Lot 29
  • 29

SIR ANTHONY VAN DYCK | Portrait of Charles II (1630–1685) when Prince of Wales

2,000,000 - 3,000,000 GBP
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  • Portrait of Charles II (1630–1685) when Prince of Wales
  • oil on canvas, in a carved wood frame
  • 158.8 x 109.2 cm.; 62 1/2  x 43 in.


Probably commissioned by King Charles I, before 9 August 1641, when the Prince was carried by barge from Lambeth to Van Dyck's Whitehall studio; Possibly Sir Horatio Townshend, 3rd Bt. and later 1st Viscount Townshend (1630-1687), Raynham Hall, Norfolk;

Thence probably by descent to Field Marshall George Townshend, 1st Marquess Townshend (1724–1807), Raynham Hall, Norfolk;

By descent to his son George Townshend, 2nd Marquess Townshend (1753–1811), Raynham Hall, Norfolk;

By descent to John Stuart Townshend, 6th Marquess Townshend (1866–1921), Raynham Hall, Norfolk;

His sale ('Catalogue of the Townshend Heirlooms'), London, Christie's, 7 March 1904, lot 191 (as D. Mytens), 460 guineas to Agnews;

With Thomas Agnew & Sons Ltd., London;

From whom acquired by Robert (1850–1929) and Evelyn Benson (1856–1943);

By whom given to their daughter;

Thence by inheritance


London, Royal Academy, Exhibition of Works by the Old Masters and Deceased Masters of the British School, Winter Exhibition, 1910, cat. no. 126, lent by R.H. Benson Esq; London, Royal Academy, British Portraits, Winter Exhibition, 1956–57, cat. no. 79 (as attributed to Sir Anthony van Dyck);

London, Thomas Agnew & Sons Ltd., Loan Exhibition. Sir Anthony van Dyck, 7 November – 7 December 1968, no. 61;

London, National Portrait Gallery, Van Dyck in England, 1982, no. 63.


A Catalog of pictures at Raynham Hall, Ms. 177[?], Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University, Mss file 28; Inventory of Pictures belonging to the Most Noble Marquis of Townshend and Leicester at Raynham Hall, 1810: 'A pair of Whole Length Portraits of Chas. II and his Sister, by Mytens. £21.0.0.';

The Collection of Pictures at Raynham Hall, compiled with historical notes by James Durham, privately printed 1926, pp. 6, 26;

Prince Frederick Duleep Singh, Portraits in Norfolk Houses, Norwich, n.d., vol. II, p. 200;

E. Larsen, L'opera completa di Anton van Dyck, Milan 1980, p. 127, cat. no. 978;

E. Larsen, The Paintings of Anthony van Dyck, Freren 1988, vol. II, p. 316, cat. no. 800, reproduced;

K.M. Gibson, ‘Best Belov’d of Kings’. The iconography of King Charles II, D.Phil. diss., London 1997, vol. I, pp. 21–22, vol. II p. 279, cat. no. 161, reproduced vol. III, fig. 23;

S.J. Barnes, N. de Poorter, O. Millar and H. Vey, Van Dyck. A complete catalogue of the paintings, New Haven and London 2004, p. 484, cat. no. IV.68, reproduced;

A. Busiakiewicz, Armour in the British Portraits of Sir Anthony van Dyck, MA diss., London 2014, p. 45, reproduced fig. 51.


The following condition report is provided by Sarah Walden who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: Sir Anthony Van Dyck. Portrait of Charles, Prince of Wales. This painting has the same firm lining and stretcher dating from the early twentieth century with Agnews label behind, as the portrait of his sister, and this portrait has also benefitted from the same calm historical background. During the recent century this portrait seems to have been exposed to slightly increased risk from exhibitions in comparison with that of his sister, but the same fine undisturbed condition has been preserved. There has been one slight accidental dent on the lower arm, with a small horizontal retouching, and some marks visible behind. The paint surface appears finely intact elsewhere throughout however, with the varnish perhaps slightly more recently renewed, and with a little possible thinning of the blue bow on the lower right leg. The magnificent condition of both these paintings is rare and exceptional. This report was not done under laboratory conditions.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

