Some people believe that to this taste and talent of his mother’s Vandyck owed the instinct for drawing which he early showed; at all events, she did all she could to develop his taste, and when he was still a boy she persuaded her husband to place him under the teaching of Henry van Balen.

He was still quite young when he entered the studio of Rubens, and was soon so much trusted by the master as to be allowed to make drawings from his works for the use of the engravers. This sort of drawing must be done with great care and exactness, and Vandyck must have had much skill to be fitted for it. His fellow-pupils also had great faith in him, as is shown by the story that one day, when Rubens had gone out, the young student bribed his old servant to show them the painting with which the master was then occupied. While jostling each other it happened that one of them hit the fresh picture, and injured it. They were much alarmed, and begged Vandyck to repair it. After some hesitation he did so, and was so successful that at first Rubens did not detect the fact that another had worked on the picture. When he did discover it, and learned the truth about it he forgave the offence heartily.

When Vandyck was nineteen years old he was admitted to the Society of Artists in Antwerp, an unusual honor to one of his age. In 1620 Vandyck went to England, having been invited there through the Earl of Arundel. Little is known of this visit, and two years later he was invited to the Hague, where he spent several months.

When Vandyck was passing through Haarlem he went to the studio of Franz Hals, who was at a tavern just then. A message was sent him saying that a stranger desired to have his portrait made, and had but two hours to spare for it. Hals hastened home and dashed off the portrait within the time stated. Vandyck then said, “Portrait-painting seems to be a simple thing; take my place, and give me the brush for awhile.” Hals complied with the request and Vandyck made his portrait with great celerity. Seeing this, Hals cried out, “You are Vandyck; he alone can do such work.”

The young artist was suddenly called to the death-bed of his father, who commanded him to paint a picture for the Dominican Sisters who had cared for his father in his illness. Seven years later Vandyck presented the Sisters with a Crucifixion. At the foot of the cross was a rock upon which was inscribed, in Latin, “Lest the earth should be heavy upon the remains of his father, Anthony Vandyck moved this rock to the foot of the cross, and gave it to this place.” When the monasteries were broken up, this picture was purchased for two thousand seven hundred dollars for the Antwerp Academy, where it now is.

At length Vandyck prepared to set out for Italy. When he paid his farewell visit to Rubens he presented the master with three of his pictures, and in return Rubens gave him one of his finest horses. As Vandyck was on his way from Antwerp to Brussels he halted at the village of Saventhem, where he fell in love with Anna van Ophem, and so stayed on in the lovely valley of Flanders, week after week, as if he had forgotten that Italy existed. Anna persuaded him to paint a picture for the village church, and he executed a Holy Family in which the Virgin was a portrait of Anna, and St. Joachim and St. Anna were drawn from her father and mother. This picture pleased the church authorities so much that they gave the young painter an order for another, which represented St. Martin dividing his cloak with beggars. In this work the saint was a portrait of Vandyck, and the horse on which he rode was like that which Rubens had given him.

This picture has quite a history. In 1758 the priest agreed to sell it to a collector from the Hague for one thousand eight hundred dollars; but when the villagers knew of it they surrounded the church with clubs and pitchforks, and drove the purchaser away. In 1806, when the French invaders tried to carry it away, the people again prevented it, and they were forced to call more soldiers from Brussels before they succeeded in taking it. The St. Martin was placed in the Gallery of the Louvre, at Paris, but was restored to Saventhem in 1815. About 1850 a rich American offered twenty thousand dollars for the picture, no matter who brought it to him. Upon this a set of rogues tried to steal it at night; but the dogs of the village gave such an alarm that the town was roused, and the robbers escaped with difficulty. Since then a guardian sleeps in the church, and the St. Martin is still there.

The news that Vandyck was thus lingering on his way to Italy reached the ears of Rubens, and he sent such urgent messages to his pupil as induced him to continue his journey, and he also sent him letters of introduction to artists and to nobles whom the master had known when he made his studies beyond the Alps.

Vandyck went first to Venice, where he worked hard to copy and learn to imitate the rich color and refined manner of Titian and other Venetian masters. He also painted some original pictures in Venice, and made many portraits which gave him fame in that and other cities. He was asked to go to other places for the painting of portraits; but he remained in Venice until his money was spent, and then went to Genoa, where he was well received and generously employed by the old friends of Rubens. His works are still to be seen in some of the palaces of that city, while some have been sold and carried to other countries—they were so fine that they still maintain the name which they gained for him when they were executed. The principal work done in Genoa was a picture of the Lomellini family which is now in Edinburgh; it is about nine feet square. His different visits to Genoa during his absence in Italy make up a period of about three years, and he did a vast amount of work there.