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This work is based on a portrait by Sir Anthony van Dyck, now in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden, although the original is three-quarter length and shows the king wearing a jacket. A similar portrait to this example, of similar size, was sold through Sotheby’s in December 2012. It was painted by the studio of the Gerrit van Honthorst and was probably commissioned by Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia and presented by her to the first Earl of Craven, whose seals it bears. This work may also be from the studio of Honthorst.
It is known that the painting later belonged to Princess (later Queen) Helen of Greece and Denmark (1896-1982), wife of King Carol II of Romania from 1921 until their divorce in 1928 and mother of King Michael of Romania. Helen moved to Villa Sparta in Florence in 1934. It may have been soon after purchasing the villa that she (as a label on the reverse of the frame reveals) purchased this portrait from Sotheby’s. Helen presented the portrait to Ian McMaster, the then Consul General in Florence (1952-60), in 1960.
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.
Sold through Sotheby's; from which sale purchased by Princess (later Queen) Helen of Greece and Denmark (1896-1982), wife of King Carol II of Romania from 1921-28; by whom presented to Ian C. McMaster, Consul General in Florence (1952-60) in 1960 for display in the High Commission building
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