12 August 2017

Flemish Family Strife and a Famous Van Dyck Portrait of Charles I

The fate of most of the contents of Van Dyck’s studio in London after he died in 1641 at the young age of 42, including his preparatory studies on panel, remains a mystery. In the course of our researches into Van Dyck’s studio, we have unearthed a remarkable and strained relationship between two Flemish painters in London who both knew Van Dyck and made copies of his paintings.

Archival research in the UK has revealed a previously-unknown family relationship between two members of Van Dyck’s artistic circle in London, the painters and art dealers George Geldorp (1590 – 1665) and Remigius van Leemput (1607 – 1675).

George Geldorp, a close confidant of Van Dyck, was an Antwerp painter who moved to London and was the latter’s host on his first visit there in 1620. From around 1633 Remigius van Leemput was an assistant in Van Dyck’s studio in Blackfriars. When the Royal Collection was sold after Charles I’s execution in 1649, Leemput bought Van Dyck’s huge Portrait of King Charles I with M. de St Antoine, which he tried and failed to sell in Antwerp.

Anthony Van Dyck, 'Charles I with M. de St Antoine', oil on canvas, 370 x 270 cm, Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Anthony Van Dyck, ‘Charles I with M. de St Antoine’, oil on canvas, 370 x 270 cm, Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

At the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, Geldorp was tasked by the King with reassembling the dispersed Royal Collection. Some new owners, Geldorp included, gave up their paintings willingly, but Leemput hung on to his Van Dyck until the Crown sued him for its return. It now transpires that there may have been Flemish family tensions surrounding the restitution.

An 1656 Chancery Bill in the National Archives at Kew, discovered by Justin Davies and retrieved and transcribed by James Mulraine, shows that Geldorp and Leemput had crossed swords before, over the purchase of a house in Antwerp. The second line of The Joint and severall Answere ofe Remigius Van Leemputt and Anna Maria his wife defts to the bill of Complt of George Geldorp Complaynant reveals a startling new detail:

ye sd Anna Maria was & is ye daughter of the said Complt

Geldorp alleges that his daughter Anna Maria and son-in-law Remigius have kept both the house and the money that he gave them to buy it. The archival bundle does not include the Court’s judgment, but the unusual difficulty in recovering Van Dyck’s famous portrait of Charles I for the King suggests that relations between father and son-in-law may not have improved by 1660.

How to cite: Davies, Justin and Mulraine, James. “Flemish Family Strife and a Famous Van Dyck Portrait of Charles I.” In Jordaens Van Dyck Panel Paintings Project.
http://jordaensvandyck.org/flemish-family-strife-and-a-famous-van-dyck-portrait-of-charles-i/ (accessed 23 September 2023)

© Jordaens Van Dyck Panel Paintings Project (terms and conditions)

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