The Iconography Series by Anthony van Dyck
To mark the 25th anniversary of CODART, each month we introduce you to one of the hundred exceptional masterpieces of early modern Dutch and Flemish art (1350-1750) selected by museum curators from around the world for the CODART Canon. This time, all eyes are on the Iconography series by Anthony van Dyck.
One of the more famous and large-scale projects of the seventeenth century is the so-called Iconography series by Anthony van Dyck - an extensive collection of engraved portraits immortalizing his contemporaries, including eminent artists, collectors and philosophers. The series was reprinted several times starting in 1632, with new entries being added with each reprint up until the eighteenth century.
Portraits of Anthony van Dyck, Antonius Cornelissen and Paul de Vos © Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
The etchings by Van Dyck himself are considered to be the best ones. They reveal a distinctive, masterfully executed, vibrating style, in which he focuses meticulously on modelling the sitter’s head and facial features. The effect of an unfinished product stands from the fact that professional engravers - some of the best craftsmen of the time - would complete these portraits after Van Dyck’s initial sketches.
Portraits of Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Joos de Momper and Jan Snellinck © Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
The Iconography series started a new page in the history of printmaking and engraved portraits, and has become a monument for artistic ambition, the spirit of brave innovation, as well as an amazing testimony to an era, expressed through the images of people, who themselves contributed largely to shaping it.
Dmitrijs Zinovjevs, Curator of Prints and Drawings, Latvijas Nacionälä Bibliotëka, Riga
website CODART Canon
Portraits of Jan van den Wouwer, Hans de Wael and Justus Sustermans © Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam