Oil on canvas; 21 by 18 ins; 53 x 46 cm; held in an ebonised 18th century frame
Provenance: Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons, Oxfordshire, England
Immediately following the restoration of the monarchy in 1685 images of the old King became quickly desired by a nobility that wished to demonstrate allegiance to the Royal family. Painters and printmakers were called upon to produce a liberal supply of imagery to satisfy the market and many turned once more to the noble visions of kingship produced by the former monarch’s principal portrait painter Sir Anthony van Dyke.
The present portrait closely follows the portrait by van Dyke (1636) as engraved in mezzotint in 1718 by John Smith (NPG D31959). The robes in this portrait differ from that in van Dyke’s image and the face has a charmingly soft, stylized, nature which essentially depicts the King in the same way but perhaps with less haughty grandeur. This approach was no doubt deliberate to support a sympathetic view of a King ill-fated. The provincial artist has paid much attention to the details of the lace and the garter chain that rests across the red robes, the overall style and size of the composition emphasizing regal elegance but on an approachable basis. As the 18th century progressed and the monarchy evolved with the Stuarts being replaced by the Hanoverians interest in the executed monarch continued alongside a growing fascination in his arch adversary Oliver Cromwell.