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Lady Mary and Sir William Killigrew had seven children. Mary is shown holding roses which were linked with the classical goddess of love, Venus, and thus appropriate to a happily married woman. The bare rocks behind her – a device introduced to English portrait-painting by van Dyck – symbolise constancy.Van Dyck was born and trained in Antwerp, a major art trade centre, but also spent years studying and working in Italy. Out of these diverse influences he evolved new forms of portraiture which were immensely popular with the court elite and had a major impact on later artists in Britain.

July 2007