Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait miniature of King Charles I (1600-49) as Prince of Wales, c.1624, wearing armour with the blue ribbon of the Order of the Garter, gold painted border 

Peter Oliver (1594-1648)

Portrait miniature of King Charles I (1600-49) as Prince of Wales, c.1624, wearing armour with the blue ribbon of the Order of the Garter, gold painted border, Peter Oliver
Watercolour on vellum
17th Century
Oval, 2 3/8 inches, (6 cm) high
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This previously unrecorded portrait of the young Charles was painted at a pivotal time in his life on the eve of his fulfilment as king. The weight of expectation had been placed somewhat unexpectedly on his shoulders as the future of the monarchy. Charles inherited the title of Prince of Wales from his elder brother, the adored Henry Frederick, who had died suddenly in 1612. Such was the impact of his elderís brotherís death on both the general public and his immediate family that Charles was not officially created Prince of Wales until 1616, during a ceremony which his own mother could not bear to attend. Charles was not a comfortable successor to the title and portrait miniatures from the period reflect this. Sickly, shy and blighted with a speech impediment, his face reflects little of the physical and intellectual vigour so very apparent in the portrayals of his late brother.

Painted circa 1624, this portrait was produced when Peter Oliver was taking over the mantle of premier artist to the crown. His father, Isaac Oliver had died in 1617 and Nicholas Hilliard in 1619, paving the way for a new type of naturalism in portrait miniatures which would run alongside the revolution led by Anthony van Dyck. Peter was clearly as talented as his father and continued to serve the royal household in an official capacity. By the later 1620s, his attention turned from conventional portrait miniature painting to copying old masters, with eight of these histories remaining in the Royal Collection.

The sketched ruff in this miniature suggests that this is perhaps an unfinished ad vivum portrait, although Peter Oliver is clearly basing the image on the portrait type begun by his father, Isaac. Peter began painting miniature portraits of Charles, wearing the Garter ribbon, from circa 1612 through to the late 1620s, after which John Hoskins (see cat. ?) took on the role of official image provider. This version relates closely in date to those portraits painted by Daniel Mytens of the Prince on his return from Spain, dated between 1623 [Royal Collection] and 1624, where he wears the same ruff type and sports the beginnings of a moustache and distinctive pointed beard. Like Mytens, Oliver has endowed the Prince with the necessary dignity and presence required by a future monarch, despite the fact that he was in disgrace after his unsuccessful trip to conclude a marriage treaty with the daughter of Philip III of Spain.
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