Both this picture and the other Van Dyck of the Benjamin Altman Collection date from the time of the artist’s visit to Italy, whence he returned in his twenty seventh year. Gustav Waagen saw the Lucas van Uffel at Stafford House, the property of the Duke of Sutherland, and wrote of it in his Treasures of Art in Great Britain as follows: “The portrait of an astronomer or mathematician in dark, furred mantle. The manner in which the figure has risen from the chair, as if some sudden circumstance had interrupted his studies, gives the portrait all the interest of an historical picture. The price paid for it, £440, is by no means too much.” The Duke of Sutherland paid this sum for the work in Paris in 1837.
Lucas van Uffel was a merchant and patron of the arts from Antwerp who lived in Genoa. He was a friend of Van Dyck’s, who dedicated to him his etching of Titian and his Mistress “in segno d’affezione ed inclinazione amorevole.” Another portrait of van Uffel, painted somewhat later, according to Emil Schaeffer, is in the museum at Bruns-wick. He was a keen collector of pictures, owning at one time Raphael’s Balthazar Castiglione, now in the Louvre. His collection was sold at Amsterdam in 1639. Rembrandt attended the sale and made a sketch of the Raphael with a marginal note that it fetched 3,500 gulden. This drawing is pre-served in the Albertina at Vienna.