Brothers under the Skin. The Portrait of Sir Arthur Hopton and his Secretary by Jacob van Oost

Resumen

Amongst the most interesting and controversial paintings of American Museums, the impressive Portrait of Sir Arthur Hopton and a Secretary (Dallas, Meadows Museum) remains labelled as ‘Anonymous’ despite several attempts to identify its author. The work indeed has a long history of attributions, mostly to painters from the 17th century Spanish School, none of which proved convincing enough. When Matías Díaz Padrón proposed the Flemish painter Jacob van Oost the Elder as the possible author of the portrait, although solidly based on compelling stylistic considerations, scholars remained sceptical due to the lack of evidence of the possible contact between the sitter and the painter. The present article provides substantial new arguments to link Sir Arthur Hopton to Flanders, and more particularly to Bruges, Van Oost’s native city. Moreover, a closer look at the painting allows for an opportunity to question the assumed date of the portrait, 1641, considering 1649 instead.  In this scenario, the sitter’s nephew, Sir Ralph Hopton is revealed as a key figure: his potential involvement in the commission and conception of the work providing answers to several questions that remained unexplained. Finally, an unnoticed inscription in the canvas possibly reveals much more.

Resumen: Entre las pinturas más controvertidas de los museos norteamericanos, el imponente Retrato de Sir Arthur Hopton y su secretario (Dallas, Meadows Museum), continúa como “Anónimo” a pesar de las múltiples tentativas de encontrarle autor.  Cuenta, en efecto, con un largo historial de atribuciones, mayoritariamente a la escuela española del siglo XVII, ninguna lo suficientemente convincente. Cuando Matías Díaz Padrón propuso al flamenco Jacob van Oost el Viejo como posible autor del retrato, a pesar de sus sólidas y convincentes consideraciones estilísticas, los estudiosos se mostraron escépticos, a falta de pruebas de un posible contacto entre el retratado y el pintor. El presente artículo aporta nuevos elementos que vinculan a Sir Arthur Hopton con Flandes de manera significativa y, más precisamente, con Brujas, la ciudad natal de Van Oost. De otra parte, una observación más detenida de la pintura conduce a cuestionar la fecha de 1641 hasta ahora asumida para el retrato, optando en su lugar por 1649. En este cruce de circunstancias, el sobrino del retratado, Sir Ralph Hopton, emerge como figura clave; su vinculación potencial con el encargo y la concepción de la pintura daría respuesta a varios interrogantes.  Por último, una inscripción inadvertida podría desvelar algo más. 

Palabras clave

Retrato barroco; Hopton; Huygens; Meadows; Van Oost; Murillo; Ricci; Maíno; Cano; Maratta; Keyser; Reitlinger.

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Referencias

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