Lowell Libson & Jonny Yarker Ltd

  • Pen and ink
  • 6 ⅜ × 5 ⅛ inches · 162 × 130 mm
  • Signed with monogram 'JV' also inscribed, lower right, in another hand ‘Van Dyke’
    Drawn c. 1725

Collections

  • Major A. R. Tavener, to 2017

This sketch demonstrates Vanderbank's verve and originality as a draughtsman. Vanderbank probably copied the drawing from a sketch by or attributed to Van Dyck, which appears to depict a monastic figure wearing a hooded cloak. Although no such sketch is known now, it could have been based on a study for any number of religious paintings from Van Dyck's Antwerp period.

By 1725 Vanderbank was one of London's leading portrait painters, Vertue wrote that following the death of Godfrey Kneller in 1723, he could have 'carryd all before him', yet although he lived in a grand style, he is not known to have assembled a collection of old master drawings in the tradition of Lely, Riley, Richardson and Hudson.[1] Perhaps any collecting ambitions were held in check by his constantly precarious financial situation, which led to insolvencies in 1724 and 1729. Even so, this drawing reveals that Vanderbank engaged closely with old master drawings by making copies and pastiches and this study informed his own work as is apparent from a self-portrait now at the Metropolitan Museum.

Vanderbank may not have been attempting an exact reproduction of a Van Dyck sketch, if the example of a huge copy he made in 1723 of Raphael's Villa Farnesina ceiling, the Marriage of Cupid and Psyche, is a guide. Vanderbank painted a version in monochrome, twenty-two feet wide by eight high; its destination is unknown but, given its size and instructive potential it is likely to have been displayed at the St Martin's Lane Academy where Vanderbank was the co-manager alongside Louis Chéron. Vertue thought this copy 'most nobly painted & drawn. the light & shade finely dispos'd. suteable to the original. yet not as a Copiest, but intirely like a Master...  a great proof of his skill in drawing, the foundation of the Art of Painting. & is an Honour to this Nation having never travelled abroad.'[2] Vertue's praise shows what a huge statement copies could make within the art world, for through them painters could demonstrate their mastery and understanding of the techniques, styles and ideas of the great artists of the past. It is tempting to think of Vanderbank's huge copy of Raphael as having stimulated Thornhill in the project he began in 1729 to make full-scale copies of the Raphael Cartoons at Hampton Court.

Vertue underlined the influence of Vanderbank's draughtsmanship at several points in his notebooks. His own brother studied under Vanderbank, and 'there particularly improved his drawing much.'[3] Arthur Pond, another of Vanderbank's pupils, studied 'by drawing and studying after painting the heads of Vandyke &c...[and] drawing in Clair-obscure.'[4] Vertue also suggested that the idea of painting sitters in costumes from Van Dyck's era was first proposed by Vanderbank's pupil John Robinson in the 1740s. However, Vanderbank's 1737 portrait of Lady Yonge at Sudbury Hall, which is based on a portrait of Rubens's wife then thought to be by Van Dyck, indicates that the innovation was his.[5] On learning of Vanderbank's death, Vertue judged him in 'drawing, and Painting, of all men born in this nation superior in skill.'[6]

References

  1. Vertue, vol.III, p.98.
  2. Vertue, vol.III, p.15.
  3. Vertue, vol.III, p.157.
  4. Vertue, vol.III, p.105.
  5. Vertue, vol.III, p.124-5.
  6. Vertue, vol.III, p.97.