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We don’t know exactly who this woman was. The dog and the lizard it is chasing are symbols of fidelity, which suggest she may have been engaged or newly married. Van Dyck was born and trained in Antwerp. He worked in Rubens’s studio and travelled in Italy, studying the work of Titian, before moving to London in 1632. In the same year he was knighted and appointed Charles I’s Principal Painter. His portraits gave his royal and aristocratic sitters an unprecedented glamour and elegance and had a profound influence on the course of British portraiture.

February 2010