Commissioned by the sitter in the Spring or early summer of 1641, and possibly thereafter at Heidelberg by 1650;
Thence by inheritance to the sitter's sister, the Electress Sophie of Hanover (1630-1714), wife of Ernst August, Elector of Hanover (1629-98) and mother of King George I of England (1660-1727);
Thence by descent, presumably always in Hanover, to King George IV (1762-1830);
His brother, Ernst August, Duke of Cumberland and King of Hanover (1771-1851), and hanging at the `Schloss im Georgen-garten' by 1842;
By succession to his son George V, King of Hanover (1819-1878), when probably moved to Schloss Herrenhausen, following the annexation of Hanover by Prussia in 1866
Ernst August, Duke of Cumberland (1845-1923), Schloß Penzing, Austria;
Ernst August, Prince of Hanover (1887-1953), Schloß Blankenburg and later Schloss Marienburg, Lower Saxony.
Inventaire ou Specification fait en l'annéee 1709....S.A.Ele. Madame L'Electrice de Bronsuic et Lunebourg, among the `peintures et portraits que se trouve à Hannover' p. 36, `Dans le Grand Cabinet', no. 698: `Charles Louis Electeur Palatin original de Van Dieck jusques aux genoux';
Catalogus der Gemälde im Köninglich Churfürstlichen SChlosse zu Hannover, 1803, no. 31: `Charles Louis Electeur Palatin';
Verzeichniss der im Königlichen Schlosse zum Georgen-Garten sich befindenen Portraits und Gemälde, 1842 (?), no. 74: `Carl Ludwig Churfürst von der Pfalz in Rüstung, in der rechten Hand einen Commandostab hlatend. Kniestück auf Leinen in gold Rahmen';
J. Molthan, Verzeichniss der Bildhauerwerke und Gemälde welche sich in den Königlich Hannoverschen Schlösssern und Gebauden befinden, Hanover 1844, (in Schloss Georgen-Garten), p. 79, no. 119;
Following specification to Molthan (without title), circa 1866, p. 79, no. 119, `Carl Ludwig Kurfürst von der Pfalz', as in Schloss Herrenhausen;
Übersicht über das Mobiliar des Schlosses in Penzing, 1901 and later, no. 4059;
Schloß Blankenburg Gemälde-Verzeichnis, unknown inventory of circa 1929, no. 1143;
M. Mauquoy-Hendrickx, L'Iconographie d'Antoine Van Dyck. Catalogue Raisonné, Brussels 1956, p. 358, no. 197 (the engraving by Bernard);
G. Vertue, "Notebooks", in Walpole Society, vol. XXIV, 1935-36, p. 24;
O. Millar, "The years in London: problems and reassessments", in Van Dyck 1599-1999, Conjectures and refutations, ed. H. Vlieghe, p. 134, figs. 6 and 7;
S.J. Barnes, N. de Poorter, H. Vey and O. Millar, Van Dyck. A complete catalogue of the paintings, New Haven and London 2004, pp. 487-88, no. IV.72.
By Samuel Bernard (1615-1687) in 1657, with the legend 'Antonius Vandycke Eques ad Vivum depinxit Londini Anno i64i';
By Le Blon, 1652.
This remarkable portrait, which has only come to light with its recent publication by Sir Oliver Millar, was painted directly from the life in London in the late spring or early summer of 1641. It shows the young Prince Charles Louis (1617-1680), the nephew of King Charles I who had recently succeeded as Elector Palatine, and who had arrived unexpectedly in the capital - then on the brink of Civil war - in March of the same year. Its extraordinary and unbroken provenance extends virtually from that day to its recent rediscovery. It is a late work by Van Dyck, who was to die in London before the end of the same year, but it provides a penetrating likeness of one of the most unusual personalities of the Carolean period.
Although aged only twenty-four at the time of this portrait, Van Dyck's portrait readily reminds us that even by this date the young Prince Charles had already endured a large degree of personal misfortune. He was born on the 22 December 1617, the second son of Frederick V, Elector Palatine and King of Bohemia (1596-1632) and his wife Elizabeth Stuart (1592-1656), the only daughter of King James I of England. As a child he was described as 'somewhat weak and very little' but he remained the favourite of his mother's thirteen children. His childhood fell under the shadow of his father's tragically short reign as King of Bohemia. Frederick and Elizabeth had travelled to Prague in 1619 with their eldest son Prince Frederick Henry, but were forced to flee following their defeat by the Imperial army at the battle of the White Mountain. The 'Winter King and Queen' as they were subsequently known, settled with their family in The Hague, from where Frederick vainly plotted the recovery of his kingdom.
Charles Louis was apparently a studious and scholarly young man while at Leyden university, and retained a love of poetry all his life. In 1629, however, his elder brother Frederick Henry was drowned in the Haarlememeer near Amsterdam, and he found himself the heir apparent to the Palatinate. He was to succeed within only three years, as his father died in November 1632 at the very early age of thirty-six. Shortly afterwards, in April 1633, the Prince was made a Knight of the Garter by Charles I of England, but it was not until October 1635, when he was eighteen and able to assume the title of Elector, that Charles Louis came to London. His mother confided to Sir Henry Vane that she feared '...damnably how he will do with your ladies, for he is a very ill courtier; therefore I pray you desire them not to laugh too much at him'. The Queen's fears were misplaced: Sir Thomas Roes, writing to her in May 1636, praised the Prince as '...so sweet, so obliging, so discreet, so sensible of his own affairs' and he was described as 'a very handsome young man, modest and very bashful'. Charles Louis' good reception led Elizabeth to send his younger brother Rupert to London to join him and to try and enlist support for their family's cause.
