Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of King Charles II (1630-1685), c.1665 

Follower of Samuel Cooper (1607/8-72)

Portrait of King Charles II (1630-1685), c.1665, Follower of Samuel Cooper
Oil on canvas
17th Century
29 1/2 x 25 inches 75.9 x 63.5 cm
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The King is portrayed here in the robes of the Sovereign of the Order of the Garter. King Charles I had been devoted to the Order, and after its suppression under the Protectorate his son re-established it with great magnificence at his Restoration in 1660. A decorative scheme was planned for St George''s Hall by the King-though never effected beyond a superb series of drawings by Sir Peter Lely- for a great mural of the Garter Procession, in emulation of a projected earlier scheme by van Dyck. Full length paintings of Garter Knights -with the exception of Sir Athony van Dyck''s portrait of the Earl of Danby unknown since the sixteenth century- reappeared in the 1670s as an accepted genre of portraiture.

The popularity of the order for King Charles II -as for his father- lay no doubt not only in its antiquity and in its elegance, but in its absolute dependence on the person of the monarch. The public aspect of Charles''s reign was one of tolerance and reconciliation -he was determined to avoid the errors of judgment that his father made, and referring to his exile said that he never intended to go on his travels again- but his private tastes were for the absolutism of Louis XIV, and that freedom from the constraints of Parliament.

Our portrait captures the hauteur of the King, but conveys equally the charm and personability of the man. This combination of qualities contributed to the success of Charles II''s reign, and enabled him to weather crises not different to those that broke his inflexible father and younger brother James II.
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