Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Home Beautiful: The King and Queen of Bohemia Dining in Public, 1634

The King and Queen of Bohemia Dining in Public
Bartholomeus van Bassen, 1634
Acquired in 1729 by George II and his wife, Queen Caroline
The Royal Collection
This fanciful painting is purely from the imagination of Belgian-born painter Bartholomeus van Bassen. Van Bassen moved to the Netherlands as a young man and formed close associations with Dutch painters who helped him master the art of perspective. Van Bassen excelled at painting opulent interiors. These scenes were often based on real places, but more of then than not, depicted scenes of imaginary grandeur. He also delighted in showing notable contemporary figures in domestic situations, such as eating.

Here, we see the King and Queen of Bohemia dining with their young son in an extravagant, palatial dining hall. The room never existed. For that matter, this scene is pure fabrication. It was painted two years after the death of the King of Bohemia. Frederick V became King of Bohemia upon his mariage to Elizabeth, the daughter of Britain’s King James I. He was, however, only the king for a short period of time—the winter of 1619, to be exact (giving him the title of “The Winter King”). Frederick was quckly and hostily overthrown by Emperor Ferdinand II and he and his queen were sent into exile in the Netherlands. There, they met van Bassen. The king died in 1632, devastating King Charles I who had been very fond of Frederick.

Why van Bassen chose to paint the late King of Bohemia in this domestic, yet dramatic, scene is unknown. It’s one of two such paintings in existence. The other shows Charles I in a similar composition. 

Speaking of dining, come back tomorrow for a special, Friday Edition of "The Treat of the Week."

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