The Winter Queen's scheme met with disaster. Charles, eclipsed at once by his younger brother's gallantry, complained of 'perpetual hunting and changing of lodgings' and that his brother 'was always with the Queen and her ladies, and her papists'. The two brothers did at least succeed in raising some support from English sources, and left London in 1637 to raise an army. However, unable to link up with their Swedish allies, the young Elector's army was crushed at the battle of Vlotho on the banks of the river Weser by the Imperial General Hatzfeldt. Prince Rupert was captured and Charles Louis himself only narrowly escaped drowning, losing the Garter given him by Charles I in the Weser. After such a disastrous campaign, the Elector found it increasingly difficult to raise further support for his cause, and after travelling to Denmark and even France, he found himself once again in the spring of 1641 at his uncle's court in London.
Charles Louis' arrival in London in March 1641 was neither expected nor welcomed. The Prince strenuously objected to the betrothal of the Princess Mary - whom he regarded as his own intended - to the young William of Orange. His protestations were in vain, for the Princess was married on 2 May in the Chapel Royal at Whitehall. Charles' lobbying for his family's cause was also undoubtedly irksome at a court where the threat of Civil War was now imminent. He remained at the court until the summer, and he accompanied the King to Scotland in August, but by the end of the year he was back at Whitehall, his aims frustrated.
According to the engraving of 1657 by Samuel Bernard (Holl. V. 423, see fig. 1) this portrait was painted ad vivum by Van Dyck in London. This was not the first occasion upon which Charles Louis had sat to Van Dyck: he had painted him with his brother Rupert in a double portrait of 1637 on the occasion of their previous stay in London (Paris, Musée du Louvre; reproduced in Barnes, Vey, de Poorter and Millar, Literature, p. 485, no. IV.69) and again at full-length for the 4th Earl of Warwick in the same year (private collection; sold in these Rooms, 3 December 1997, lot 63; reproduced in ibid., p. 487, no. IV.71). For all the undisputed elegance of the earlier portraits, the head in the present painting provides the most vivid testimony to Van Dyck's ability to capture the essential contradiction of the sitter's character - the combination of almost single-minded determination with an innate sense of caution or reticence. As Millar (ibid., p. 488) observes, the head is 'a particularly good example of Van Dyck's last manner: fully and very sensitively modelled, confidently drawn with a fresh, nervous touch, especially around the eyes, nose and mouth'. The extremely difficult circumstances under which the portrait was painted - the unexpected nature of Charles Louis' visit, the political turmoil of the day and indeed the demands on the unwell Van Dyck and his busy studio - may have meant that it was never entirely finished. The fact that Charles Louis is shown without the Order of the Garter and the awkwardnes of the join in the armour at the left arm and shoulder, for example, might be taken to indicate that an assistant may have completed these areas along lines blocked out by Van Dyck. Van Dyck's frail physique and frequent absences from London have also to be taken into account. Even in August of 1641, for example, Van Dyck himself was reported to be so unwell that he was having difficulty finishing his last Royal commission, two portraits of the Princess Mary. By late 1641, when he returned to London from Paris for the last time, Van Dyck had been ill for at least two years and must have found the strain of sustained work unbearable. It is hard to think of any other reasons why he would not personally finish such an important commission.
Van Dyck, in fact, did not live to see the year's end, for he died of an illness at his house in Blackfriars in December. In London itself, as a contemporary remarked, 'all things hastened apace to confusion and calamity'. Charles Louis did not share his brother Rupert's enthusiasm for the Royalist cause in the Civil War that broke out the following year. Instead he kept open communications with the Parliamentarian faction and even openly criticised his brother. Though he later changed his views, he was never reconciled with Charles I and his brothers treated him with disdain. In 1648, the Treaty of Munster marked the end of the Thirty Years War and finally returned the Palatinate to him. Charles proved a good and conscientious ruler and was popular with his subjects, though the prosperity he helped bring to his lands was destroyed by the marauding armies of Louis XIV of France and his capital at Heidelberg sacked. After a brief and unhappy seven year marriage to Charlotte of Hesse Kassel between 1650-57, he married morganatically Louise van Degenfeld, by whom he had fourteen children. Upon his death, the Palatinate, which he had fought all his life to preserve, passed to a distant branch of the family.
The history of this portrait immediately after Charles Louis's death is not entirely clear. A portait of `the Palsgrave' was recorded in Van Dyck's collection at his death. However, in view of the paintings subsequent history it seems most likely that it returned to the Continent with Charles Louis after 1641. It may, for example, be the `fürstlichen durchlaucht brustbild von Jan van Dik' which hung in the Electress's chambers that is recorded in a document of 22 July 1650 regarding paintings which were being transferred from the Hague to Heidelberg (unpublished archive material kindly provided by Dr. Hanns Hubach, Kunsthistorisches Institut, Heidelberg). Finally the portrait was inherited by his sister Sophie, the Electress of Hanover (1630-1714). It is almost certainly the painting first mentioned in one of her inventories, drawn up in 1708, among a group of four paintings of Charles Louis 'jusque à genoux' (sic) as by 'Van Dieck' and hanging in the `Grand Cabinet' in rooms in the Leineschloss. Thereafter the painting seems to have remained in Hanover; its next certain mention is in an inventory of 1803, the original label for which survives on the stretcher. Thereafter the portrait passes in an unbroken line of descent virtually down to the present day, the importance of which is not the least remarkable aspect of its past.
We are grateful to Andrea Huber for her assistance with the archival material in the cataloguing of this lot.
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