Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of the Eldest Children Charles I, 1630s 

Studio of Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641)

Portrait of the Eldest Children Charles I, 1630s, Studio of Sir Anthony Van Dyck
Oil on canvas
17th Century
23 1/2 x 28 inches 59.7 x 71.2 cm
The Earls of Ailesbury, Savernake Park, Wiltshire. By family descent to Lady (Violet Louisa) Marjory Brudenell-Bruce (1880-1923), younger dau. of Henry Augustus 5th Earl of Ailesbury. She married James Binney Esq of Pampisford Hall, Cambridge.#L
For the primeversion see- Oliver Millar, The Tudor, Stuart and Early Georgian Pictures in the Royal Collection, London 1963, pp.98-99.
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In 1635 Van Dyck painted a group portrait of Queen Henrietta Maria's eldest children, which she sent to her sister, Christina, Duchess of Savoy, in exchange for portraits of the Duchess's children.

The former remained in the Royal Collections and is now in the Galleria Sabauda, Turin, it was, however, not well received by King Charles I. On 29 November 1635, Benoit Cize, the Savoy minister in London reported to the Duke of Savoy that the King was fache centre le paintre Vandec por ne leur avoir mis leur Tablie comme on accoustume aux petit enfans. The King was presumably annoyed that Van Dyck had portrayed the Prince of Wales in his infant's coats and it may well have been to placate him that he painted this second and more adult group, which Oliver Millar dates between the end of November 1635 and 25 March 1636.

As well as changes in costume, Van Dyck significantly altered the composition by adding a second dog and positioning the youngest child, James, Duke of York in the centre of the group. Altogether the sitters are given here a more adult stance and demeanour while retaining their charm and sensitivity. The prime version hung originally at Somerset House and was recovered at the Restoration. It now hangs as part of the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle. The design was extremely popular with Royalist families and supporters resulting in a demand for copies. These were probably produced under license from Van Dyck and included small copies and reproductions such as this. Other examples can be found in the Louvre and the Clarendon collection.

This work is particularly noteworthy for the quality of its drawing and colouring. It is interesting to note also the quality in facial expressions, which is extremely close to the prime picture in the Royal Collection. Our version loses none of the psychological qualities in the rendering of the children which has made this, and other of Van Dyck's portraits of Royal children of seminal importance in British portraiture.
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