This half-length, oval portrait of Charles I, made after a painting by van Dyck, is probably derived from the artist’s equestrian portrait (1633; Royal Collection). It shows Charles dressed in armour, with a white, lace-edged turn-down collar and the blue riband across his chest, from which the Lesser George is suspended (signifying membership of the Order of the Garter).
Charles I became heir to the throne in 1612. He married Henrietta Maria, sister of the French king Louis XIII, in 1625. The history of Charles’s reign was one of increasing hostility between himself and parliament. His relationship with the second of these parliaments, the Long Parliament, led to the English Civil War and to his own eventual capture in 1647. In January 1649 he was put on trial, charged with high treason. He refused to plead, denying that a king could be legally tried. On 30 January he was beheaded in Whitehall.
Sir Anthony van Dyck was born in Antwerp. Early in his career he was an assistant to Peter Paul Rubens. He first visited England between November 1620 and February 1621, where his work impressed King James I. He then travelled to Italy, staying until the autumn of 1627, before returning to Antwerp. During his time in Italy, van Dyck developed as a portrait painter, painting mostly wealthy merchant-princes. His style evolved under the influence of works by Titian and Veronese. In 1632 he returned to England, where he became 'Principal Painter in Ordinary' to Charles I. The following year he was knighted. His portraits of the royal family enhanced their prestige at home and abroad and his work had a profound influence on British portraiture.
Collection of Miss Fane or the Earl Westmorland of Apethorpe Hall, Northamptonshire; sold through Christie’s, London, on 2 June 1892 (Lot 114), for £27-6-0; from which sale purchased by ‘J. C. Stewart’; purchased by the Office of Works in July 1936
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