the "grand manner" formula that Van Dyck perfected during his stay in Italy from 1621-27. The viewer is made to look up at the dark-robed figure of Van Bisthoven, whose commanding presence is emphasized by the massive column which he casually rests his right elbow against. The portrait dates to the artist's second Antwerp period, before he departed for England in 1632 where he became court painter to Charles I. Two years older than his subject, Van Dyck had recently joined a Jesuit confranternity of bachelors, perhaps in repentance of his profligate lifestyle. He painted a second likeness of Van Bisthoven, in three-quarter length, around the time of the subject's ordination in 1634, which remains in a private collection in Germany.