In the early 1630s Anthony van Dyck started a ambitious series of portrait prints.The drawings and oil sketches like this one en grisaille where the examples for the printmakers. This series is called the Iconography. Although individual portraits were in circulation by 1632, the complete edition of 80 engravings by various printmakers was only published in 1645, four years after Van Dyck’s death.
The subject of this portrait is the painter Adriaen van Stalbempt (1580-1662, was an Antwerp artist who specialized in landscape.
A preliminary drawing by Anthony van Dyck is in the Musee du Petit Palais in Paris (Collection Dutuit )
The attribution of the tonal models, whether to Van Dyck or his studio, has long been debated. In some cases there is more than one version, and it has been difficult to distinguish which is the prototype. The largest single group of works is the 39 grisailles in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch, at Boughton House, and even some of these are in question. This panel was in the 19th century in the collection of Bishop Turton (1780-1864). Thomas Turton was an Anglican hymn composer, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge and later Bishop of Ely. He owned a large collection of pictures. After his death the picture was sold and stayed in the same family for over 150 years.
Several other grisailles with the portrait of Adriaen van Stalbempt are known. The Buccleuch version and one with Thomas Williams in 2001 are considered autograph. The ones at Port Elliot in the Museum in Gent and with Christie’s New York in 2015 not.
The fact that the engraving repeats the grisaille not in reverse, which would be the normal practice when one engraves after a picture, is very common in the iconography of Van Dyck, compare for example the grisailles of Frans Francken and Sebastiaen Vrancx in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch.