Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Charles I (1600-1649) c.1632

Daniel Mytens (c.1590Ė1647)

Portrait of Charles I (1600-1649), Daniel Mytens
Oil on canvas
17th Century
30 x 24 ľ inches, 76.2 x 61.6 cm.
John Pern Tinney, Salisbury, England, by 1832; Reverend Prebendary, John Beresford, Salisbury, England; By whose Estate sold, March 28, 1919, lot 47 (as "Van Dyck"); With Scott & Fowles, New York, by whom sold to Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Fields Price, Knollwood Farms, Rye, New York; Anonymous sale, New York, Parke-Bernet, October 24, 1946, lot 32, for $2,000; Mary Lyle Price, New York; By whose Executors sold, New York, Parke-Bernet, January 22, 1969, lot 48, for $1,000 to John K. Price; Thence by descent to the present collectors.
This important life portrait of Charles I was painted by the court artist Daniel Mytens in about 1632. Mytens was the principle painter at the Stuart court from the early 1620s to the mid 1630s. Known for his ability to produce flattering images, Mytens was commissioned for important royal portraits such as the 1623 full-length of Charles when a Prince (version in the Royal Collection), which was dispatched to Spain during Charlesí long and ultimately fruitless attempt to win the hand of Philip IVís daughter, the Infantina.

The present picture represents an important addition to Mytensí oeuvre. Largely unknown, and never before published, it was recently acquired at Sothebys New York as ďattributed to Daniel MytensĒ. But conservation and further research have confirmed that it is not only an autograph work by Mytens, but one of his finest portraits of the King.

It was previously thought that the present picture was perhaps ďan autograph redaction of Mijtenís full-length portrait of King Charles I of 1631 in the National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG 1246)Ē [Sothebys, 24.1.08]. But the picture in the National Portrait Gallery is a very different composition from that seen here. In the NPG picture the king is facing left, his costume and hair are different, and it is evidently taken from an earlier sitting. Further confusion may also have arisen from the similarities between the present picture and the later work of Sir Anthony Van Dyck, in particular the 1636 portrait of Charles I in Robes of State (Royal Collection). Finally, little is known about Mytensí later portraits, and the apparent absence of any other known versions or copies of the present picture further removed it from Mytensí established body of work.

We must look to the end of Mytensí career to see where the present work falls into his oeuvre. From the early 1620s Mytens had enjoyed a lucrative and stable career as court painter, and there seemed no sign of his falling out of favour as the decade ended. He saw off challenges to his position from rivals such as Gerrit Van Honthorst, and continued to update the Kingís image with typical sensitivity amid the ever changing political situation. His 1629 portrait of Charles (now in the Metropolitan Museum), for example, shows a robust monarch well able to rule without Parliament. which had been dissolved that year.

But the arrival of Anthony Van Dyck in 1632 severely threatened Mytensí prospects. Van Dyckís talent was known internationally, and his ability to impart a radically new (by English standards) sense of movement into his portraits made Mytensí work seem stiff and unforgiving. It soon became clear that Mytensí dominance at court was over, and at some point between 1633-4 he left England for the Netherlands. Mytensí portraits of Queen Henrietta Maria were particularly criticized next to those by Van Dyck, who at last made the Queen look both regal and beautiful. Mytensí final payment for two portraits of Charles, for £100, was recorded in May 1634.

The most interesting aspect of Mytensí last years in England is his artistic relationship with Van Dyck. It is clear that both artists took ideas from the other during the brief period that they worked together in London. Van Dyck seems to have modeled his aforementioned Charles I in Robes of State (1636, Royal Collection) on a pose used by Mytens for his full-length of Charles I in Garter Robes (c.1633 Private Collection). Similarly, Mytens tried to emulate the glamour of Van Dyckís works in his final bid to retain Charles Iís favour. The present picture, in particular, shows Mytens at his most Van-Dyckian. The pose is probably derived in part from Mytensí last double-portrait of the King and Queen (Royal Collection, Hampton Court), but details such as the fineness of the hair, the sensitivity of the eyes and mouth and the highly realistic observation of the dress all point to direct observation of a subject whom Mytens, by the end of his career, must have known well, but influenced by the new portraits of Van Dyck.

The existence of this portrait, therefore, is significant, for it reveals an important continuity between the work of Van Dyck and Mytens. It shows just how rapidly Van Dyckís style influenced the artistic taste of the court, and eventually England. The fact that there are so few portraits that relate to the present type, aside from a copy at Burghley (called ĎAfter Mytensí) and an inferior version on the art market in 1996 (Sothebyís Devon, November 11, lot 179), suggests that it was not widely reproduced by Mytensí studio, as was the normal practice, presumably because he left for the Netherlands soon after it was completed. It is ironic that on the evidence of the present work, Mytensí portraits of Charles I ultimately compete well with those by Van Dyck in terms of strength of characterisation and physical presence.

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