Sir Peter Paul Rubens and Sir Anthony van Dyck were the pre-eminent Flemish painters of their age. Both were active in Antwerp, Italy and England; Rubens also worked in Spain. The two artists were knighted by King Charles I; Rubens in 1630, Van Dyck two years later.

Rubens and Van Dyck both produced history paintings with religious and mythological subjects, often using small oil sketches to develop the compositions and studies for individual figures. Van Dyck’s aristocratic full-length portraits, perfected during his stay in Genoa in Northern Italy (1621-27), were also in great demand and had a huge impact on the development of portraiture in Britain.