Last week, an early-career portrait of Flemish artist Cornelis de Vos and his family by then 20-year-old artist Anthony van Dyck hit the block at a Sotheby’s Old Masters evening sale in London. Recovered by the famed World War II team of art experts known as the Monuments Men and returned to its original Jewish-Dutch owners in 1948, the painting wound up selling for $3.4 million, making it the sixth-most expensive work by the artist ever to sell at auction.
Among the most highly regarded Flemish Baroque painters, van Dyck had a prolific career as a portraitist in the 17th century. Known for his depictions of wealthy sitters, in particular members of British royalty, he has become one of the top sellers in the Old Masters category at auction. Many of the most expensive works were considered rediscoveries when they first headed to auction.
Sales to important museums have bolstered the value of van Dyck paintings in recent years. In 2014, the National Portrait Gallery in London bought a self-portrait made just before the artist’s death in 1641 for £10 million ($16 million). That marked an increase in value from when that same self-portrait set the artist’s auction record in 2009, selling for £8.3 million ($13.5 million). And in 2018, the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest purchased van Dyck’s wedding portrait of King Charles I’s daughter during a Christie’s Old Masters evening sale in London for $7.5 million.
Below, a list of the portraitist’s top public sales.