- Museum number
View of Straits of Messina or Sicily, or Liguria (?), cumulus clouds above; leaf from the Italian Sketchbook (containing 121 leaves)
Pen and brown ink
- Production date
Height: 194 millimetres
Width: 155 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Van Dyck's Italian sketchbook contains 121 numbered leaves originally bound in vellum and inserted into a modern binding of red velvet. There is an inscription in pen and brown ink inside the front cover of the vellum binding which reads: "Barratken" and "Julii 1". There is also a faint sketch of a standing female figure inside the back cover of the binding.
Van Dyck left his Antwerp home in 1621 and spend the next six years visiting the major artistic centres of Italy, including Venice, Sicily, Genoa, Palermo and Rome. He primarily used this sketchbook to record compositions by Italian artists, placing greatest emphasis on the work of Titian. Van Dyck inscribed Titian's name next to almost sixty designs throughout the sketchbook, recording not only paintings by the master, but also prints after him (see, for instance, 1957,1214.207.92). Paintings and frescoes by Paolo Veronese, Raphael and Annibale Caracci are also frequently recorded. The Northern masters, including Rubens (1957,1214.207.13) and Dürer (1957,1214.207.77) are copied as well. Van Dyck appears to have been far less interested in drawing after the antique, the 'Seated Philosopher' being the only recorded Classical sculpture in the sketchbook (1957,1214.207.33).
While it is traditionally assumed that the artist sketched almost exclusively after paintings and frescoes, it is now becoming increasingly evident that Van Dyck, whose primary interest was to capture compositions rather than the manner of painting, commonly worked after prints and painted replicas as well (see Jaffé 2001, p.616). The sketches after artworks are often accompanied by inscriptions denoting not only the artist responsible for the design, but also the colour scheme, material texture (e.g. 1957,1214.207.8) and where the sketch took place (e.g. 1957,1214.207.104). Van Dyck predominantly uses Italian, although inscriptions in Dutch also exist (see 1957,1214.207.100 and 1957,1214.207.20).
Apart from sketches after artworks, Van Dyck also seems to have used his sketchbook for observations of daily life (see for instance, 1957,1214.207.58), as well as for preparatory drawings, some of which were later directly translated into paintings (see e.g. 1957,1214.207.62).
The vast majority of the sketches are executed in pen and brown ink, often with the addition of brown wash. When chalk is used, it is often clumsily traced over by a later hand (e.g. 1957,1214.207.19). The inconsistent pagination suggests that some leaves from the sketchbook are now missing. Watermarks appear in the middle of the gutter of the sketchbook which makes it difficult to identify. Some show the letter 'A', while others possibly a full-length winged angel or putto in frontal view (no similar watermark is recorded in the usual compendiums).
Lit: Lionel H. Cust, 'A description of the Sketch-book by Sir Anthony Van Dyck used by him in Italy 1621-1627 and preserved in the Collection of the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth ', London, 1902; Gert Adriani (ed.), 'Anton van Dyck: Italienisches Skizzenbuch', Vienna, 1940; Christopher Brown, 'Van Dyck', Oxford, 1982, pp.61ff; Jeremy Wood, 'Van Dyck's Cabinet de Titien: the contents and dispersal of his collection', in The Burlington Magazine 132 (1990), pp.680-696; Piero Boccardo, 'Ritratti di collezionisti e committenti', in Susan Barnes (ed.), 'Van Dyck e Genova', Genoa, 1997, p.41; M. Royalton-Kisch, "The Light of Nature: Landscape drawings and watercolours by Van Dyck and his contemporaries", exh.cat. Rubenshuis Antwerp and British Museum, London, 1999, pp.24-26; Elizabeth McGrath, 'Una striga in Palermo: A Sicilian document from the Italian sketchbook: conjectures and refutations', in Hans Vlieghe (ed.), 'Van Dyck 1599-1999', Turnhout, 2001, pp.43-51; David Jaffé, 'New thoughts on Van Dyck's Italian sketchbook', in The Burlington Magazine 143 (2001), pp.614-624; Michael Jaffé, 'The Devonshire Collection of Northern European Drawings, A Complete Catalogue', vol.I, 2002, cat.nos.986-1132, pp.70-127; Vincenzo Abbate, 'Van Dyck a Palermo', in 'Anton van Dyck', Milan, 2004, pp.68-8; Christopher Brown and Hans Vlieghe, 'Van Dyck, 1599-1641', ex.cat. Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp and Royal Academy of Arts, London'; X.F. Salomon, 'Van Dyck in Sicily: 1624-1625 Painting and the Plague', exh.cat. Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, 2012, cat.nr.5 and p.20 and 30; S.Alsteens and A. Eaker, Van Dyck: The Anatomy of Portraiture (New York: Frick Collection, 2016): p. 16-17; P. Rumberg and D. Shawe-Taylor, 'Charles I: King and Collector', London, Royal Academy, 2018, cat. no. 77; pp. 156-170.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2009 Feb-June, BM, Dept of Middle East, Shah 'Abbas (only 1957,1214.207.62)
2012 Feb-May, London, Dulwich Picture Gallery, Van Dyck in Sicily (only 1957,1214.207.110)
2018 Jan-April, London, RA, 'Charles I: the King's Pictures' (only 1957,1214.207.111)
2019 Oct-Jan 2020, London, BM G35"Inspired by the East” (only 1957,1214.207.62)
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number