The painter Van Dyck was the son of a rich merchant of Antwerp, and lacked no opportunities for the training of his artistic gifts. He was fortunate also in meeting ready appreciation wherever he went. In Italy, in Flanders, and finally in England, his paintings were highly valued. His life was passed amid luxurious surroundings, in the society of noblemen and princes. His was a brilliant and successful career.

Our portrait frontispiece was painted during his residence in England, when he was about forty years of age. He is described as short in stature, with a slender figure. His hands were long, with the straight sensitive fingers of the artist. He had a fresh delicate face, with well-cut features, and light chestnut-colored hair, which he wore long, like the English Cavaliers. The upturned mustache and small pointed beard were also fashionable among the English nobility, as we infer from the portrait of Charles I.

The face has the characteristic qualities of the artistic nature, the high forehead, the dreamy eyes, and the pensive expression. The head is lifted a little, in an imaginative pose. We should know this man at once for a poet or a painter.

It must be confessed that we do not find much strength of character in the face. Van Dyck indeed lacked the nobler qualities of manliness, and was decidedly worldly in his tastes. He lived in princely magnificence in his house at Blackfriars, spending money lavishly. A biographer tells how "he always went magnificently Drest, had a numerous and gallant Equipage, and kept so noble a Table in his Apartment that few Princes were more visited or better serv'd."

To maintain this expensive establishment the painter was obliged to devote his mornings to hard work in his studio. The nights were spent in banquets and revelry. Naturally his health gave way under the strain of this double life. While he still cherished ambitious projects for greater works of art, he sickened and died in London at the age of forty-two.

Two years before this he had married an English lady, Mary Ruthven, and they had one child, a daughter.

Our frontispiece is a detail of a double portrait representing, in half-length figures, the painter and a patron, John Digby, Earl of Bristol.