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Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641)

Queen Henrietta Maria (1609-1669) 1638

RCIN 400159

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Queen Henrietta Maria had been so delighted with the sculptor Bernini’s bust of her husband, Charles I, that she was determined to have a companion bust. Van Dyck painted at least two preparatory portraits (this and RCIN 400158, one profile and one frontal) in August 1638, but it was not until June 1639 that the Queen wrote to Bernini of her desire to have a bust of herself. Van Dyck asked for payment of £15 for two portraits of the Queen ‘pour Mons Barnino’. Three portraits were probably completed (the third possibly the profile facing right in the Memphis Brooks Museum), but were never sent to Rome: presumably because of the beginnings of the unrest troubling the English Court, though Bernini had apparently flatly refused to do another bust on the basis of a painting even, as Nicholas Stone records, ‘if thaire were best picture done by the hand of Raphyell’ (Raphael). It is possible that the portraits were never delivered to the Queen, let alone the sculptor.

The Queen's right arm and hand had originally been included in the composition, however, this was painted out between 1763 and 1787, after Horace Walpole had criticised it. The likeness and execution are almost as fine as in the triple portrait of Charles I (Royal Collection). The head is most sensitively painted and the dress, particularly in the floating of the scarf over the satin and the lace modelled below it, is brilliantly handled.