Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The impressive English period (1632-1641) Portrait of Sir Basil Dixwell, c.1638, by the great Flemish artist, cost £950,000, with funding provided by the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the National Art Collections Fund and the local authorities.

The Dixwells were among the few Kent families who could afford to commission portraits from the most fashionable artist of the time. Sir Basil Dixwell was a wealthy landowner who created one of the most interesting and advanced houses of the time at Broome Park, just outside Canterbury. He was also an MP for Kent, and was noted in Parliament for his stylish mode of dress, although he is portrayed here in dramatic black.

The portrait is a wholly autograph work – rare for works by van Dyck, who widely used many assistants for painting both drapery and copies – and is exceptionally well conserved. Until recently it was in a private American collection.

The Royal Museum & Art Gallery – who have a policy to focus on locally relevant portraiture – learned of the portrait’s whereabouts following a chance visit last year by the city council’s museum curator Ken Reedie to London dealers Hazlitt Gooden & Fox.

The firm had recently bought back the portrait from the American collector to whom they had sold it in the 1960s.

The asking price of £1.2m seemed impossible to meet, but applications to the National Heritage Memorial Fund (£825,000) and the Art Fund (£80,000) were both successful. The city council have also played a part by contributing £35,000 from their dedicated museum purchase fund, while the Friends of the Museums are still raising the final £10,000 towards the total agreed purchase price of £950,000.

The portrait is now on display at the museum.