The reputation of Anthony van Dyck as a portrait painter has yet to be outshone in Western art. Renowned throughout Europe, he spent time in England at the court of Charles I, where he was knighted.
In 1631, Van Dyck started work on a series of engravings after his portraits called The Iconography. The process began with a drawing by Van Dyck, either from life or copying an existing portrait. This drawing of Pieter Breughel the Younger is unique: it is one of two drawings of the sitter made by Van Dyck to choose between.
In contrast to Van Dyck, who died in his early forties, Brueghel lived to be 72. He is shown here near the end of his life, a competent artist from a renowned family, with a successful studio. Skilled at selecting a good pose for his sitters, Van Dyck emphasises Brueghel's upright posture, suggesting a vigour that belies his brushed-forward, thinning hair. His elaborate but slightly old-fashioned lace ruff serves only to underline his position as a follower in his father's tradition.