Daniel Mytens c.1590–1647
James Hamilton, Earl of Arran, later 1st Duke of Hamilton
Oil on canvas
2007 x 1251 mm
Inscribed ‘DM Mijtens.f..e 1623’
Presented by Colin Agnew and Romer Williams 1919
Presumably be descent (first recorded Hamilton Palace c.1700); Duke of Hamilton sale, Christie’s, 6 November 1919 (17; as of Lord John Hamilton, 1st Marquis of Hamilton, by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger), bought by Colin Agnew; presented to National Gallery by Colin Agnew and Charles Romer Williams 1919; transferred to Tate Gallery 1954.
Catalogue for National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh 1883 (226); Childhood in 17th-Century Scotland, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh 1976, no.134; Karen Hearn, Dynasties: Painting in Tudor and Jacobean England 1530–1630, Tate Gallery, London 1995–6, no.147; Masterpieces of British Art from the Tate Gallery, exhibition catalogue, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Modern Art, Kobe 1998, no.3; The Sale of the Century, Museo del Prado, Madrid 2002, no.15.
H. Avray Tipping, ‘The Hamilton Palace Collection of Pictures – I’, Country Life, 18 October 1919, pp.481–3 (as William, 2nd Duke of Hamilton, by Marcus Gheeraerts); H. Isherwood Kay, ‘A Portrait by Daniel Mytens in the National Gallery’, Connoisseur, vol.56, 1920, p.77, reproduced; C.H. Collins Baker, ‘Een portret van Daniel Mijtens’, Onze Kunst, January–March 1922, pp.27–8; National Gallery: Illustrations to the Catalogue. British School, London 1936, p.69, reproduced; M. Davies, National Gallery Catalogues. British School, London 1946, p.103; Tate Gallery Report: Transfers from the National Gallery 1954–5, p.33; O. ter Kuile, ‘Daniel Mijtens’, Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek, vol.20, 1969, pp.1–106; Valerie Cumming, A Visual History of Costume in the Seventeenth Century, London 1984, p.42, fig.34; Masterpieces of British Art from the Tate Gallery, exhibition catalogue, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Tokyo 1998, pp. 54-5, 213-14, no.3.
The sitter’s identity had been lost by the nineteenth century, but there is no doubt that he is the Earl of Arran, the seventeen-year-old son of the 2nd Marquis of Hamilton. This is confirmed by the reference of c.1700 to ‘James Duke of Hamilton’s Picture in Black with red stockings, a full length, by Vandike’ which hung in the ‘Great Dining Roome’ at Hamilton Palace near Glasgow.1 Moreover, the facial features correspond with those in Mytens’s full-length portrait of the same subject in a silver suit, dated 1629 (Scottish National Portrait Gallery).
The Hamiltons were next in line to the Scottish throne after the Stuarts, and had immense landholdings. Arran’s father was among the most powerful of the Scottish nobles who joined James I’s court in England. Born on 19 July 1606 at Hamilton Palace near Glasgow, Arran grew up in Scotland. In 1620 he was unwillingly married to Lady Mary Feilding, niece of the future Duke of Buckingham.
Daniel Mytens first painted the King in 1621 (National Portrait Gallery), and was the leading court portraitist when he portrayed the sitter’s nine-year-old wife in 1622. Subsequently, he painted Arran’s father, the 2nd Marquis of Hamilton, holding his staff of office as Steward of the Household, to which he was appointed in 1624.2 Mytens must have employed considerable studio assistance, for at least twenty-two versions or derivatives of that image are known. These indicate both the success of Mytens’s portrayal and the extent of Hamilton’s power network. Hamilton himself was a picture collector of some stature.3
The present portrait is dated 1623, which under the Old Style calendar used in England until 1751, ran from 25 March 1623 to 24 March 1624. During that year Prince Charles visited Spain in a vain attempt to conclude a marriage with the Infanta Maria, sister of the seventeen-year-old King Philip IV. Setting off initially in secret with Buckingham on 17 February 1623, he arrived in Madrid on 7 March. The visit became Arran’s first foray into public affairs as he set off for Spain with his father-in-law on 13 March to join the Prince.4
The months Charles spent in Spain with Philip IV were to have a profound effect upon him, opening his eyes to the work of major European artists such as Titian and to the uses of art as a political tool. In the summer of 1623, another young man, the painter Diego Velásquez visited the Spanish court for the first time. Before 30 August he had painted the Spanish king. In addition, on 8 September he was paid 110 reales by Charles’s staff ‘for drawing the Prince’s Picture’ (a bosquejo – possibly an oil sketch). Neither portrait has survived.
The examples of Velásquez’s work that Arran had seen in Madrid may have influenced how he chose to be represented in the present portrait, made after his return to England. The composition is remarkably similar to a full-length of the Prince, with the small moustache he is said to have worn on his return from Spain.5 This is thought to be the full-length of Charles, for delivery to the Spanish Ambassador, for which Mytens was paid £30 on 9 October 1623. The portrait of Arran is the more powerful of the two, since the setting is uncluttered by carpet and curtain, and the sitter has been given a solidity and a presence absent from that of the Prince. Arran’s sombre attire may reflect the Spanish fashion for black, a result of Philip IV’s dress reform laws, introduced in March 1623, banning the wearing of rich materials and ornaments. The only physical description of the sitter dates from c.1625; according to Sir Philip Warwick ‘the 2nd Marquis had two sons, James and William, neither of them so graceful persons as himself, and both of some hard visage, the elder of a neater shape and gracefuller motion ... The air of his countenance had such a cloud on it’.
This portrait may have been commissioned to mark Arran’s appointment as a Gentleman of the Prince’s Bedchamber, in which capacity he served until Charles’s accession, when he carried the sword at the coronation. During the 1630s his intimacy with the king was marked by mutual gifts of paintings, and Hamilton became one of the principal English collectors. Though it has been suggested that he was more a follower of the fashion for collecting than a connoisseur, he was to amass a collection of about six hundred works, more than half of them Venetian. His particular triumph was the acquisition of the collection of Bartolomeo della Nave from Venice in 1639. The core of his collection eventually found its way into the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
Charles entrusted Hamilton, because of his Scottish birth and influence, with the implementation of his policies there, conferring a dukedom on him in 1643. Hamilton was as poor a politician as he was later to prove a general. One of Charles’s principal advisers during the Civil War, he eventually led a Scottish army into England to intervene on behalf of the royalists but was comprehensively beaten by Cromwell at the Battle of Preston. He was executed in March 1649, a few weeks after the King. His military ambitions are evident in his portrait in armour by Van Dyck, of c.1640.6