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Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641)

George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham (1628-87), and Lord Francis Villiers (1629-48) Inscribed 1635

RCIN 404401

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The sitters were the sons of the murdered Duke of Buckingham and were brought up by Charles I, with his own children. The young Duke and his brother served in the Civil War and Lord Francis, praised by the poet Andrew Marvell for his 'inimitable handsome-ness', was killed near Kingston-on-Thames. After the Restoration the Duke was one of the most brilliant and notorious members of the court of Charles II. Painted for Charles I, the portrait was hung near that of their sister, Lady Mary Villiers, in the Gallery at St James's Palace. Horace Walpole said that 'nothing can exceed the nature, lustre, and delicacy of this sweet picture', which he regarded as 'one of the finest of this master'. Typically for Van Dyck the heads are very carefully and sensitively observed and the costumes richly handled. The composition was much admired in the eighteenth century and its influence can be seen on the child portraiture of Reynolds, Gainsborough and Zoffany. It appears in the background of Zoffany's picture 'George, Prince of Wales, and Frederick, later Duke of York, at Buckingham House' (RCIN 404709). The group was engraved by McArdell in 1752 and many copies of the painting exist, including one by William Hanneman in the Royal Collection. The original sketch for the figure of the younger boy is in the British Museum.