A clean for the Queen?

I found this neglected and shabby lady lurking in an online auction site, on a sale page from 2017.

Unknown lady

It is labelled simply as “Portrait of a Woman, half-length, in blue dress”, and painted by the English School of the late 17th century. Despite her untidy state and the scratched and faded paintwork, the name that immediately jumped out at me was Henrietta Maria. Was this another forgotten portrait of Charles I’s controversial Catholic queen? Something about the pinched mouth (anecdotally to hide her unfortunate teeth),  pearl jewels and dark eyes seemed very familiar.

A quick internet search here produced the below painting, attributed to the circle of Van Dyck, and said to be styled on a lost original by Sir Anthony, of which there are several known variants:


It is frustrating when an auction site gives only the barest information on its sale items, and in this case the only additional detail is that the provenance was Rathescar House, co. Louth. As noted in previous posts,  sellers aren’t always in a position to thoroughly research their works, either through lack of time or just limited expertise in the subject, so it’s understandable that what may be a well-known figure to some may pass through a sale unnamed. I wonder where our faded lady ended up? Wherever she is, I hope the buyer who paid just 600 Euros for her was in a position to give her a good clean.  I’m certain that beneath the centuries of dirt, scratches and faded colouring there lies something a lot more appealing and accomplished than appears at first glance.

Leave a comment


  1. I immediately thought it looks like Henrietta when I saw your post, too. Funny thing is, her slight “Austrian lip” (she and all her siblings inherited it from their mother, Marie de Medici) shows a little more clearly in this than in Van Dyck’s original. Another funny thing – this Van Dyck is the first picture that comes up when Googling Henrietta. Nice coincidence!


    • I actually prefer the first picture one to the second. Maybe it’s because her face has been softened by the years and dirt, but to me the eyes are more Henrietta-like than in the second, even if the painting as a whole is perhaps less accomplished in painterly skilll than the other. I’d love to know more of the provenance, if there were any previous owners or if it was always in co. Louth? I bet she’s seen some things!


      • Rathescar House, Louth – that’s Ireland, isn’t it? How much she must have seen, indeed! And I wonder where the painting was before then? Who commissioned it, and when was it painted? All these unanswerable questions!

        I often like the unknown- or less-known artists’ portraits more than the ones by the greatest painters. Not when they’re in the “You are kidding me that doesn’t look remotely like X their chin wasn’t shaped like that they weren’t blonde who is the idiot who labeled this” variety, but the ones that have that touch of awkwardness, that lack of the unifying polish. It gives a sort of spontaneity, in a way, even though it’s anything but.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Also, whoever painted this, they must surely have had access to a picture of the Queen in order to get her likeness. So how did they get to see it? Who owned the original at the time? And when did she lose her identity? So many questions!


      • Yes, endless questions!


  2. How exciting to have stumbled on this! I wonder if the painting might be worth more than 600 Euros if the subject had been known.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it makes you wonder if the buyer knew who she was and kept quiet, or just liked her and bagged themselves a bargain! Either way, what a great buy for such a low price. 🙂 Cleaned up I think 600 Euros would be at the lower end of her value.

      Liked by 1 person


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