Antwerp, baptised 22 January 1573–Antwerp, 19 May 1647
Flemish painter and draughtsman
Sebastiaen Vrancx  is best known for his battle scenes. Karel van Mander said that Sebastiaen Vrancx studied with Adam van Noort (1557/62–1641), but there is no other evidence for that. Vrancx travelled to Italy c. 1596. After his return in 1600/1601 he became a free master in Antwerp. In 1610 he joined the Fraternity of SS. Peter and Paul, a group whose members included Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640). That Rubens was interested in his work is shown by several studies that he made after Vrancx’s horsemen (Uffizi).1
From early in his career Vrancx produced small pictures of cavalry scenes, a subject that he popularized, represented in over half his surviving œuvre. He worked with other painters, including Jan Brueghel I (1568–1625), Tobias Verhaecht (1561–1631) and Pieter Neefs I (c. 1578/90–1656/61), for whom he painted the staffage. His influence can be seen in the work of Esaias van de Velde (1587–1630), Paulus van Hillegaert I (1595/6–1640), and Peter Snayers (1592–1667), who was his pupil.
Vander Auwera 1979; Sutton 1993, pp. 465–8; Vander Auwera 1996; Ecartico, no. 8044: http://www.vondel.humanities.uva.nl/ecartico/persons/8044 (May 6, 2017); RKDartists&, no. 81998: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/artists/81998 (May 6, 2017).
Anthony van Dyck
Portrait of Sebastiaan Vrancx (1573-1647), c. 1627-1635
paper, black chalk 256 x 187 mm
London (England), British Museum, inv./cat.nr. 1895,0915.1073
After Sebastiaen Vrancx
DPG356 – A Company of Cavalry
oak panel, 52.4 x 40.3 cm
Cartwright Bequest, 1686 (no. 28, £5, ‘an ould pictur on a bord with soulders a horse-back in a gilt frame dun by Brueghel’).
Sparkes & Carver 1890, p. 42, no. 99 (‘A Company of Horse Soldiers’; attributed to Brueghel); Richter & Sparkes 1892 and 1905, p. 99, no. 356; Cook 1914, p. 212, no. 356 (attributed to Brueghel); Cook 1926, p. 197; Cat. 1953, p. 19 (Flemish School); Murray 1980a, p. 301 (Flemish School); Beresford 1998, p. 253 (after Vrancx); Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, p. 284 (after Vrancx); RKD, no. 270145: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/270145 (May 6, 2017).
London 1987–8, pp. 22, 64, no. 55 (N. Kalinsky; after Sebastian Vrancx).
Two-member oak panel. Extensive woodworm damage to the panel has weakened it structurally and contributed to cracks and damage in the support. There are two major (mended) splits and the central join has come apart. The reverse of the panel bears two restraining battens, which are contributing to the structural problems. The paint film is worn and thin, allowing the panel grain to show through in areas of overcleaning and in the pale sky. Previous recorded treatment: 1870, ‘revived’, varnished; 1934, treated for woodworm; 1952–5, Dr Hell; mid-1980s(?), surface cleaned, varnished, retouched, woodworm damage treated, Area Museum Service for South Eastern England.
According to M. C. de Kinkelder (RKD, 1997) there are at least seventeen versions of this composition, both as Sebastiaen Vrancx and as David Vinckboons I (1576–1631/3).2
By or after Sebastiaen Vrancx
1a) A Company of Cavalry, panel, 64.5 x 48.5 cm. Bogdan and Varvara Khanenko Museum of Art, Kiev (almost identical; more space on the right; photo Witt).3
1b) A Company of Cavalry, panel, 65 x 50 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (Sotheby Parke Bernet, 21 April 1982, lot 60; photo Witt).
1c) A Company of Cavalry, panel, 64.4 by 48.5 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (most recent auction Christie’s, 3/4 Dec. 2013, lot 131 (attributed to Sebastiaen Vrancx); previously Galerie André Gombert, Paris, 1980s) .4
2a) A Company of Cavalry, signed, panel, 50 x 71 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (Lachman sale, Lepke, Berlin, 30 Sept.–1 Oct. 1913, lot 240; photo Witt).
2b) (related to no. 2a) A Company of Cavalry, panel, 59 x 108 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (Johnny Van Haeften Ltd, London, 1987; H. Archdale Porter, Belle Isle.5
Horizontal format, including chapel:
3a) A Company of Cavalry, canvas, 80 x 105 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (Squindo sale, Helbing, Munich, 22 June 1903, lot 45; photo Witt).
3b) A Company of Cavalry. Schlossmuseum Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha, SG 715.
