Kings and Queens

Royal portraiture was a tricky thing. In a world where an official painting (or an engraving of it) was, for many people, the only opportunity they had to lay eyes on their monarch, the portrayal of royalty had to show strength, power and confidence, not just to the people they ruled, but to relatives, friends and, most importantly, adversaries and enemies. Think of Henry VIII’s supremely arrogant, hands-on-hips ‘don’t mess with me’ poses. Even today that image gives us a sense of the character and reputation of the man, and adds colour and shape to what we know of him on paper.

The Stuarts, too, commissioned numerous portraits, although some were more reluctant than others. James I was said to be uncomfortable with the process, and this comes across in awkward and stiff poses. While he was merely unenthused by the whole idea, there is little suggestion that he was uncertain of his role as king, only that he wouldn’t have been the kind of ruler who liked pasting selfies all over Instagram. Compare this with the images we have of Charles I, trying his best to appear strong and capable, when he frequently appears uncertain and troubled, particularly during the conflict in the 1640s when chaos reigned rather than him. In such times we would expect his portraits to show a man absolutely confident and in control, a king who needed his people to get behind him, yet Dobson’s portraits give us a man who is far from confident or assured of victory, despite the haughty expression and rich clothes of state.

So here’s a look at how the Stuart kings and consorts showed us their game-faces, some with more success than others!

James I van Somer I
King James I of England, before 1621, by Paul van Somer
©Museo del Prado, Madrid

Anne of Denmark2
Queen Anne of Denmark, 1614, attrib. Marcus Gheerearts the Younger
©The Royal Collection

Charles I Hamptn Ct Dobson
King Charles I, c.1640-1646, by William Dobson
©The Royal Collection

Van Dyck Henrietta Maria em MN575 l
Queen Henrietta Maria, c. late 1630s, by Anthony Van Dyck
©Philip Mould Ltd

Charles II NPG
King Charles II, c. 1660-1665, by John Michael Wright
©National Portrait Gallery, London

490px-Catherine_of_Braganza_-_Lely_1663-65
Queen Catherine of Braganza, wife of King Charles II, 1665, by Sir Peter Lely
©Philip Mould Ltd

James II Kneller
King James II, 1683, by Sir Godfrey Kneller
©Government Art Collection

Anne_Hyde_by_Sir_Peter_Lely
Anne Hyde, Duchess of York  (first wife of the future King James II), c.1662, by Sir Peter Lely

484px-Mary_of_Modena_Pietersz
Mary of Modena, second wife and Queen Consort of King James II, 1680, by Simon Petersz Verelst

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Lady Halfhyde

Of course, it wasn’t only men that sat for portraits during the Civil War. There are many paintings of women too, from Queen Henrietta Maria and her ladies in-waiting, to the wives and daughters of courtiers and soldiers.

The below painting, yet another sold at auction and therefore untraceable at present, went under the hammer with the title “A portrait of a woman, thought to be Lady Halfhyde, wife of Sir Thomas Halfhyde’.

Lady Halfhyde

The artist is unknown, but  in the auction listing it is given as ‘circle of William Dobson’. There is no suggested date either, and I’ve been unable to find information on who Sir Thomas Halfhyde was. The painting was previously in the ownership of a US art museum, and without contacting them it’s anybody’s guess how she came to cross the seas to America, or why they believe her to be Lady Halfhyde.

I might controversially question this identity, however, as in my travels I have come across this engraving by William Faithorne of Lady Katherine Harington, wife of the Parliamentarian politician, Sir James Harington, an accused regicide who ended his days in exile after the return of Charles II.

Katherine Harington
©Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge

I was struck by the similarities of these two women. Apart from the fact that the lady in the portrait appears somewhat heavier – and this can perhaps be forgiven as they are depicted using two different mediums – to my eyes they could be the same woman, with a few minor alterations such as the addition of pearls on the dress in the painting. But the pearl necklace, the hairstyle and precise placement of the ringlets, the drapery of the outfit, and even the expression on the faces are much the same. While it could of course be argued there were common features that appeared across many pictures, so that two paintings of women in low-cut, draped dresses and pearl necklaces would hardly be a surprise, there are a lot of features that match almost exactly.

What do you think?

 

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