Lot 30
  • 30

SIR ANTHONY VAN DYCK AND STUDIO | Portrait of Mary, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange (1631–1660)

600,000 - 800,000 GBP
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  • Style of Sir Anthony Van Dyck
  • Portrait of Mary, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange (1631–1660)
  • oil on canvas, in a carved wood frame
  • 158.8 x 109.2 cm.; 62 1/2  x 43 in.


Possibly one of the two portraits of Princess Mary which Van Dyck completed in the summer of 1641 and which are mentioned in a letter from the Duchess of Roxburgh on the 13 August; 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;

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 192 (as D. Mytens), 410 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 SchoolWinter Exhibition, 1910, cat. no. 124, lent by R.H. Benson Esq.


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 (as by Mytens and valued at £21 for the pair);

O. Millar, The Tudor Stuart and early Georgian Pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen, London 1963, p. 106, under no. 170 (as ‘a better version’);

E. Larsen, The Paintings of Anthony van Dyck, Freren 1988, vol. II, pp. 494–95, cat. no. A 243 (as a version of a studio replica in the Royal Collection);

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. 558, cat. no. IV.164 (as ‘a copy, almost certainly painted in the studio’). 


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 and Studio. Portrait of Mary, Princess Royal. This painting has a firm lining and stretcher dating from the very early years of the twentieth century evidently from the Agnews label attached. The peaceful background of these two great portraits and an equally calm ensuing century can be clearly seen in every detail of the works themselves. The rarity of paintings in such virtually untouched condition is exceptional. A fine craquelure can be seen throughout, with a slight film of old varnish scarcely dimming the beautifully unworn paint surface. A few minor superficial spots such as by the left eyelid and even occasional splashes from house paint can be seen across the surface. There has been a single intervention near the lower centre of the right edge, with one narrow line of recent surface retouching down the inner side of the stretcher bar line. This is visible under ultra violet light, with some protective traces, of consolidation perhaps, behind. No other trace of raised craquelure can be found. A wedge in the stretcher at upper left has been replaced but has not fully smoothed the otherwise even texture throughout. These are minimal imperfections in a painting in quite exceptionally beautiful condition. 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

Described by the courtier Sir Edward Nicholas as ‘a very good and virtuous Princess’, Mary was the eldest daughter of King Charles I and Henrietta Maria. She had already sat to Van Dyck as early as 1635 when she was just four years old, in the first of Van Dyck’s celebrated group portraits of the children of King Charles painted between 1635 and 1637. This engaging portrait of the young Princess was painted in the summer of 1641, soon after her marriage on 2 May to Prince Willem of Orange, the son and heir of Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange and Stadtholder of the United Provinces and Amalia of Solms-Braunfels, by which time she was nine years old. Together with the double portrait of the Princess with her new husband today in the Rijksmuseum (fig. 1) this particular portrait type was to be the last of Van Dyck’s likenesses of her. Given their similarities in format and style, it is possible that it was painted at the same time as the companion portrait of her brother the Prince of Wales, which is to say possibly in early August. The Princess Royal is shown wearing a fine orange silk dress edged with lace tied with blue ribbons, of a very similar type to that worn by her at her marriage, and she is displaying her wedding ring and a diamond and pearl brooch similar to that given to her by her husband on 3 April, the day after their wedding.1 In her hair may perhaps be a glimpse of the necklace of 120 pearls that Willem had also given to her. This is one of three autograph versions of this likeness of the Princess, all most likely painted in the summer of 1641. One, believed to have been given by William, 1st Earl of Craven to Mary’s aunt Elizabeth of Bohemia, is today in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle.2 The other, seemingly the first version of the design, is now in a private collection.3 A fourth version, seemingly entirely by the studio, is now in the British Governmant Art Collection, on loan to the British Embassy in The Hague (fig. 2).4 We know that Van Dyck painted at least two portraits of Mary at this date, for they are referred to in a letter written by the Countess of Roxburgh, Lady of the Bedchamber to the Queen and Preceptress to the royal children. Writing to Jan de Brederode, Ambassador Extraordinary from the States General on 13 August 1641, she explained that the delay in sending a portrait of ‘son Altesse Royale’ had been caused by Van Dyck’s being ill, and that she ‘…hadn’t until this hour been able to see the portrait that he was doing for Monsieur le Prince (the young Prince Willem). But he promised the Queen that he would have yours ready in eight days, and that he wished to present it to her himself with another he was doing for Madame the Princess of Orange’.5 It is interesting to note that in this portrait, the colour of the Princess’ dress has been changed from the coral pink and white ribbons that she wears in the versions in the Royal Collection and private collection. Here she is shown wearing a dress of orange silk, with blue ribbons at the waist and chest. These were the colours of her husband Willem’s family, the House of Orange-Nassau, and suggest that perhaps the present portrait was commissioned for a member of the Dutch court, or may even have been that intended for Mary’s new mother-in-law, Amalia Princess of Orange, recorded by Lady Roxburgh. 'Een schilderije van princesse royale, mede bij Van Dijck gedaen' is listed in the 1654 inventory of Amalia van Solms's pictures at Hius ten Bosch in 1654, but this is now identified with a slightly earlier portrait now in an English private collection.6 A later inventory, however, tells us that another portrait of the Princess by or attributed to Van Dyck still hung in the King's antechamber in Huis ten Bosch in 1707, whose whereabouts are currently unknown.7 A portrait of Mary in King Charles I's collection, described as 'Princess Mary. princess of Orange. at Length [sic]' was sold after the Civil War by the Parliamentarians for £10 to Emmanuel de Critz, but this has been identified as the slightly earlier full-length of Mary in a blue dress today in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.8

