King James I is here depicted wearing a large hat jewel, which decorates his ostrich-plumed black hat, and a white satin doublet (close-fitting buttoned jacket) with black and gold buttons. The lace-edged collar of the garment below rests over his doublet. His black cloak is decorated with pearls and jewels and around his neck is a jewelled collar from which the Lesser George of the Garter is suspended. This gold badge depicting St George slaying the dragon demonstrates the King’s membership of the Order of the Garter.
This work is one of several versions of a full-length portrait painted by John Decritz in c.1605-06. As well as Decritz’s own smaller versions of his original portrait, further versions were painted by other artists. For examples, Marcus Gheeraerts the younger (1561-1635) used the same facial pattern for portraits painted in 1611 and 1618. James I disliked sitting for his portrait, which may explain why the same basic model was repeated for so long. In 1618 the portraitist Paul van Somer superseded Decritz’s early face pattern when he painted a new portrait of the king from life. Van Somer’s resulting full-length portrait remains in the Royal Collection today.
John de Critz was born in Antwerp. He travelled to England in 1568 and was apprenticed to Lucas de Heere, a Dutch painter based in London. By 1598 de Critz had become one of the leading portrait painters in London. He held the lucrative position of Serjeant Painter to the monarchy jointly with Leonard Fryer from 1605 and with Robert Peake from 1607 to 1619. His son, John de Critz the younger, also became a painter.
King James VI of Scotland and I of England (1566-1625)
Oil on panel
height: 75.50 cm, width: 63.00 cm
Purchased from Colonel W T Sargeaunt, August 1955
King James VI and I, gift to Sir Francis Crane; by descent to the Arundel family (Stoke Park, Stoke Bruerne); given by the Arundel family to Dr. Drake of Grafton, a relation by marriage [following the fire of 1886]; by descent to Colonel William Thursby Sargeaunt, from whom purchased 1955
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