Saturday, November 9, 2013

Painting of the Day: Charles I of England and Queen Henrietta Maria, 17th C.

Click image for larger size.
Charles I of England and Queen Henrietta Marie
Gonzales Coques after Anthony van Dyck
Seventeenth Century
The Victoria & Albert Museum

A handsome and unusual double portrait, this canvas by Gonzales Coques (1614-1684) depicts King Charles I of England. He is shown wearing the Order of the Garter. At his side is his wife, Queen Henrietta Maria, depicted with the peaceful symbols of a laurel wreath and an olive branch. Set against a lush landscape revealed behind a drape, the Royal couple is presented in an interior with a table upon which sits the crown, scepter and orb.

This painting is one of two double portraits of Charles I and his Queen Consort. The first, dating to 1632, by Anthony can Dyck, now in the collection of the Archiepiscopal Castle and Gardens in the Czech Republic, was much larger. Gonzales was commissioned to paint this smaller version, making his painting as much of a scaled-down copy of van Dyck’s as possible.

Van Dyck’s original was proudly displayed above the drawing room mantel is Somerset House in London—Queen Henrietta Marie's private residence since 1628. Records show that the commission had originally been granted to Daniel Mytens (sometimes recorded as Mitjens), but Queen Henrietta found his work to be unsatisfactory and van Dyck was contacted. The painting, he was told, must create a pleasing sense of the union of the King (making his sovereignty obvious) and the Queen who should show that she offered herself and her power peacefully to the King. The Queen’s father, King Henry IV, was often shown with a laurel wreath, and so, van Dyck chose this as the Queen’s attribute. He added the olive branch of peace as a means of also demonstrating the influence of Charles I’s father, famously peaceable King James I. 

Gonzales’ small-scale copy of van Dyck’s original is decidedly faithful to its source. While the original remained in Royal ownership for many centuries, this version was purchased in the Nineteenth Century by the Reverend Chauncy Hare Townshend who is well known to readers of this site not only for his impressive collection of art, but, especially for the massive assortment of jewels which the ultra-wealthy, fashionable and not-too-religious reverend amassed over his lifetime. 

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