The Jordaens Van Dyck Panel Paintings Project UK Archival Research Team has published two significant additions to the literature around Van Dyck on the Project website this past fortnight.
Last week we published Sir Kenelm Digby’s devastating critique of £880 worth of pictures that he bought from Van Dyck. In a 1655 Court case that I discovered while searching through the half century of litigation surrounding Van Dyck’s estate, Sir Kenelm is being sued on behalf of Van Dyck’s daughter Justin for paintings received but unpaid for. Sir Kenelm testifies that these pictures
did soe fayle in Colour and were otherwise soe ympared by reason as this defendt believeth of too hasty or carelesse workemanshipp of them that they were of very small value to be sold and the sayd pictures were and are of little or noe Ornament and of noe pleasure or handsomenes and by reason thereof this defendt: hath very often offered for to deliver upp the sayd pictures soe hee might be freed and discharged of the sayd debt and have his bonds and security delivered upp unto to this defendant:
This week the JVDPPP has published the 1651 Will of the painter Jan Van Belcamp, discovered by Justin Davies, who co-founded the Project with Joost Vander Auwera of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. This newly-discovered source contains a wealth of previously unknown biographical information and paintings. Belcamp’s life has only been known in outline. He was the King’s in-house copyist ‘in little’ and succeeded Abraham Van Der Doort as Keeper of the King’s Pictures in 1640. Appointed Commissioner for the sale of the Late King’s Goods in 1649, he acquired several paintings including Leonardo Da Vinci’s St John the Baptist, now in the Louvre, in lieu of £275 owed to him by the King. Remarkably, the will makes claim to a further £1,145 from the King’s Goods, and describes seven paintings by Belcamp hanging in his house, including a copy of Van Dyck’s ‘Great Peece’, adding significantly to the artist’s known oeuvre. Named beneficiaries reveal his links with the Netherlandish merchant community in London, the Dutch Ambassador, Puritan Anglican clergy and the Dutch Church in Austin Friars, and show Belcamp to have been a meticulous and exacting businessman. His property also includes land in Ireland forfeited by its owners in the Irish Rebellion 1641. Belcamp bequeaths this estate to his relatives in Holland, with the proviso that any possessor will be disinherited if they marry ‘into the Irish blood.’ The appendix detailing this inheritance is a particularly rich part of the document, listing twelve members of Belcamp’s extended family by name.