King Cling

Julian Bell

  • Charles I: King and Collector
    Royal Academy, London, until 15 April
  • Charles II: Art and Power
    Queen’s Gallery, London, until 13 May

Perched on one platform, King Charles I; perched on another, the Dutch painter Daniel Mytens; lowered in between them, a canvas some two feet taller than the king, who was reportedly of small stature. If, as an inscription on the finished portrait insists, the likeness was painted ad vivum, then this might have been the way to do it. Beneath the freshly painted lifesize face there would have been elongated expanses of lace, silk, satin and leather for Mytens to burnish, studding each ridge of regal costume with crisp little highlights till he reached the floor a long way below, and then the studio assistants would come along and busk in folds of red velvet and a background balustrade, and behind it some generic, dull afternoon English parkland. By such means ‘His Majesty’s picture drawer’ supplied a lofty ‘whole-length’ – probably intended for the gallery of a German palace in order to seal some alliance – in 1628.

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