About this artwork

Van Dyck produced many portraits of men in armour during his stay in Genoa in the 1620s. This man’s armour and warrior’s helmet nearby could signify that he is a soldier, while the spurs and riding crop indicate that he is a skilful horseman. Traditionally, armorial portraits were used by kings and nobles as outward displays of strength, command and wealth. From 1625-26, the Republic of Genoa was at war with the House of Savoy, and during this period Van Dyck painted many wealthy Genoese men in military armour. Such portraits can be understood not only as symbolic of the sitters’ allegiance to Genoa, but also as a display of wealth and powerful social status.

Sir Anthony van Dyck

Sir Anthony van Dyck

Van Dyck is perhaps most famous for the grand and elegant portraits he painted of the British aristocracy when he was court painter to King Charles I. He trained in Antwerp, and worked in Rubens’s studio as an assistant. His outstanding talents were recognised and encouraged by Rubens, who described him as his ‘best pupil’. Van Dyck developed his sumptuous portrait style during time spent in Italy, but also painted impressive religious, allegorical and mythical works. After returning to Antwerp for several years, Van Dyck moved to London in 1632, having accepted the King’s invitation to work for him, and remained there for the rest of his short but influential career.