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Detail of a still life showing a laded table
Dutch Art

The Royal Collection has one of the finest holdings of seventeenth century Dutch paintings in the world


William III when Prince of Orange (1650-1702)


RCIN 404779

Jan de Baen was court artist to the House of Orange. He was brought up on the portraiture of the school of Rembrandt but in later life opted for the more elegant style of Van Dyck. This portrait depicts the head of the House of Orange during the Stadholderless period (1652–72) when he was about 17. Although the Dutch Republic was ruled by Johann de Witt, the Prince of Orange was admitted to the Council of State in 1667.

At the time, the Dutch elite increasingly sought to emulate the aristocratic elegance of the French court in Versailles. Here, William wears a fantastical and highly decorated version of Roman armour used for masques, operas and plays. In the background, a sculpted group of the struggle between Hercules and the Nemean Lion suggests that William is a young Hercules, with whom he identified. His rebuilding of Hampton Court is as consistently 'themed' on Hercules as Versailles is on Apollo. 

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