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Overview

In this stunning portrait of a mother and child, Van Dyck fuses patrician grandeur and human warmth. The woman, dressed in a formal black dress, beautifully set off by a graceful lace ruff, sits rigidly erect in high-backed chair. Adorned with an array of jewels that convey her aristocratic refinement—a gold medallion hanging from a chain across her chest, a broad band of pearls encircling her coiffed hair—she stares straight ahead in strict profile with a detached air while also holding her young son's hand, a tender gesture that belies her aloof demeanor. For his part, the boy, dressed in a splendid red brocade doublet and breeches, also seems to possess a maturity and solemnity beyond his years. However, the manner in which he clasps his mother's hand reveals the sense of assurance he receives from her touch. As the rambunctious dog springing at his feet suggests, he is, despite his proud bearing, only a boy.

Despite Van Dyck's remarkable ability to capture his sitter' personalities in this portrait, the precise identity of this mother and child is not known. The earliest reference to the painting dates from and 1801 description of the Earl of Warwick's collection, where it is listed as "Lady Brooke," presumably through a mistaken notion that the female sitter was one of the earl's ancestors. By 1809, however, the Warwick Castle inventory had recast the title as "A whole length Portrait of a Lady and her Page." Eventually it was realized that the painting was from Van Dyck's Italian period rather than his English one—the costumes, the nature of the architectural setting, and Van Dyck's broad summary painting technique clearly indicate this the portrait comes from the latter years of his Italian sojourn. It was also eventually recognized that the relationship between the two figures was that of mother and child.

 

Provenance

Possibly Pier Francesco Grimaldi, Genoa, 1780;[1] acquired probably by 1787 by George Greville, 2nd earl of Brooke and Warwick [1746-1816], London and Warwick Castle;[2] by inheritance to his son, Henry Richard Greville, 3rd earl of Brooke and Warwick [1779-1853], Warwick Castle; by inheritance to his son, George Guy Greville, 4th earl of Brooke and Warwick [1818-1893], Warwick Castle; by inheritance to his son, Francis Richard Charles Guy Greville, 5th earl of Brooke and Warwick [1853-1924], Warwick Castle, until at least 1900. (E.M. Hodgkins)[3] on joint account with (M. Knoedler and Co., New York); sold 1909 to Peter A.B. Widener, Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; inheritance from Estate of Peter A.B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park; gift 1942 to NGA.

Exhibition History
1862
Pictures by Italian, Spanish, Flemish, Dutch, French, and English Masters, British Institution, London, 1862, no. 36, as A Lady and Child.
1871
Exhibition of the Works of the Old Masters. Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1871, no. 155, Portrait of the Countess of Brignolé and Child.
1878
Exhibition of Works by the Old Masters. Winter Exhibition., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1878, no. 158.
1887
Exhibition of the Works of Sir Anthony Van Dyck, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1887, no. 18, as The Marchesa de Brignolé-Sala and her Son.
1909
Exhibition of Portraits by Van Dyck from the Collections of Mr. P.A.B. Widener and Mr. H.C. Frick, M. Knoedler & Co., New York, 1909, no. 2, as Marchesa Brignole-Sala and Her Son.
1909
National Loan Exhibition, Grafton Galleries, London, 1909-1910, no. 55, as Marchesa di Brignole-Sala and Her Son (shown only at the beginning of the exhibition).
1990
Anthony van Dyck, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1990-1991, no. 43, color repro.
1999
Van Dyck 1599-1641, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp; Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1999, no. 37, repro.
2004
Anton van Dyck: Riflessi italiani, Palazzo Reale, Milan, 2004, no. 18, repro.
2014
Rubens and His Legacy: From Van Dyck to Cézanne, BOZAR, Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels; Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2014-2015, no. 105, repro.
Bibliography
1913
Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis, and Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Pictures in the collection of P. A. B. Widener at Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania: Early German, Dutch & Flemish Schools. Philadelphia, 1913: unpaginated, repro., as Paola Adorno, Marchesa di Brignole-Sala, and her Son.
1923
Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1923: unpaginated, repro., as Paola Adorno, Marchesa di Brignole-Sala and Her Son.
1931
Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1931: 116, repro., as Paola Adorno, Marchesa di Brignole-Sala and Her Son.
1935
Tietze, Hans. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935: 156, repro. (English ed., Masterpieces of European Painting in America. New York, 1939: 156, repro.).
1942
Works of Art from the Widener Collection. Foreword by David Finley and John Walker. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 7, as Paola Adorno, Marchesa di Brignole-Sale and Her Son.
1948
Paintings and Sculpture from the Widener Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1948 (reprinted 1959): 70, repro., as Paola Adorno, Marchesa Brignole Sale, and Her Son.
1957
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. London, 1957 (reprinted 1959): pl. 82, as Paola Adorno, Marchesa Brignole Sale, and Her Son.
1960
The National Gallery of Art and Its Collections. Foreword by Perry B. Cott and notes by Otto Stelzer. National Gallery of Art, Washington (undated, 1960s): 10, repro., as Marchesa Paola Adorno and Her Son.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 311, repro., as Paola Adorno, Marchesa Brignole Sale, and Her Son.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 47, as Paolo Adorno, Marchesa Brignole Sale, and Her Son.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 39, repro., as Paolo Adorno, MArchesa Brignole Sale, and Her Son.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 120, repro., as Paolo Adorno, Marchesa Brignole Sale, and Her Son.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 263, no. 332, color repro., as Paola Adorno, Marchesa Brignole Sale, and Her Son.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 145, repro.
1994
Cataldi Gallo, Marzia, "Per una Storia del Costume Genovese nel Primo Quarto del Seicento." Studies in the History of Art 46 (1994): 115.
1994
Jaffe, Michael. "On Some Portraits Painted by Van Dyck in Italy, Mainly in Genoa." Studies in the History of Art 46 (1994): 141-142.
2004
Barnes, Susan J. Van Dyck: A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings. New Haven, 2004: II.73
2005
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Flemish Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 2005: 66-70, color repro.