When he first went to Rome Vandyck was invited to the house of Cardinal Bentivoglio, who had been papal nuncio to Flanders, and for whom our artist made a picture of the Crucifixion. The full-length portrait which Vandyck painted of the cardinal is now in Florence; a copy of it is in one of the halls of Harvard College. It is one of the finest among the many splendid portraits by this great master.

Vandyck was fascinated with Rome, but he was so unpopular with the other Flemish painters there that he shortened his stay in the Eternal City in order to escape the vexations he there received. The artists disliked him for his ostentation, and he was called Il pittore cavalieresco—and he offended them by declining to associate with them at taverns or to join their coarse festivities. After leaving Rome he visited Palermo, from which place he was driven away by the appearance of the plague. He returned to Genoa, visited Florence and other cities in the north of Italy, and finally returned to Antwerp after an absence of four years.

During the first years after his return he met with small success—Rubens was so great that he filled all the space about him—but at last, in 1628, Vandyck began to receive important commissions, and from this time was constantly busy with works for the churches of the Low Countries. He also painted portraits of many notable persons, and made great numbers of them in brown and white for the use of engravers. While Vandyck was thus executing great numbers of fine pictures for the embellishment of Flanders, he became so unpopular and his rivals said such hard things of him that he determined to go away. One of his unfortunate experiences was in the house of the bishop, who had sent for him to paint his portrait. Vandyck had first sent his implements to the care of the porter of the palace. When he went himself he was taken into the presence of the bishop, who was reclining on a sofa, and gave little attention to the artist. At last the bishop asked if he had not come to paint his portrait. Vandyck declared himself to be quite at the service of his lordship. “Why, then,” said the bishop, “do you not go for your implements? Do you expect me to fetch them for you?” Vandyck calmly replied, “Since you have not ordered your servants to bring them I supposed that you wished to do it yourself.” Then the bishop leaped up in anger and cried out, “Anthony, Anthony, you are a little asp, but you have a great deal of venom!” Vandyck thought it safe to make his escape, and after he crossed the threshold he called back, “My lord Van der Burch, you are a voluminous personage, but you are like the cinnamon tree. The bark is the best part of you.”

In 1629 Vandyck went to England with the hope of being employed by King Charles I.; but he was not able even to get an introduction to the sovereign, and went to the continent filled with mortification. At length, however, Charles called him to London, whither he went in 1632, and soon became the friend of the king as well as his favorite artist. He was assigned a city and a country residence, and within three months of the time of his arrival at court the king knighted him, and gave him a gold chain with a portrait of himself set in brilliants suspended from it. Charles was in the habit of passing much time with Vandyck, and the studio of the court-painter became one of the most fashionable resorts in London for the courtiers and other distinguished people.

Vandyck kept up a fine establishment, and lived luxuriously. He had a habit of asking his sitters to dinner; thus he could study their faces and retouch their portraits with the more natural expressions of their conversational hours, for it is rare that one is natural when posing before an artist who is painting one’s portrait. But in the midst of his busy life as an artist and his gay life as a man of the world, Sir Anthony did not forget the needs of his brother painters. There was at that time no club or place where artists met socially to consult and aid each other in their profession. Vandyck founded the Club of St. Luke; it met at the Rose Tavern, and all painters of talent living in London joined it. One of the more personal acts of kindness which are related of him is that having seen by chance a picture which was painted by William Dobson, Vandyck sought him out, found him in a poor garret, instructed him with great care, introduced him to the king, and, in short, by his kind offices so prepared the way that Dobson was made sergeant-painter to the king after Vandyck’s death, and won the title of “the English Tintoretto.”

The portraits which Vandyck executed in England are numbered by hundreds and are magnificent pictures. Those of the royal family are very numerous and important, and there is scarcely a man or woman belonging to this period whose name has come down to us in history or literature, whose portrait he did not paint. He also made thirteen portraits of himself which are still preserved. He was very skilful in painting horses and dogs, and frequently introduced these animals into his portrait groups.