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The View of A King

Image: Charles I with M. de St Antoine

Artist: Anthony Van Dyck

Materials: Oil on Canvas

Date: 1633

Continuing the reign of iconic artists from art history who worked as court painters & sculptors, I give you –

Anthony Van Dyck…and his rather incredible painting of King Charles I of Great Britain.

Inspired by a visit to the Spanish Court in 1623, Charles became an ambitious collector and patron of the arts. He saw art as the perfect way of promoting his grand views of the monarchy and as a way of emphasising the ‘Divine Right of Kings’ which Charles believed in whole heartedly.

For those of you wondering, the divine right of Kings was a tradition dating back centuries where it was believed that Kings were the representative of god on earth and therefore, deserved absolute power and respect from their people.

Charles was not only an avid collector but a loyal and fierce patron to his court artists. One of his greatest commissions is the extravagant ceiling painting at Banqueting House, Whitehall, London completed by painter Sir Peter Paul Rubens.

Charles appointed Van Dyke as his principle painter in 1632 and painted the above work in 1633 and shows Charles as a ruler, knight and warrior. The work also show’s Charles’ as a skilled equestrian riding under a triumphant arch, wearing the order of the garter over his shoulder. The man to the right is a known master of horsemanship, who loyally carries the kings helmet, further emphasising Charles’s magnificence and skill.

The work also hides the fact that the King was very short – he was only about 5ft yet this work makes him look like a giant! Again, showing is ‘divine right’ and superiority amongst men.

As you may or may not know, King Charles I is the only monarch in Britain ever to be executed. At the time of his death, he had collected over 1700 paintings. These were sold at auction after the King’s execution and the money was given to parliament to pay for the King’s ‘wrong doings’.

The work is currently on display in the Queen’s gallery, Windsor Castle.

Jo McLaughlin October 2020


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