Image: self portrait
“King Charles I was the most passionate collector of art among the Stuart kings, and saw painting as a way of promoting his elevated view of the monarchy. In 1628, he bought the fabulous collection that the Duke of Mantua was forced to sell, and he had been trying since his accession in 1625 to bring leading foreign painters to England. In 1626, he was able to persuade Orazio Gentileschi to settle in England, later to be joined by his daughter Artemisia and some of his sons. Rubens was an especial target, who eventually in 1630 came on a diplomatic mission, which included painting, and he later sent Charles more paintings from Antwerp. Rubens was very well-treated during his nine-month visit, during which he was knighted. Charles’s court portraitist, Daniel Mytens, was a somewhat pedestrian Dutchman. Charles was very short, less than 5 feet (1.5 m) tall, and presented challenges to a portrait artist.
Van Dyck remained in touch with the English court and helped King Charles’s agents in their search for pictures. He sent some of his own works, including a self portrait (1623) with Endymion Porter, one of Charles’s agents, his Rinaldo and Armida (1629), and a religious picture for the Queen. He had also painted Charles’s sister, Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia, at The Hague in 1632. In April of that year, van Dyck returned to London and was taken under the wing of the court immediately, being knighted in July and at the same time receiving a pension of £200 a year, in the grant of which he was described as principalle Paynter in ordinary to their majesties. He was well paid for his paintings in addition to this, at least in theory, as King Charles did not actually pay over his pension for five years, and reduced the price of many paintings. He was provided with a house on the River Thames at Blackfriars, then just outside the City of London, thus avoiding the monopoly of the Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers. A suite of rooms in Eltham Palace, no longer used by the royal family, was also put at his disposal as a country retreat. His Blackfriars studio was frequently visited by the King and Queen (later a special causeway was built to ease their access), who hardly sat for another painter while van Dyck lived.
He was an immediate success in England, where he painted large numbers of portraits of the King and Queen Henrietta Maria, as well as their children. Many portraits were done in several versions, to be sent as diplomatic gifts or given to supporters of the increasingly embattled king. Altogether van Dyck has been estimated to have painted forty portraits of King Charles himself, as well as about thirty of the Queen, nine of the Earl of Strafford, and multiple ones of other courtiers. He painted many of the court, and also himself and his mistress, Margaret Lemon.
In England he developed a version of his style which combined a relaxed elegance and ease with an understated authority in his subjects which was to dominate English portrait-painting to the end of the 18th century. Many of these portraits have a lush landscape background. His portraits of Charles on horseback updated the grandeur of Titian’s Emperor Charles V, but even more effective and original is his portrait, of Charles dismounted, in the Louvre: “Charles is given a totally natural look of instinctive sovereignty, in a deliberately informal setting where he strolls so negligently that he seems at first glance nature’s gentleman rather than England’s King”. Although his portraits have created the classic idea of “Cavalier” style and dress, in fact a majority of his most important patrons in the nobility, such as Lord Wharton and the Earls of Bedford, Northumberland and Pembroke, took the Parliamentarian side in the English Civil War that broke out soon after his death.
The King in Council by letters patent granted van Dyck *denizenship in 1638, and he married Mary Ruthven, with whom he had one daughter. Mary was the daughter of Patrick Ruthven, who, although the title was forfeited, styled himself Lord Ruthven. She was a Lady-in-waiting to the Queen in 1639–40; this may have been instigated by the King in an attempt to keep him in England. He had spent most of 1634 in Antwerp, returning the following year, and in 1640–41, as the Civil War loomed, spent several months in Flanders and France. In 1640 he accompanied prince John Casimir of Poland after he was freed from French imprisonment.
A letter dated 13 August 1641, from Lady Roxburghe in England to a correspondent in The Hague, reported that van Dyck was recuperating from a long illness. In November, van Dyck’s condition worsened, and he returned to England from Paris, where he had gone to paint Cardinal Richelieu. He died in London on 9 December 1641. There was a memorial to him within the Old St Paul’s Cathedral.”
*(thefreedictionary.com) “DENIZEN, English law. An alien born, who has obtained, ex donatione legis, letters patent to make him an English subject.
2. He is intermediate between a natural born subject and an alien. He may take lands by purchase or devise, which an alien cannot, but he is incapable of taking by inheritance. 1 Bl. Com. 374.”