Looking at Van Dyck’s Lomellini Portrait


Normally, standing in front of a painting in the Scottish National Gallery during the Edinburgh Festival period is to be in the eye of a storm, akin to taking the part of a TV reporter doing a piece to camera surrounded by digitally speeded-up crowds. It was thus a nice surprise when late on a Sunday morning I found Van Dyck’s Lomellini family  rehung away from their normal wall to accommodate the temporary show of American landscapes, and almost as lonely as when he painted them nearly 400 years ago.

I frequently see this painting but I’d never previously been struck so strongly by its air of unreality. Van Dyck’s portraits necessarily have an element of the stage-set as the sitters play a variety of roles. Yet on this occasion the Lomellinis seemed more aware of the game than usual. Their faces wore expressions that suggested a family environment different…

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