Mobile menu

Court society and portraiture

Charles II’s court was a burst of life and colour after the sober Commonwealth years. The king surrounded himself with beautiful women, actors, scientists, poets, writers and wits. As an avid theatregoer he also revived the playhouses, hosted masques, balls and great feasts at which the court would appear in their finest clothes and jewels.

This magnificent world is captured in portraits of the king and his courtiers. For Charles II paintings were not only for pleasure and decoration for his palaces; they were also an expression of power. The king exercised control over his image in portraits and commissioned paintings of his courtiers, depicted in flattering classical guises or in rich court dress. Queen Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of York and the king’s mistresses were also active patrons who fashioned their images through portraiture. The resurgence of artistic patronage emanating from the court earned Charles II the reputation of a ‘great encourager of arts’.

John Michael Wright (1617-94)

Charles II (1630-1685)

Willem van de Velde the Younger (1633-1707)

The Attack on the French Ships at Martinique, 6th July 1667

Sir Peter Lely (1618-80)

Prince Rupert (1619-82)

Jacob Huysmans (c. 1633-96)

Catherine of Braganza (1638-1705)

Sir Peter Lely (1618-80)

Sir John Lawson (d. 1665)

Attributed to Edward Pearce (c. 1630-95)

Charles II (1630-1685)

Antonio Verrio (c. 1639-1707)

The Sea Triumph of Charles II

John Michael Wright (1617-94)

John Lacy (d. 1681)

Simon Verelst (1644-1721)

Charles II (1630-1685)

John Riley (1646-91)

Bridget Holmes (1591-1691)

David des Granges (c. 1611-c. 1675)

Queen Henrietta Maria (1609-1669)

British School, 17th century

Charles II (1630-1685)

Attributed to David des Granges (c. 1611-c. 1675)

Catherine of Braganza (1638-1705)

Style of Jean Petitot (1607-91)

Mary, Princess of Orange (1631-1660)

? British School, 17th century

Henry, Duke of Gloucester (1640-1660)

Samuel Cooper (1609-72)

Charles II

Style of Susannah-Penelope Rosse (c. 1655-1700)

Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond (1672-1723)

Mathieu Van Beveren (1630-1690)

Cabinet James II

Susannah-Penelope Rosse (c. 1655-1700)

James II (1633-1701)

Susannah-Penelope Rosse (c. 1655-1700)

Mary of Modena (1658-1718)