In his 1963 catalogue of the Stuart portraits in the Royal Collection Oliver Millar described the present portrait as ‘a better version’ of the painting at Windsor, but in his later catalogue of 2004 he raised the latter to mostly autograph status and considered the present work to have been ‘almost certainly painted in the studio’. However, there seems little reason to doubt Van Dyck’s authorship of the present canvas. The head, which is freshly and sensitively handled and which shows unmistakable quality in the crisp handling of the young girl’s curls, is the work of Van Dyck himself, as are the hands, while the costume, which is noticeably less boldly painted, was most probably entrusted to his assistants in line with standard studio practice at this date. The same would seem to be true of the version now in the Royal Collection. In any understanding of Van Dyck’s style in the last months of his life, it must be remembered that the painter had been unwell for nearly two years, and was showing clear signs of sickness and fatigue. He had had, for example, difficulty in finishing the portrait of the Elector Palatine (himself a former suitor for Mary’s hand in marriage) commissioned after his arrival in London in March,9 and he must have found the strain of sustained work unbearable. It is therefore more than likely that he would have been unable to finish all of his paintings – even those for such an important patron as this – without recourse to some assistance from the studio.

The Princess remained in London until February 1642, when she travelled with her mother the Queen to Holland to join her husband Prince Willem. By this date, England was on the very brink of Civil War, and King Charles himself had left the capital the previous month. In November 1650 she gave birth to a son, Willem III, Prince of Orange, but sadly only two days after this her husband himself died of smallpox. Mary was deeply unhappy during her time in the Netherlands, where she clashed repeatedly with her mother-in-law Amalia von Solms over the upbringing and education of her son. Surrounded by her English courtiers, she was unpopular with the Dutch on account of her sympathies with the Catholic Stuart cause and her sheltering of her brothers Charles and James when in exile. She returned to England at the Restoration, and died shortly thereafter. Ironically, it would be her son, Willem III of Orange, who would later succeed her brothers Charles and James as King William III of England.

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. 00) 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', 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 chosen 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 The original is presumably that worn by the Princess in the wedding double portrait of the Princess and the Prince of Orange today in the Rijksmuseum.

2 Millar 1963, p. 106, no. 170 (as studio of Van Dyck).

3 Sold in these Rooms, 15 December 1976, lot 59 and again London, Christie’s, 17 November 1989, lot 41. Millar 2004, p. 557, no. IV. 163, reproduced.

4 Millar 2004, p. 558, under no. IV.164. Anonymous sale, London, Christie's, 4 May 1951, lot 58.

5 Cited by Millar 2004, p. 557.

6 Millar 2004, no. IV.162. The type repeats that of the famous full-length in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. See also S. Drossaers and T. Lunsingh Scheurleer, Inventarissen van de Inboedels in de Verblijven van de Oranjes en daarmede gelijk te stellen stukken 1567–1795, The Hague 1974–76, p. 282, no. 189.

7 'Inventaris van de Schilderijen op het Huis ten Bosch 1707; Antichambre van zijn majesteyt, no. 2: Syn Majt. coning Williams moeder door van Dijck'. Drossaers and Lunsingh Scheurleer 1974, p. 539. We are indebted to Hanna Klarenbeek at Palais het Loo for this reference.  

8 O. Millar (ed.), 'The Inventories and Valuations of the King's Goods 1649–1651', in Walpole Society, XLIII, 1972, p. 151, no. 9.

9 Sold in these Rooms, 7 December 2005, lot 26.

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