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This portrait, and that of the sitter’s wife (displayed nearby) were designed as a pair. In both, the compositions and finely painted landscapes echo the work of the 16th-century Venetian painter Titian. Titian’s paintings were admired by the English king Charles I and his court, and greatly influenced van Dyck. Sir William was a courtier to Charles I and later a playwright. He is shown leaning meditatively against the base of a column. A ring, tied by a ribbon to his black satin jacket, may allude romantically to his wife, or denote mourning for a friend or relative.

February 2016