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.