Anthony van Dyck, the celebrated painter, was born and raised in Antwerp in the beginning of the 17th Century. One would assume, then, that his mother tongue was some version of Dutch.

At the age of 20, he traveled to England, where he was received at the King's court. How did he communicate with the King and courtiers (well enough to get a commission, we're told). What language did he use?

Later, he traveled extensively in Italy, meeting with, and receiving commissions, from Genoese aristocracy. He visited Palermo, where he painted a bunch of pictures.

He returned to England and spent some years there, and was well-compensated there for his work.

He also visited France, where he painted a portrait of Cardinal Richelieu.

Did he speak English? Was he fluent in Italian? What about French? How and where did he learn all those languages?

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    As the educated son of a burgher, in a prominent Hanseatic League city in the Spanish Netherlands, one might presume that by age 16 or so Van Dyck could speak, at a minimum: Latin, Greek, Dutch, English, French, Spanish, an German. Italian and the Scandinavian languages would be optional. May 16, 2021 at 16:34
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    Van Cust in his biography (page 9) states only: "One may assume without much difficulty that the young boy, after receiving the usual education of a wealthy burgher's son, displayed quickly his disposition to painting, and that it was at the advice of Jan Brueghel that he was placed in the studio of Hendrik van Balen, where he was joined shortly after by his bosom friend, Jan Brueghel, the younger." May 16, 2021 at 16:40
  • Hugh Stokes, in his biography, states only: "Of the boy's early days we know practically nothing. He was the seventh child of a family of twelve, and the eldest surviving son. Of his five surviving sisters, one married a notary, one became a nun, and two entered that curious community, ..., known as a beguinage. The other brother took priestly orders, .... Two years later [he] was enrolled on the lists of the Guild of St. Luke, and then apprenticed to Hendrik Van Balen, ...." May 16, 2021 at 16:47
  • @PieterGeerkens: That's a lot of languages. Latin and Greek: yes, Sunday school, etc. Dutch: his mother tongue. German: linguistically close. But English and French? How come? Who would have taught him those?
    – Ricky
    May 16, 2021 at 17:09
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    He was the son of a wealthy burgher. There were likely visiting merchants from the Hanseatic League eating in his house once or twice a week. London is a just a day sail away, Cologne not much further. It's always been normal in Western Europe for any educated person to be conversant in four, five, or more languages in addition to Latin and Greek. May 16, 2021 at 19:31


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