Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of King Charles I (1600-49), post 1649 

Circle of Sir Peter Lely (1618-80)

Portrait of King Charles I (1600-49), post 1649, Circle of Sir Peter Lely
Oil on Panel
17th Century
2 x 2 in (6.2 x 5 cm)
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This portrait miniature of Charles I derives from Lely's celebrated double portrait of the King and James, Duke of York - a work that was commissioned in 1647 and would be his last portrait sitting. Lely depicts the evident strains of power with intense insight, and the lines of age and concern that mark the monarch''s heavy eyes become all the more prominent and melancholic in the focus of this charming miniature.

Lely's original work dates from 1647, during the two and a half months when the King was held prisoner and shortly before his calculated escape to the Isle of Wight. In August of that year, Charles, having suffered a defeat at Naseby was taken to Hampton Court and held under house arrest. Further down the river his children were being maintained in the care of the Earl of Northumberland at Syon House. Despite his incarceration, the King was permitted to lead a fairly regular existence - he dined in the Presence Chamber, was allowed to hunt in the park and play games of tennis (1). His captors also provided for visits both in and outside the confines of Hampton Court which enabled the King to see his children frequently.

Interestingly, it was the Earl of Northumberland, a noble convert to the parliamentarian cause rather than the King who was responsible for commissioning the primary work. Northumberland had long been a patron of Van Dyck and viewed Lely as his natural successor. This picture, in addition to fifteen others by Lely were recorded as being among the Earl's collection in June 1671 where it remains today.

(1)E.Law, The History of Hampton Court Palace vol.II (1888), pg.134
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