This portrait of the eleven year old Prince of Wales, later King Charles II, and the following portrait of his nine year old sister Mary, the Princess Royal and newly married Princess of Orange were among the last, if not the very last, works that Van Dyck was able to paint for the court of King Charles I. Both were conceived and executed in the summer of 1641, soon after Mary’s marriage to Willem II, Prince of Orange here in London. Thereafter political events in the capital, in which ‘all things hastened to confusion and calamity’ with the onset of civil war, combined with the deterioration of Van Dyck’s own health to mark the end of his long and glorious career, for he was to die in London before the end of the same year. Indeed, it is quite possible that these are the portraits of the Prince and Princess that were among his possessions left in his studio in Blackfriars following his death. Both these pictures epitomise the extraordinary skill which Van Dyck brought to child portraiture, a genre in which he had excelled ever since his early years in Genoa. They provide penetrating and sympathetic likenesses of the royal children at a time when their world and that of the Stuart monarchy was in the process of collapse. These rare late works, which have come down to us in exceptionally fine condition, appear here on the market for the first time in just under a century. This portrait of Charles, the eldest son of King Charles I of England, was one of the very last royal commissions entrusted to Van Dyck before his death. The Prince is shown in armour, wearing the Order of the Garter, and holding a staff of office, indicative of his high social rank. His plumed helmet rests upon a stone ledge beside him.1 It is one of two very similar portraits of the prince painted at this date. The other is that now in the Newport Restoration Foundation in Newport, Rhode Island (fig. 1), in which Charles is shown in a less formal military buff surcoat and the Garter, again holding a staff and a feathered cap.2 The likeness and the lace collar are very close in both portraits, suggesting that they may both depend on the same ad vivum sitting, and thus could well have been worked on together in Van Dyck’s studio in the last months of his life. They can probably be associated with a payment to the Master of the Prince’s Barge for the use of a barge which on 9 August 1641 had ‘caryed his highness from Lambeth to Whithall and from thence to Sr Anthonye Vandickes and back again.’, no doubt so that the young prince could sit for a portrait.3 A number of early replicas of the Rhode Island canvas are known, but the present portrait seems to be the only version of this particular composition to have survived.4 By this date Charles had passed his eleventh birthday, and this portrait seems to mark a distinct shift in his representation away from the celebrated child portraits painted alongside his siblings by Van Dyck between 1635 and 1637. By contrast with Van Dyck’s slightly earlier full-length depictions of the Prince in armour, such as that painted for the Queen’s gallery at Somerset House and still in the Royal Collection, and the largely studio version in the National Portrait Gallery in London (fig. 2), which are both derived from the celebrated childrens’ group portrait of 1637 at Windsor Castle, we see here a far more adult portrayal of Charles. A far more martial and adult gravitas is displayed in both accoutrement and bearing, which was quite deliberately intended to underline both his royal status and that of his importance as male heir to the throne, of great significance at a time when the monarchy and the Court were subject to ever mounting criticism. The staff or cane that he carries, which consciously recalls those found in Van Dyck’s portrayals of the King in the hunting field, most notably the famous canvas today in the Musée du Louvre in Paris, echoes this development.

It is not known exactly when the King gave the commission to paint this important new portrait of the Prince of Wales. If we accept the reference in the Master of the Prince’s Barge’s accounts, then it may have been given just prior to the King’s departure for Scotland in early August. As Oliver Millar has pointed out, it may also have come from (or been ordered for) the newly married Willem, Prince of Orange (1626–1650), who had married Charles’s sister Mary earlier that same spring. Given that the traditional pendant to this portrait is that of Princess Mary in this sale, and that she is dressed in orange and blue – the colours of the House of Orange – such a possibility must be given serious consideration. The early history of the painting is, however, unclear, and we do not know for certain what became of it, and that of the Princess, in the confusion that followed Van Dyck’s death and the onset of Civil War and the dispersal of large parts of the Royal Collection under the Commonwealth. It is, however, very interesting to note that portraits of ‘Prince Charles’ and ‘Princes (sic) Mary’ were among the pictures in Van Dyck’s possession at his death, where they were valued at £5 and £4 respectively, alongside a double portrait of the ‘Prince and Princes (sic) of Orange’, valued at £8.5 If these are to be identified with the present lots, then it would suggest that if these were originally intended for the House of Orange, then for whatever reason, they had not been delivered to their patrons before Van Dyck’s death. In 1642 Van Dyck’s widow, Mary, remarried a Welsh Baronet, Sir Richard Price. Van Dyck’s estate, which was divided between England the Netherlands, was large and extremely complicated, and it seems likely that Sir Richard Price had married Lady Van Dyck in order to clear his own debts. The remaining paintings from the studio that were bequeathed to Lady Van Dyck and her daughter, all supposedly originals by Van Dyck and including the portraits of Prince Charles and his sister, were soon the subject of protracted litigation brought after Lady Van Dyck’s death in 1644 by Sir John Wittewronge, who sought to recover them on behalf of his mother Lady Anne Middleton. Wittewronge’s suit successfully retrieved the paintings from the hands of a dealer in Blackfriars called Richard Andrews, who had taken possession of the pictures and begun to sell them abroad.6 Some pictures, including Titian’s Vendramin family now in the National Gallery, and his Perseus and Andromeda in the Wallace Collection, were sold to the Earl of Northumberland in 1646. Among those that remained the court depositions list the two pictures of the ‘Prince Charles and the Princess Mary’, which were valued as ‘worth £80 and upwards’, a price indicative of autograph status.7 Wittewronge finally won his claim in 1650, and most, if not all, of the paintings – still numbering portraits of ‘Prince Charles’ and ‘Princesse Mary’ among them – must have passed into his family’s collection at Rothamsted Manor in Hertfordshire. Of their subsequent history, however, there is no certain record, and as Brown and Ramsay rightly remark, ‘…the portraits of Prince Charles and the Princess Mary… could refer to any one of many recorded and extant portraits’.8

