Sir Anthony Van DyckPortrait of Sir William Killigrew 1638

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Artwork details

Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1599‑1641)
Portrait of Sir William Killigrew
Date 1638
MediumOil paint on canvas
Dimensionssupport: 1052 x 841 mm frame: 1260 x 1045 x 86 mm
Acquisition Accepted by HM Government in lieu of tax with additional payment made with assistance from the Art Fund, the Patrons of British Art and Christopher Ondaatje 2002
On display at Tate Britain
Room: 1540


Sir William Killigrew (1606-1695) was a courtier to Charles I, and also later a playwright. Van Dyck depicts him as a meditative scholar, his gaze withdrawn from the viewer. He leans pensively against the base of a column, and the viewer’s attention is drawn to a ring tied with a ribbon to his black satin jacket - perhaps in allusion to, or in memory of, a loved one. Van Dyck depicts the fabrics with bravura: the white satin shirt and lace cuff of the right arm are sumptuously painted, while Killigrew's elegant right hand is tensed, belying the apparently relaxed nature of the pose.

Killigrew was descended from an old Cornish family, but was himself born in Middlesex, where his courtier father resided near the royal palace of Hampton Court. He and his siblings received a good education and most of them, including his sisters, were in their turn to hold significant court positions. His younger brother Thomas (1612-1683) is the best-known of them today, as a dramatist and as a theatre manager after the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy in 1660. In April 1624 William set off on a lengthy journey across Europe - a Jacobean version of the ‘Grand Tour’ – though his precise itinerary is unknown. By May 1626, he was back in England, where he was knighted by Charles I… (read more)

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