A painting by the 17th century Flemish Baroque artist, Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641), was discovered in a storage room belonging to the Bowes Museum in England. Portrait of Olive Boteler Porter was purchased by the Bowes Museum’s founders, John and Josephine Bowes, in 1866 and has been in the institution’s collection since it opened to the public in 1892.
The painting’s poor condition led museum officials to record it in files as ‘School of van Dyck’ rather than an original van Dyck masterpiece. Relegated to a storage room, the work was discovered when it was photographed earlier this year for a project committed to putting all of the UK’s publically owned oil paintings on a single website. Art historian and dealer, Dr. Bendor Grosvenor, who is working on the digital venture, recognized the wrongly identified painting as an original Van Dyck.
The oil on canvas painting features the expert drapery and coloring often present in van Dyck’s female portraits from the 1630s. Originally thought to be a painting of Queen Henrietta Maria, additional research identified the sitter as Olive Boteler Porter, the queen’s lady-in-waiting and the wife of van Dyck’s friend and patron Endymion Porter.
After being examined by various van Dyck scholars, the painting has been authenticated. The recently restored masterpiece is now on view at the Bowes Museum.