This portrait must have been painted at a time when Van Dyck was unwell and working under considerable pressure, yet despite that it is of consistently high quality throughout. The head, described by Millar as ‘delicately and quite freshly modelled’ bears close comparison with the documented portrait of Charles’s cousin, Charles Louis, the young Elector Palatine (fig. 3) painted in London in the same year, and indeed the handling of the armour in the present work would  appear to be of equal if not higher quality. As with all portraits from this very last phase of Van Dyck’s career, the handling is perhaps less bold than when he was at the height of his powers, with the colours generally a little cooler in tone and the light less subtly cast, but the character and drawing remain as perceptive and accomplished as ever. Despite his ill-health, after finishing these commissions, Van Dyck set out for Paris in October of 1641 in the hope of seeing the King of France, but by early November he was so ill that he was obliged to return to London, where his wife was soon to give birth to their daughter Justina. He did not live to see the year’s end, for he was to die in his house in Blackfriars on 9 December. With him passed one of the greatest figures of the Carolean court and its culture. It was, as Sir Oliver Millar has remarked, ‘a poignant coincidence’ that Charles I’s ‘principalle Paynter’ should die when the ‘fabric of society, aspects of which he had recorded with such sensitivity, were unravelling so fast’.9

Although he was still only twelve, the year after this portrait was painted the Prince of Wales joined his father Charles I at the outbreak of the English Civil War, and he was present at the battle of Edgehill in October, where he reportedly cried defiantly ‘I fear them not!’ when advised to leave the field. Although he did later personally participate in the campaign, by 1646 it was clear that his father was losing the war, and Charles was obliged to flee England for his own safety. He took refuge at the court of his cousin Louis XIV of France in Paris, but he struggled to find substantial support for his family either there or in the Spanish Netherlands. In 1648 he visited The Hague and the court of his sister Mary and her husband William II of Orange, but found the Stuart cause there equally unpopular with the Protestant Dutch. The following year, in January 1649, his father King Charles I, who had been in captivity since 1646, was executed, and England became a republic under first the Commonwealth and later Cromwell’s Protectorate. Successive campaigns undertaken by Charles in alliances with the Scots ended in heavy defeats at Dunbar (1650), and Worcester (1651). After the latter battle Charles was forced into hiding, only narrowing avoiding capture by the Parliamentarian forces by hiding in a famous oak tree at Boscobel. Although Charles finally reached safety in France, the Parliamentarians’ grip on England was not threatened again. It was only with the death of Oliver Cromwell in 1658 and the resignation of his son Richard as his successor as Lord Protector that a re-formed and repentant Parliament voted to restore Charles to the throne. On the 29 May 1660, on his thirtieth birthday, Charles was received in London to popular acclaim but with much reduced powers. Thereafter he would become one of England’s best-loved monarchs. The celebrated hedonism of his court seems to have come as a very welcome relief after so many years of Puritan rule. The father of no less than fourteen children by his various mistresses, Charles unfortunately left no legitimate heir by his long-suffering wife Catherine of Braganza. He was succeeded by his brother James, the last Roman Catholic King of England, but after a brief and bloody reign he was deposed and the throne offered to Charles’s sister Mary’s protestant son, William III of Orange. However, through lines of descent from Charles’s children, notably the subsequent Dukes of Richmond and Grafton, to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, Charles’s descendants are now once again re-connected to the English throne. As and when he succeeds to the throne, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, will in due course become the first English monarch to be descended from Charles II.

We are grateful to both Dr. Christopher Brown and Dr. Malcolm Rogers for independently endorsing the attribution following first-hand inspection of the original.


