Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Prince Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales (1594-1612) 

Workshop of Robert Peake the Elder (c.1551–1619)

Portrait of Prince Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales (1594-1612), Workshop of Robert Peake the Elder
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Oil on Panel
16th Century
22 x17 3/4 ins (56 x 45cm)
 
Provenance:
Dowager Lady Willoughby de Broke; Sir John Hay Williams, 2nd Baronet of Bodelwyddan, Anglesey; By descent to their daughter, Margaret, who married Sir Edmund Verney, 3rd Baronet of Claydon House in 1868; By descent to their son, Sir Harry Verney, 4th Bart, at Plas Rhianva, Anglesey; Thence by descent until 2013.
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Henry Frederick was the eldest son of James VI of Scotland (James I of England) (1566-1625) and Anne of Denmark (1574-1619). Henry’s early life was quite unsettled, being entrusted into the care of his father’s close friend John Erskine, 2nd Earl of Mar (c.1558-1634), much to the dislike of his mother who vigorously campaigned for his return. It was not until spring 1603 however, when Elizabeth I (1533-1603) died and James was recognized as King of England, that Anne found an opportunity to regain custody of Henry. James left for London and Anne, who was four months pregnant, was supposed to follow later, instead she travelled to Sterling where she refused to leave without Henry. After successfully lobbying James for her son’s return, Anne was finally reunited with Henry in late May and they both travelled together to London, departing on 1st June 1603.

As Henry matured, his impressive abilities as a potential leader soon became apparent. He showed a particular interest in foreign affairs, which resulted in a number of politically ‘advantageous’ marriage proposals from Catholic foreign leaders - the majority of which were declined on the basis of his steadfast Protestantism. On 4th June 1610 Henry was installed as Prince of Wales at Westminster Palace, the ceremony supposedly akin to a coronation with Henry wearing an ermine-lined gown costing £1,300. The celebrations lasted the whole year and included water pageants, theatre performances and jousting - the young Henry participating in the latter.

Henry was a determined patron across a number of artistic disciplines, and collected work by Northern Italian and Netherlandish artists, as well as bronzes, medals and coins. Native talent was also cultivated under Henry’s brief tenure as prince - he commissioned paintings by the English painter Robert Peake the Elder (c.1551-1619) as well as designs by the English baroque architect Inigo Jones (1573-1652). In mid-October 1612 Henry suddenly fell ill, and, just a few weeks later on 6th November 1612, Henry died of what is now thought to have been typhoid fever. The subsequent national outpouring of grief was unprecedented.

Henry’s iconography derives largely from the portraiture of two artists/workshops; Robert Peake the Elder (c.1551-1619) and Isaac Oliver (c.1565-1617). Peake, who was Henry’s personal painter, painted three primary full-lengths between c.1604-10, from which nearly all contemporary portraits derive. The first and arguably best known, is the Hunting Group of Henry, c.1604 [Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York], which shows Henry, along with his friend John, Lord Harington of Exon (1592-1614), standing above a slain stag with his sword drawn. It is from this work that the present portrait derives. It was common practice for an artist’s workshop to replicate a specific head-pattern for production on a smaller scale, and, especially during the Tudor period, these patterns were sometimes shared amongst a number of artists and workshops for replication as the official likeness.

Dendrochronological analysis of the panel on which the present work is painted, has revealed an earliest possible creation date of 1589, some fifteen years prior to Peake’s portrait of the young Henry hunting. This can be explained through careful study of the portrait which reveals, on close inspection, the presence of an over-painted work beneath. The identity of the female sitter, painted c.1590, is sadly unknown, although the physiognomy is not too dissimilar to that of Elizabeth I - it would, of course, be perfectly logical that her likeness was painted over and replaced by a more up-to date royal image following her death in 1603.

Our first certain knowledge of Peake comes in 1576, when he is recorded as working for the Office of the Revels, although the earliest documented portrait dates from 1587. Peake's later career continued to be distinguished, and at the accession of King James I, he painted impressive portraits of Henry and other members of the Royal family. Recent work has extended our understanding of Peake's work, and, despite having at one time been in danger of obscurity, he is now recognised as a major figure in the evolution of a British School of painting.
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