DYCK, Sir Anthony van
(b. 1599, Antwerpen, d. 1641, London)

The Four Ages of Man

Oil on canvas, 116 x 168 cm
Museo Civico, Vicenza

Anthony van Dyck, a Flemish painter who was trained in the workshop of Peter Paul Rubens, painted this work during a long stay in Italy, when he moved from Venice to Mantua where he was a guest at the court of the Gonzaga. This masterpiece, the work of an artist who has now reached maturity and success, still shows signs of the teachings of his master Rubens, visible especially in the rendering of the figures and of their flesh tones. However the sober brushwork and the attention to modelling the effects of light stand out as distinctive features of Van Dyck's own means of expression, influenced by Venetian painting and in particular by Titian.

The gentle melancholy in the Four Ages of Man represents an unqualified homage to the Giorgionesque style of Titian's youth. In technique, too, Van Dyck followed the Venetian trend: this and his other Italian works are executed on a dark ground on which his rapid touches of colour acquire a particularly warm glow.