The early history of this painting and its companion remains unclear. They may be the portraits of Mary and her brother Charles recorded as being left in Van Dyck’s studio at the time of his death, but whose subsequent history remains obscure (see note to the previous lot). However, it is quite possible that they may have hung at Raynham Hall in Norfolk (fig. 4) since the seventeenth century. They are certainly recorded there in the old inventories taken in 1810. An earlier inventory made for the 1st Marquess in the 1770s also lists several portraits attributed to Van Dyck, but the references are often generic. For example, in Queen Anne's Parlour hung 'Some Van Dyke & some by Cornelis Johnson' [sic], while in the stone Parlour 'one by Van dyke' hung over the chimney. From the outset, the collections at Raynham contained an important collection of seventeenth century portraits, the majority of which (including the present work) were dispersed at auction in 1904. Their nucleus was a group of Dutch portraits by Miereveldt commissioned by Horace, Lord Vere of Tilbury (1565-1635) depicting himself and the principal officers who had fought alongside him in the Dutch wars of the early seventeenth century, and which had been brought into the family by the marriage of his daughter Mary to Sir Roger Townshend (1596-1637) of Raynham. To these were added several other portraits of the principal personalities of the day, including Charles I, Prince Rupert and General George Monck, alongside their opponents, Cromwell, Fairfax and Ireton. However, it seems that during the Civil War as well as the Commonwealth and the Protectorate that followed the family maintained careful diplomatic relations with the Parliamentarians. Lady Vere, who outlived her husband by some thirty five years, briefly had charge of Charles I’s two youngest children in 1645, and Clarendon reported that she was ‘much in their (Parliament’s) favour’. It is most likely that the pictures entered the collections at Raynham after the Restoration. The links between Charles II and the Townshend family were strong indeed, for Sir Horatio Townshend, 3rd Baronet (1630-1687), was one of the select group of noblemen selected to travel to Breda in the Netherlands and bring back Charles at his Restoration in 1660. This was an enormous honour and Sir Horatio was elevated to the peerage as Baron Townshend the following year. Under his aegis Raynham was immediately remodelled and enlarged between 1661 and 1666. In September 1671, King Charles himself and his brother James, Duke of York visited the house. Charles was extremely conscious of the power of his image as monarch, and it is not altogether fanciful to suppose that the new Lord Townshend would have been anxious to acquire and display portraits of his new monarch, or even that both portraits may have been the gift of the King himself.


After the sale of the Townshend heirlooms in 1904, these portraits both subsequently formed part of the important art collection amassed by the British banker Robert Henry Benson and his wife Evelyn and kept at Buckhurst in Sussex and in their London residence at 16, South Street in Mayfair. Benson was a trustee of the National Gallery and a member of the Burlington Fine Arts Club, while his wife was the daughter of another pre-eminent collector, Robert Stayner Holford, whose own taste for Italian art was to be a formative influence. Their collection was strongest in works of the British School, and above all in works of the early Italian Renaissance, including Correggio’s Christ’s farewell to his Mother now in the National Gallery in London as well as works by or attributed to Botticelli, Filippino Lippi, Andrea del Sarto, Carpaccio and Palma Vecchio.10

1 Although there is no surviving royal suit of child’s armour which can be linked to this portrait, a similar suit survives today in the collections at Warwick Castle. The armour seems to have been fairly standardised for Van Dyck’s male portraits of this period. The helmet is here of a more continental, and specifically Dutch fashion. 

2 Millar 2004, pp. 483–84, no. IV.67, reproduced. The portrait is traditionally said to have been painted for the Countess of Chesterfield.

3 British Library, Add. MS 32476, f. 21. Cited by Millar 2004, p. 483.

4 Millar lists versions, for example, at Goodwood House, Boughton and Muncaster Castle. Another was sold in the these Rooms, 12 July 1995, lot 18.

5 C. Brown and N. Ramsay, ‘Van Dyck’s collection: some new documents’, The Burlington Magazine, vol. 132, October 1990, p. 707, Appendices II and III.

6 As Price had died intestate, both Andrews and Wittewronge were no doubt motivated by a desire to avoid the pictures falling into the hands of the ‘Committee for Seizing and Sequestering the Estates of Delinquents and Papists in the City of London’. Lawsuits against the Price family seeking recovery of the money originally owed by them continued as late as 1704.

7 According to Gibson 1997, a portrait of Prince Charles remained in the collection at the Wittewronge family seat at Rothamsted in Hertfordshire until early in the last century, but this too is now untraced.

8 Brown and Ramsay 1990, p. 706

9 Millar 2004, p. 425

10 For which see the Catalogue of Italian Pictures… collected by Robert and Evelyn Benson, Chiswick 1914.