Painting, Portrait of King Charles I (1600-1649)

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  • Artisit: Unidentified; After work by: Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641)
  • England
  • Possibly 1700-1750
  • Oil on Canvas
  • 1937-39

The scepter, crown, and luminous orb on the table denote the subject as a monarch, while the moustache, goatee, and long, thin face immediately identify him as the ill-fated Charles I. Charles was the second son of James I and Anne of Denmark (both of whom are also shown here). He fell heir to the British throne after the demise of his elder brother, Henry, and succeeded upon the death of his father in 1625.

Asserting his belief in the divine right of kings, Charles immediately ran afoul of parliament, dissolving that body in 1626 over its attempts to impeach the Duke of Buckingham. In 1629, he dissolved parliament again and, in that case, made no attempt to reconvene it until 1640. The intensifying power struggle between crown and legislature ultimately led to Civil War, establishment of a commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell, and Charles's beheading.

Historians agree that Colonial Williamsburg's painting derives from an original work by the Flemish baroque artist, Sir Anthony Van Dyck, although the exact prototype has never been documented (and may not survive). Van Dyck painted extensively in England, where the king and queen honored him with special favors, including knighthood, and patronized him heavily. An estimated forty portraits of Charles are credited to him.

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