Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Charles I (1600-1649) 

Attributed to Daniel Mytens (c.1590-1647)

Portrait of Charles I (1600-1649), Attributed to Daniel Mytens
Oil on Panel
17th Century
14 x 10 1/4 inches, 35.5cm x 26cm
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Charles I is arguably the most notorious monarch in British history; the belief in his God-given right to rule, independent of Parliament, ultimately led to a divided nation and the death of some two-hundred-thousand Englishmen.

As with all Jacobean, and even Elizabethan portraiture, the emphasis of the picture here is on conspicuous consumption, with as much focus on the rich and expensive texture of Charles’ clothing as on the likeness and character of the King. This in part explains why the picture is so vibrant and boldly coloured.

Such an approach to portraiture saw Mytens in good stead for most of his career in England. From the early 1620s he enjoyed a lucrative and stable period as court painter, seeing off challenges to his position from rivals such as Gerrit Van Honthorst, and continuing to update the King’s image with typical sensitivity amid the ever changing political situation. It was the arrival of Van Dyck however in 1632 that ultimately led to Mytens’ downfall; Van Dyck’s superior style and dynamic compositions soon made Mytens’ work seem dated, and, at some point between 1633-4, he left England for the Netherlands.

The present work is a small scale contemporary replica of the larger portrait by Mytens of 1629 [Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York], when the king, aged 29, was four years into his reign after the death of his father, James I. The original, which shows the king full-length standing beside his crown and sceptre, has a more extensive backdrop with columns and a distant landscape, such detailing, however, would not have translated as coherently on this much smaller scale, the artist instead opted for a more simple, jewel-like green curtain backdrop.
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