Attributed to Ambrosius Benson, this oil on panel of a man, shown bust length, in a fur coat measures 9½ x 7in (24 x 18.5cm). It features in the latest Dickinson exhibition. Prices range from £15,000-1.3m.

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A portrait of a man in a fur coat attributed to Ambrosius Benson, a master of the Northern Renaissance, is among the highlights at an Old Masters exhibition at Dickinson this month.

The show is straightforwardly titled Treasures of Dutch & Flemish Art from Private Collections - but it packs a punch.

Running at the St James’s gallery until December 21, this show comprises 12 pictures and one boxwood sculpture ranging in price from £15,000-1.3m.

Benson (1495/1500-50), an Italian-born artist who worked in the Netherlands, was first proposed as the artist of the small portrait in 1945.

Though many pictures are attributed to him, his work is hard to pin down as little is known of his life and, crucially, he rarely signed his works.

Further complicating the issue is the fact that he was used as a model for 19th century copies.

However, the mid-century attribution has now been endorsed by scholars earlier this year: Peter van den Brink, who examined photographs, and Till-Holger Borchert, who saw it first hand.

The small oil on panel measures just 9½ x 7in (24 x 18.5cm) but is described in the catalogue as “characterful”.

It is also richly coloured – as is another of the show’s other stand-out work, a floral still-life attributed to Balthasar van der Ast.


This portrait of a young boy holding two tulips and a rinkelbel in an interior with a golf club and ball is a familiar format for 17th century portraits. The oil on oak was painted by Gerbrand Ban (c.1613-52) and it features at Dickinson's exhibition.

Also on display are further portraits including an elaborately dressed lady in a high ‘cartwheel’ ruff by Bartholomeus van der Helst (1613- 70), a pair of 17th century church interior views and a landscape by Lodewyk de Vadder (1605-55).

Many of the works on offer are from long-held British collections, such as a still-life of freshwater fish by Isaac van Dunyn (1628-c.80), while others come from Europe (for example the Benson) or belong to the gallery.

Among the works from UK collections is the boxwood sculpture, a depiction of Christ on the cross - Cristo Vivo - by Walter Pompe (1703-77). It measures 13in (33cm) high and, unlike the portrait above, is both signed and inscribed precisely 26 February 1729.

Memory lane

For dealer Simon Dickinson, the show is something of a trip down memory lane. He recalls in the introduction to the catalogue his year driving through Europe as a teenager, falling in love with Dutch and Flemish old Master works.

These days when he travels to Amsterdam he may still marvel at The Night Watch, “but I also give myself time to enjoy some of the paintings we have sold to the Rijksmuseum over the years, most memorably two beguiling paintings by the brilliant but enigmatic Jan Mostaert”.