By or after David Vinckboons I (all horizontal):
4a) A Company of Cavalry, panel, 60.5x 109.5 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (Christie’s, 2 Dec. 1986, lot 4).6
4b) A Company of Cavalry, panel, 49.5 x 64.5 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (Sotheby’s, New York, 11 Jan. 1996, lot 17 (after David Vinckboons); previously Art Institute of Seattle, 37.33) .7
4c) A Company of Cavalry, panel, 32.6 x 37.9 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (Sotheby’s, 11 Dec. 1996, lot 160) .8
4d) A Company of Cavalry, monogrammed and dated DVB.f.1612, panel, 48.3 x 76.2 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (Christie’s, 7 July 2000, lot 4; Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, 11–12 Oct. 1955, lot 195).9
4e) A Company of Cavalry, panel, 59.1 x 82.6 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (Dorotheum, Vienna, 24 March 2004, lot 147).10
5.) Peter Paul Rubens and Peter Snayers, The Battle of Henri IV near Arques, canvas, 340 x 276 cm. Alte Pinakothek, Munich, 952 .11
DPG356 was bequeathed to Dulwich by William Cartwright, who thought it was by Jan Brueghel, the pioneer of this type of composition. In fact, the panel is a crude copy of one of Sebastiaen Vrancx’s most popular compositions, of which both vertical and horizontal versions exist. We can assume there was a ‘prime’ version, most probably in a horizontal format. The horizontal compositions seem to have the same figures, but with more space between them (see e.g. Related works, no. 2b). In one horizontal type the landscape is changed, with a chapel in the centre of the background (Related works, nos 3a, 3b). There exist at least seventeen versions of the subject, some of them attributed to Sebastiaen Vrancx (Related works, nos 1a–1c, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b) and others to David Vinckboons I (Related works, nos 4a–4e) [3-4]. It seems most probable that the prime version was made by Vrancx (in collaboration with Vinckboons for the landscape?).
One of David Vinckboons’ versions is dated 1612 (Related works, no. 4d), which gives some indication of the period in which these pictures were made. Interestingly, in all the versions the seated soldier at the right is retained.
Unlike the compositions of his pupil Peter Snayers (see DPG347), Vrancx’s are relaxed and stately, frequently showing activities associated with war, but not the violence. The composition of The Battle of Arques, one of the battles of Henri IV of France that Rubens and Snayers painted for the French court in 1628–31, seems to have been inspired by the same image by Vrancx that formed the basis of DPG356 (Related works, no. 5) . In the Munich picture Snayers used the high horizon recommended by Karel van Mander in his Schilderboeck (see also DPG347, Peter Snayers).
after Sebastiaan Vrancx and after David Vinckboons (I)
Wooded landscape with a company of cavalry, ca. 1612-1686
panel (oak), oil paint 52,4 x 40,3 cm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG356
(after?) David Vinckboons (I) manner of/after Sebastiaan Vrancx
Soldiers on horseback waiting at the edge of a forest, first half 17th century
panel, oil paint 64,4 x 48,5 cm
Christie's (London (England)) 2013-12-03 - 2013-12-04, nr. 131
after David Vinckboons (I) or manner of/after Sebastiaan Vrancx
Waiting soldiers on horseback at a forest edge, first half 17th century
panel, oil paint 49,5 x 64,5 cm
Sotheby's (New York City) 1996-01-11, nr. 17
David Vinckboons (I)
Landscape with soldiers
panel, oil paint 32,6 x 37,9 cm
Sotheby's (London (England)) 1996-12-11, nr. 160
Peter Paul Rubens and Peter Snayers
Battle of Henri IV near Arques, The
canvas, oil paint 340 x 276 cm
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./cat.nr. 952
1 Meijer 2008.
2 ‘In 1997, no less than 17 versions of this composition were known, either attributed to Vinckboons or Vrancx. The figure types and their poses are more in the style of Vrancx, yet the landscape wholly in Vinckboons’’s manner’, M. de Kinkelder, 2002–4, while describing Related works, no. 1a.
5 Letter from Johnny Van Haeften to Nicola Kalinsky, 10 Sept. 1987 (DPG356 file).
6 According to Marijke de Kinkelder this is the best autograph version by David Vinckboons; mentioned under RKD, no. 105576: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/105576 (May 6, 2017); mentioned under RKD, no. 23947: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/23947 (May 6, 2017).
10 RKD, no. 114958: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/114958 (May 6, 2017); and probably also RKD, no. 189204: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/189204 (May 6, 2017), Sotheby’s, New York, 29 May 2003, lot 116 (14 Feb. 2013)
11 RKD, no. 296307: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/296307 (Dec. 15, 2019); see also https://www.sammlung.pinakothek.de/en/bookmark/artwork/rqxN99ym4v (Dec. 14, 2019); Siefert 1993a, pp. 106–7, no. 21; Renger & Denk 2002, pp. 390–91, no. 952; Belkin & Healy 2004, p. 182, under no. 34.