Testing your eye on the Van Dycks

Anne Boteler, Countess of Newport, by Sir Anthony van Dyck, at Petworth House. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

Paintings expert Bendor Grosvenor has been perusing our new online National Trust Collections database (which I first posted about here), testing his eye on various ‘school of’ and ‘attributed to’ portraits. He has reported his hunches on his Art History News blog.

An unknown Genoese lady, attributed to Sir Anthony Van Dyck, at Petworth House. ©National Trust/Andrew Fetherston

For instance, he thinks that this portrait of a lady at Petworth, attributed to Van Dyck, really is by the artist himself, done in the mid 1620s in Italy.

Henry, Baron Percy of Alnwick, by Sir Anthony van Dyck, at Petworth House. ©NTPL/Matthew Hollow

This kind of response is really encouraging. It means people are now starting to use the National Trust Collections site for research and comparison. The site itself (and the National Trust’s curatorial records) will also benefit from these responses, as more information comes to light and opinions are exchanged.

Catherine Bruce, Mrs Murray, later Countess of Dysart, by Sir Anthony van Dyck, at Petworth House. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

Once again we see the potential of crowd sourcing – which, in the slightly rarified area of old master paintings expertise, should perhaps be called in-crowd sourcing (but an in-crowd accessible to all).

Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford, by Sir Anthony van Dyck, at Petworth House. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

As it happens, the Economist newspaper featured an article in its most recent issue about a related development in a ‘parallel universe’ to art history: the effect of blogging and social media in spreading ideas and discussions from the academic world of economics into the wider business and policy environment.

Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland (the 'wizard earl'), painted posthumously as a philosopher, at Petworth House. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

So do have a look yourself on National Trust Collections, search for objects that fall within your professional expertise or private obsession, and let me know if you, too, can spot any ‘sleepers’.

6 Responses to “Testing your eye on the Van Dycks”

  1. columnist Says:

    The Economist comment is really quite valid. Blogging means we’re all invited to a salon to discuss a topic and to hear others’ views on it too. Interesting post. Thanks!

  2. HRH The Duchess of State Says:

    I so enjoy your posts dahhling they are both beautiful & educational. Not to mention always interesting. How true that by means of this wonderous medium, so many people can be reached, educated & amused!

  3. Parnassus Says:

    Thanks for this link. I took a quick look and right away found two cool ophicleide mouthpieces.

    You are right in pointing out the importance of looking closely at objects. For example, with early musical instruments, the exact number of keys is often of great importance, yet many times I have found the actual number misstated in printed catalogs.

    Putting collections on-line will make it easier for people in different fields to examine collections. This is especially valid for house museums which might have a small number of many type of objects, perhaps a rare dish or antiquity, which would otherwise be not locatable.

    –Road to Parnassus

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Columnist, yes I found the Economist article very interesting in that it showed how respectable blogging now is in the field of economics.

    HRH, thank you, I am glad you are finding both facts and beauty here – exactly what I am trying to provide.

    Parnassus, yes this database opens up a whole new world of research and discovery – which is why we at the NT need to keep improving and augmenting the data – with your help.

  5. columnist Says:

    Oh I do have one comment about how the images are displayed – can they be from the front, and not the side. I know this is not always easy, because some of the pictures hang in narrow corridors, but a different technique needs to be found to achieve this. Vide: http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1175932 to get an idea of what I’m talking about.

  6. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes I completely agree with you – the pictures should really be taken off the wall and photographed to a professional standard. The reason that hasn’t happened in all cases as yet is simply a backlog issue. Ditto for the objects where we haven’t got an image on the website yet. National Trust Collections is very much a work in progress, and all those issues are being gradually addressed, within the limits of the manpower and resources available.

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