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Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641)

Sketch of Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria with their two eldest children, Prince Charles and Princess Mary 1632

RCIN 408584

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A sketch, possibly from life, for the painting of Charles I, Henrietta Maria and their two eldest children, also known as the Great Peece (RCIN 405353). The sketch shows substantial differences from the finished painting, notably in the placing of the figure of Prince Charles. In the finished painting he stands to the left of his father; looking out to the observer, his hands placed on his father's right knee. Here, however, he occupies a central position; his figure is almost reversed, with his hands on his father's left knee, his gaze directed upwards. In the finished work the column suggested to the left of the King's head in the sketch is moved to the right to allow space for the distant view of Parliament House, Westminster Hall and possibly the Clock Tower on the Thames.

 

In the sketch the Queen leans, tenderly, towards her husband, her gaze directed to him; whilst the finished painting presents, perhaps, a more confident and regal image. The baby, asleep in the arms of her mother in the sketch, is depicted alert, standing on the Queen's knee and supported by her right arm.

 

The sketch is painted in brunaille and grisaille (tones of brown and grey), a technique employed by van Dyck immediately preceding his arrival in London in 1632. The highlights are marked in with dashes of white and pink, and are evidently rapidly painted, which again suggests that the study was painted from life.