Entertainment Exhibition on Anthonis van Dyck in Munich's Alter Pinakothek

Exhibition on Anthonis van Dyck in Munich's Alter Pinakothek

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AEven though perhaps the most famous van Dycks from his time as court painter to the English King Charles can not be seen in Munich: the exhibition in the Alte Pinakothek does not have to hide from the other major events of this art autumn that are opened in close succession. The Wittelsbachs were able to stand up to the London competition, for example, by Johann Wilhelm of the Palatinate and Max Emanuel of Bavaria acquired a total of 81 paintings by van Dyck for impressive sums. Among other things, they exhibited in their own gallery building in Düsseldorf, where Johann Wilhelm resided, who was also very close to governors in Brussels and thus to van Dyck's many years in Antwerp.

Stefan Trinks

The Alte Pinakothek, in which many of the other Departments of Bavaria have been distributed by the Staatsgalerie such as Neuburg an der Donau or Schleißheim Hauptwerke, is thus the natural location for a show on van Dyck in Germany. Many of the approximately one hundred exhibited works have been art-technologically examined in the last two years. The insights gained are spread out on screens in front of the paintings without disturbing the enjoyment of the pictures. A wine-red background highlights the "theme walls" in addition.

Dirty fingers against crossed legs: Van Dyck's dramatic escalation of the theme "Susanna and the Two Elders", c. 1621/22


Today, van Dyck (1599-1641), who died at an early age, is often seen as the weakest link in the triple chain with Jacob Jordaens and Peter Paul Rubens, often as a workshop assistant to Rubens, which he was at a young age. In his lifetime, of course, that was different: if Rubens is praised for his body and skin surfaces, then one may admire van Dyck for the vivacity and individual characterization of his total of two hundred and eighty portraits – even if the Munich Doerner Institute has determined that he heads later in full body portraits often left as white ovals in order to provide them with the faces of the clients only at the conclusion of the contract.

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To be sure, in the first room of the exhibition, the tenacious struggle of the apprentice years with Hendryck van Balen and in the studio of Rubens shows partial weaknesses. At the same time, however, unique characteristics and therefore unique selling points emerge on the hard art market at that time, which the two competitors for the most solvent clients do not possess. Van Dyck's series of apostle heads, for example, seems to steam and breathe against earthy earthiness of the potato nose – unthinkable for the ethereal Rubens.

At an angle, Christian children usually sleep only at Titian: Van Dyck's "Holy Family in a Landscape," c. 1630


The series of apostles was evidently in demand, as there are several copies of a sale known not least through a lawsuit of the 1660s, in which a canon paid for his church a sentence of the apostles of the master's own hand, but in his opinion only got a workshop piece, which is why he complained. In general, the exhibition focuses on the socio-sociological questions that are central to Baroque painting: reproduction and reproduction techniques in graphics, "original" or workshop copies, as well as organization of the studio with often high output of images.

In this opening room, it is also very well to see that only a few things have been prepared in drawings for the workshop: A particularly brilliant hand shows a man with his hand on his chest, in the painting behind the showcase with the drawing an inlay was used. The "head of an old man" from the Potsdam picture gallery is minutely elaborated especially in the shoulders and the neck area with their strongly protruding arteries, whereas the ear consists of no more than three strokes in a broad red chalk drawing – it was obvious in this pattern drawing for van Dycks Studio not of interest. The ear for the apostle in the picture behind comes from another drawing.

Anthonis van Dyck Peter Paul Rubens Max Emanuel Johann Wilhelm Jacob Jordaens Max Emanuel of Bavaria Church

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