In Spring 1624, the young Van Dyck moved from Genoa to Palermo at the invitation of the Spanish Viceroy of Sicily, Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy, Prince of Oneglia.
Van Dyck’s portrait of his host is considered to be one of the masterpieces of his early career. The Viceroy, aged 36, is depicted in proud and regal pose, the embodiment of Spanish rule, his lace ruff and custom-made Milanese armour painted with bravura intricacy. Within months of the sitting, the Viceroy was struck down by an outbreak of the plague which swept Palermo but fortunately spared Van Dyck.
The full length original is one of the highlights of Dulwich Picture Gallery, having entered the collection in 1811.