Anthony Van Dyck Charles II as Prince of Wales in Armour 1637 portrait of small boy wearing armour with his hand resting on his helmet which is positioned on a table

Anthony Van Dyck
Charles II as Prince of Wales, in Armour c.1637–8
Oil on canvas
1257 x 1029 mm

Private collection

Van Dyck’s return to England: Royal Portraits

By the time van Dyck returned to London in 1632 as painter to Charles I, he had an international reputation. His association with Rubens and study of earlier Italian artists such as Titian had given van Dyck a unique mastery of both northern and southern European artistic traditions.

These royal portraits show van Dyck’s ability to mix fantasy and reality in the representation of kingship. Charles I relied upon van Dyck to provide the idealising portraits that would bolster his public image. These paintings embodied the kings view of divine rule and of Neoplatonic ideas about the self-regulation of the passions. The portraits suggest a happy, settled ruling family at the head of a nation at ease with itself and with its King.

It was all an illusion. ‘Loving rule’ may have been implied by the portraits of the King and Queen, the image of Cupid and Psyche, or the masques in which the royal couple participated at court. In fact, Charless relationship with Parliament had broken down, leaving him increasingly isolated. There was fear of Catholic conspiracies and discontent that the Protestant king had taken a Catholic wife.

Works in this room

Anthony van Dyck
The Infant Christ and John the Baptist c.1638–40
Oil on canvas, mounted on panel 724 x 581 mm
The Trustees of the Lamport Hall Preservation Trust

Jean Petitot after Anthony van Dyck
Charles I 1638
Enamel on gold 51 x 40 mm
Private collection

Jean Petitot after Anthony van Dyck
Charles, Prince of Wales, in Armour 1638
Enamel on gold 51 x 40 mm
Private collection

Jean Petitot after Anthony van Dyck
Queen Henrietta Maria 1639
Enamel on gold 51 x 40 mm
Private collection

Anthony van Dyck
Charles I on Horseback with M. de St Antoine 1633
Oil on canvas 3680 x 2699 mm
Her Majesty The Queen (The Royal Collection Trust)

Anthony van Dyck
Charles I and Henrietta Maria and their two eldest children (‘The Greate Peece’) 1632
Oil on canvas 3029 x 2569 mm
Her Majesty The Queen (The Royal Collection Trust)

Anthony van Dyck
Cupid and Psyche c.1638–9
Oil on canvas 1994 x 1918 mm
Her Majesty The Queen (The Royal Collection Trust)

John Hoskins
Charles I c.1640–5
Water-bound pigment on vellum laid on card 75 x 62 mm
Her Majesty The Queen (The Royal Collection Trust)

Anthony van Dyck
Queen Henrietta Maria 1632
Oil on canvas 1073 x 826 mm
Private collection

Anthony van Dyck
Princess Mary, Daughter of Charles I c.1636
Oil on canvas 1360 x 1067 mm
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Given in memory of Governor Alvan T. Fuller by the Fuller Foundation

Anthony van Dyck
James Stuart, 4th Duke of Lennox c.1633
Oil on canvas 2159 x 1276 mm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Marquand Collection, Gift of Henry G. Marquand, 1889

John Hoskins after Anthony van Dyck
Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria 1636
Water-bound pigment on vellum laid on wooden panel 70 x 115 mm
The Duke of Northumberland, Alnwick

Cornelius Johnson
Portrait of Charles II as a Boy c.1632–5
Oil on copper 254 x 210 mm
Private collection, courtesy of Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox