A Rare, Newly Discovered Van Dyck Drawing Could Fetch a Record $1.2 Million at Christie’s

Christie's expects the sale to break the Flemish artist's auction record.

Anthony Van Dyck, Portrait of Willem Hondius. Photo: © Christie’s Images Limited 2023.

A rare drawing by Anthony Van Dyck, part of his celebrated portrait series, will hit the block at Christie’s New York, where it is expected to fetch $800,000 to $1.2 million, breaking the standing auction record for the Flemish artist. 

Van Dyck’s Portrait of Willem Hondius (ca. 17th century) is a half-length study, created by the artist for reproduction as prints and engravings. This large set of prints, known as his “Iconography” series, featured the era’s eminent creatives from artists to poets (Hondius himself was a Dutch engraver), and further established Van Dyck as a portraitist.  

“These prints really enabled Van Dyck to disseminate his ideas for portraiture,” Stijn Alsteens of Christie’s Old Master Drawings Dept department, said over a Zoom interview. “I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that Van Dyck was the most consequential and influential of 17th-century portraitists.” 

Portrait of Willem Hondius will join Christie’s Old Master and British Drawings sale on February 1, 2024. The auction house is hoping it will exceed the artist’s previous record of £585,000 (around $800,000), set in 1985 at Christie’s for another drawing from the series. In 2019, Christie’s sold yet another Van Dyck drawing, which made £212,500 ($269,490), far surpassing its estimate. 

While the print of Williem Hondius was known to exist, the drawing behind it only came into Alsteen’s view a few months ago, he said, when he was contacted by its owner who had inherited it. “I was a little bit doubtful,” he said about the drawing’s existence. “I think mainly because it looks too good to be true.” 

Encountering the work in person, however, immediately quelled those doubts: “Even if drawings are technically simple—they are pen, wash, and chalk on paper so they don’t have the kind of layering you see in a painting—there is something different about seeing the original, a more alive image. I was just incredibly happy to see a drawing of this quality and rarity in my hands.” 

According to Christie’s, the work was acquired by a prominent Swedish miniature artist in Paris in the 18th century; a show of his collection in 1779 included the drawing. The piece eventually made its way back to Sweden, where it was sold to a relative of the current consignor for a small sum. Of the 40 to 50 extant drawings from Van Dyck’s portrait series—all of which are held by museums including the Art Institute of Chicago, L.A.’s Getty Museum, and the British MuseumWillem Hondius is the last one in private hands.  

“There’s only been two drawings related to the same series of prints that have been on the market in the last century,” said Alsteen. “For its condition and rarity, it should do better than any drawing by Van Dyck we’ve ever seen.”


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