21 March 2018

New Discovery: Van Dycks’s Portrait of Dutch Golden Age Painter Pieter Soutman



Jordaens and Van Dyck Panel Paintings Project identifies Van Dyck’s unidentified man in Vienna as the lost portrait of Dutch Golden Age Painter Pieter Soutman. Kunsthistorisches Museum Focus Exhibition 23 March to 23 July 2018.

The subject of Sir Anthony van Dyck’s Portrait of a Man, one of the Flemish Baroque portrait masterpieces in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, has been identified as the Dutch Golden Age painter and engraver Pieter Soutman. After extensive research, Justin Davies, the co-founder of the Jordaens and Van Dyck Panel Paintings Project (JVDPPP), a multidisciplinary art historical initiative that systematically studies the panel paintings by Jacques Jordaens and Sir Anthony Van Dyck, has discovered that the man in the portrait is in fact Van Dyck’s fellow painter, colleague and friend Pieter Soutman (1593/1601-1657), a competitor of Frans Hals in Haarlem, painted in Brussels in 1628.  Starting 23 March, the discovery is the sole focus of the exhibition  in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, open to the public until 22 July 2018. An English version of the exhibition catalogue, in which the discovery is published, is available on jordaensvandyck.org/van-dycks-portrait-of-pieter-soutman/

Portrait of a Man, now identified as Pieter Soutman, by Anthony Van Dyck, c. 1628, oil on canvas, 75.5 x 58 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, inv. no. 693

Van Dyck’s Portrait of the King of Poland’s Painter
The Portrait of a Man has been hanging in Vienna since the last half of the 17th century. It has previously been misidentified as the Flemish painters Paul de Vos (1595-1678) and Jan Boeckhorst (1604-1668).

However, JVDPPP co-founder Justin Davies found a clue in the inventory of Archduke Leopold-Wilhelm’s collection, drawn up in 1659. It lists a portrait by Van Dyck as that ‘of the painter of the King of Poland called long Peter’. Re-examining archival documents, Davies established that this was the title used by Pieter Soutman from 1624, when he became painter to the King of Poland Sigismund III Vasa (1587-1632) and that he had been painted by Van Dyck.

Since 1949, it has been known from a 1645 letter by Pieter Soutman that there was a lost portrait. ‘The Van Dyck portrait of me is estimated as high as anyone has seen anything by Van Dyck. It will not leave my hands, even for 300 guilders in cash’, wrote Soutman, soon after Van Dyck died in London aged only 41.

Sold to Archduke Leopold-Wilhelm of Austria in 1651
As young men, before they became famous, Van Dyck and Soutman worked together for the great Peter Paul Rubens in Antwerp. Ten years later, in 1628, they met again in Brussels where this portrait was likely painted. A new archival discovery by Piet Bakker, Archival Research Fellow of the JVDPPP revealed that Soutman sold his portrait to Archduke Leopold-Wilhelm (1614-1662) then ruler of the Spanish Netherlands in 1651. He brought it to Vienna in 1656.

Focus exhibition in Vienna March 2018
The painting is a rapidly executed example of Van Dyck’s brilliance. It appears almost unfinished. Single-strokes of heavy paint, impasto, are rapidly applied. A slash of white silk in the left sleeve is simply achieved by painting a jagged white line on the still visible grey preparation layer. The portrait is also known through a more finished version in Musée du Louvre. The Vienna portrait of Pieter Soutman is the subject of a focus exhibition at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna from 23 March to 22 July 2018

“Identifying it as the painter Pieter Soutman by his young friend Van Dyck brings a brilliant portrait even more to life” said Justin Davies, Co-founder, coordination and research fellow of the JVDPPP. The project’s by-line is ‘Revealing Van Dyck and Jordaens – It’s never too late for new discoveries’.



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