Unfinished Works

There are many surviving examples of unfinished 17th century portraits. Some were small-scale studies for larger compositions, others were begun but left in limbo waiting for either the sitter or painter to find the time (or the money) to complete them, while others remained on the easel when the painter died. These works are sometimes even more interesting than the completed article, as they give insight into the painter’s composition process and how he or she approached their task.

VD Magistrate

Van Dyck’s 1634/1635 work entitled “Magistrates of Brussels”, which depicted several magistrates in council, was destroyed during French bombardment of Brussels in 1695, but several head sketches survive, including the above which is in a private collection. (I know, it’s not strictly English portraiture, but I think Sir Anthony can have a free pass on this one!)

VD Princesses.jpg
Anthony van Dyck,  Princess Elizabeth and Princess Anne, 1637,
©Scottish National Portrait Gallery

In this beautiful double portrait,Van Dyck depicts two daughters of King Charles I and Henrietta Maria. This was a study for part of his 1637 work “The Five Eldest Children of King Charles I” (below), now in the Royal Collection.

NPG 267; Five Children of King Charles I after Sir Anthony van Dyck

WD Rupert
Prince Rupert by William Dobson (private collection), begun in Oxford during the Royalist occupation of the 1640s, but remaining unfinished when the Prince left the city in early 1646.

Cooper Cromwell
Miniature of Oliver Cromwell, C.1650, by Samuel Cooper, private collection

Soest, Gerard, c.1600-1681; 20th Earl of Oxford
20th Earl of Oxford (called’Aubrey de Vere, 1626-1703)
c.1656/1657, ©Dulwich Picture Gallery

Lely poss Anne Hyde
Portrait of a Lady, probably Anne Hyde, Duchess of York (1637-1671)
Studio of Sir Peter Lely

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4 Comments

  1. I wondered if this post would include the Magistrates of Brussels sketches. Did you see the episodes of Antiques Roadshow and Fake of Fortune where a heavily overpainted picture was revealed to be one of them?

    I love that portrait of Rupert. If love is the right word, that is. Dobson has laid out tragedy right there in the Prince’s face.

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    • I did see that episode! What a find! The original painting must have been just stunning, and it’s so sad it was lost.
      I’d really like to see the Rupert other than in black and white, but sadly this is the only version I can find of it. I agree about his face. It’s what I think was Dobson’s greatest gift, to be able to portray such emotion and character
      in his sitters.

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      • Wasn’t it amazing? Even more so for the finished work being destroyed. I wonder if Father Jamie has found a buyer yet?

        Did you also see the episode about the painting of Henriette Marie being restored?

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  2. Forgot to say, totally agree about Dobson’s gift.

    Liked by 1 person

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