These life-size portraits of King Charles I and his Queen Consort, Henrietta Maria, are resplendent examples of Van Dyck’s royal iconography of the king and queen. Notably, Van Dyck’s original portrait of Charles I of 1636, in the Royal Collection and displayed at Windsor, stands alone, and it is likely that our portrait of Charles I was also originally conceived as a stand-alone version of that likeness, painted by his studio. The location of the original pendant of Henrietta Maria is today unknown, however the Royal Collection holds a similar copy to ours, displayed in the ‘Throne Room’ at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
William ‘Kitty’ Courtenay, 9th Earl of Devon (c.1768 – 1835), Powderham Castle, Devon; Lt.-Col. Thomas Richmond-Gale-Braddyll (1776 – 1862), Conishead Priory;
until his (bankruptcy) sale, Christie’s, London, 23 May 1846; (possibly) Thomas Townley-Parker (1822 – 1906); to his nephew, Reginald Arthur Tatton (1857 – 1926), Astley Hall, Chorley and Cuerden Hall, Preston, Lancashire; until his estate sale Christie's, London, 28 February 1947, lot 87; bt. by J. Bagnal; Private collection, Sweden, until 2019.
Literature An Inventory of the Effects at Powderham Castle in the County of Devon directed by the Will & codicil of the Rt. Hon. William the 9th Earl of Devon to be preserved as heirlooms, November 1835 (Earl of Devon's archive, Powderham Castle). O. Millar, The Tudor, Stuart and Early Georgian Pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen, Vol. 1, London 1963, p. 96.
Given Van Dyck’s original portrait of Charles I in coronation robes was an official state portrait, copies such as the present work remain loyal to the original composition. He wears rich blue velvet robes trimmed with gold and ermine, with the collar of the Most Noble Order of the Garter around his neck, and a basket-hilted broad sword by his hip. His crown and orb are just within a finger’s distance, as he basks in his divine right to the throne.
Henrietta Maria stands near her jewel-encrusted crown and a vase of blossoming English Roses, her fertility unquestioned. Her status is asserted by the elegant diamonds and pearls that adorn her dress and hang from her ears and neck – jewellery which she is commonly shown wearing in portraiture. Yet she is arguably interpreted here with greater artistic license than the portrait of her husband. Her dress is an unusual delicate pale pink, whereas in every other known version she wears a more familiar icy blue. A royal spaniel plays at her feet, a unique compositional addition. The rendering of the queen’s face with its distinctive oval shape and prominent eyes, is stylistically indebted to the work of Sir Peter Lely, court artist under Charles II – she conforms to a standard of beauty associated with a generation of portraits that came after Van Dyck.
From this we can deduce that the portrait of Henrietta Maria was likely to have been painted shortly before, or after the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, during a Royalist resurgence, with the inclusion of the spaniel a poignant additional symbol of undying loyalty. This would also account for the slightly different dimensions of her canvas, to that of Charles I.
The confident handling of the pendant of Henrietta Maria suggests an attribution to an artist very familiar with the work of Van Dyck, indeed someone who may have come from his formidable studio. One such possibility is James Gandy (1619 - 1689), a pupil of Van Dyck, who significantly (in the case of our portraits with their Devonshire provenance), hailed from Exeter in Devon, (later moving to Ireland to work for James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde). Alternatively, she could have been painted by Henry Stone (1616 – 1653), another copyist and student of Van Dyck, well known contemporaneously and posthumously as an artist able to brilliantly render the softness of his master’s originals. Stone copied official portraits of Charles I so well, in fact, that his paintings were often sold as Van Dyck originals. Indeed, Charles II himself commissioned works from Stone, before the artist’s death in 1653, to be given as gifts to the King’s supporters.
Born into a prominent Antwerp family in 1599, Anthony Van Dyck was given every privilege to achieve his status of leading court painter in England by the age of twenty-one. He had studied under the legendary Peter Paul Rubens at his Antwerp workshop and travelled well throughout his lifetime, twice settling in England, first in 1620 and later in 1632. After some time in Italy, France, and the Netherlands, Anthony Van Dyck arrived back in England in the Spring of 1632. Van Dyck’s reputation preceded him, and King Charles I swiftly requested his services as court painter, decided upon his generous yearly pension, and by July Van Dyck had been Knighted Sir Anthony Van Dyck. Charles I restlessly commissioned works by Van Dyck to propagate the divine right of his family as rulers of England, Scotland, and Ireland, a sentiment that would be continued by later rulers into the eighteenth century as the Stewart inheritors of the crowns attempted to retain their throne.
 The Duke was an adamant Royalist supporter, even moving to Paris with the royal family during their exile in the 1650s. The Duke is known to have acquired numerous portraits of the Stewart family painted by Gandy, some of which still remain at Kilkenny Castle in Ireland.
 A, Michiels, Van Dyck et Ses Élèves, Paris 1882, 389.
 W. Hookham Carpenter, Pictorial notices, consisting of a memoir of Sir Anthony Van Dyck, with a descriptive catalogue of the etchings executed by him: and a variety of interesting particulars relating to other artists patronized by Charles I, London 1844, 27.
 A, Michiels, Van Dyck et Ses Élèves, Paris 1882, 388.