For many years it has been part of the public collection under the attribution of studio of van Dyck. But following help from art dealers discussing the picture via online forum Art Detective, run by Art UK, it can now be fully attributed.
Beginning in September 2018, a number of experts debated the painting of Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia via the online forum. Old Master paintings dealer Fergus Hall believed it to be an autograph work. Later a group of specialists debated the overall quality and style. Dealer Bendor Grosvenor and art restorer Simon Gillespie commented on the skilful depiction of the sitter’s head and hands and the liveliness of the handling.
The discussion then led to Rev Dr Susan Barnes, who co-wrote the van Dyck catalogue raisonné, to view and verify that the picture is as an autograph work by van Dyck, perhaps with some minimal assistance from his studio. This is the only artwork by van Dyck in the gallery.
Barnes said: “The Walker version stands out among works by van Dyck. Well preserved, it is notably fine in the rendering of the figure in the interior.”
Grosvenor, who leads Art UK’s Art Detective group, said: “This is a great example of how Art Detective can bring museums, experts and the public together to advance art history.
Art UK director Andrew Ellis added: “This van Dyck discovery is an especially important one and unequivocally proves the value of this innovative use of digital technology to share and grow knowledge.”
The sitter, Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia, was the daughter of King Philip II of Spain and became joint ruler of the Spanish Netherlands with her husband Archduke Albert in 1598.
Formerly known as the Public Catalogue Foundation, Art UK created a website that has catalogued the thousands of paintings, works on paper and sculpture owned by public institutions such as museums, universities and councils.
Art UK runs the Art Detective project, attempting to track down missing information from the thousands of artworks on its website. More than 10% of the paintings catalogued do not have a full attribution to an artist, while thousands have unidentified sitters. Many others are missing details such as the location depicted.