The Queen in the Studio: Anthony Van Dyck’s Maria de’ Medici

Adam Eaker, 24 March 2013

In the early spring of 1631, Maria de’ Medici, the banished mother of the king of France, visited Antwerp. The welcome program devised for her included visits to the houses of Rubens and Anthony van Dyck. At the latter’s home the queen admired his collection of paintings and posed for a portrait depicting her with the Antwerp skyline in the background.

This lecture took Van Dyck’s portrait of the queen as its point of departure for a wider discussion of visits to artists’ studios in the 17th century. The literature abounds with examples of artists being surprised by their royal clients while hard at work. For Van Dyck, however, the visit of his patroness to his studio was almost choreographed, in a performance that enabled him to promote his own reputation as well as the status of portraiture.

In his lecture, Adam Eaker contrasted Van Dyck’s keen embrace of portraiture and of sitters posing with Rubens’s more uneasy relationship with this genre. He also discussed Van Dyck’s emphasis on posing and his performative approach to portraiture, which would eventually tarnish his reputation.

While working on his doctorate on Van Dyck’s portraiture at Columbia University, New York, Adam Eaker spent the academic year 2012-2013 at the Rubenianum thanks to a fellowship provided by the Belgian American Educational Foundation.