Paulus Pontius nach Anthonis van Dyck, Steenwyck (Hendrik van) le Jeune, peintre de La Haye / Hendrik van Steenwyck, ca. 1632-1635, Kupferplatte, 254 x 182 mm. Paris, Musée du Louvre, Département des Arts graphiques, Atelier de la chalcographie, Inv. Nr. 2364 C
Anthony van Dyck may have been persuaded by his brilliant success as a portrait painter throughout Europe to publish a series of portrait engravings and etchings between about 1626 and 1635. In the eighteenth century the work was given the title 'Iconographia'. The 'Iconography of Anthony van Dyck' is a gallery of famous men of his time, showing princes and generals, diplomats and scholars, but especially artists and connoisseurs. Van Dyck's particular aim was to preserve their images for posterity. He took advantage of encounters with these personalities to record their facial features in drawings and oil sketches. Printmakers then used the works as a model to execute the copperplate engravings and etchings; Van Dyck himself carried out the etching of at least seventeen sheets, at least in part.
He probably met the Flemish painter Hendrick van Steenwyck the Younger (ca. 1580 - before 1650) in London in the first half of the 1630s. The latter achieved fame above all for his paintings showing the interior rooms of buildings. In this drawing he is shown as an energetic, lively man looking intently at the viewer. He is holding a sheet in his hand as proof of his profession. The portrait drawing is very carefully executed in black chalk, after which Van Dyck laid down the light and dark areas using a grey wash applied with a paintbrush, thereby creating three-dimensional volume and space. The back of the drawing has been rubbed with red chalk and pushed through with a stylus. This was the method employed by the copperplate engraver Paulus Pontius (1603-1658) to transfer the picture to the copper plate. To recreate Van Dyck's very precise levels of brightness, Pontius used hatching of varying density in the engraving. This sheet originates from the comprehensive collection of Johann Friedrich Städel, which was arranged on art-historical lines. Städel will have been interested to own not only such a masterly drawing by Anthony van Dyck, but one that was also a portrait of an artist.
In March 1815, the Frankfurt businessman and banker Johann Friedrich Städel bequeathed his entire fortune and art collection to a foundation which was to be named after him: the 'Städelsches Kunstinstitut'. However, he also dedicated the foundation to the citizens of Frankfurt immaterially, wishing it to be an "adornment and of practical use" to Frankfurt's citizenry. He was thus the first ordinary citizen in the German-speaking region to found a public art museum: the present-day Städel Museum. When he died, his collection comprised 476 paintings, some 4,600 drawings, almost 10,000 printed graphics and valuable books.