The exhibitions and displays held in royal venues throughout Great Britain attract huge crowds on an annual basis. They contribute to economic success through both local and international engagement. One thing is for sure. Those who enjoy the shows always gain an insight into the continuing development of the human condition.
Celebrating the role of art in court culture during the reign of the Stuart Kings a unique joint ticket to two landmark shows to be held in London will be available. A great Xmas gift for both locals and international visitors.
It compliments the Royal Collection Trust exhibition – Charles II: Art & Power on show in the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace December 8 – May 13, 2018
King Charles 1 (1600-1649) as his father before him believed in the divine right of Kings. He was captured often by Flemish artist Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641), who with his well-known three faced portrait, presented the King’s three heads drawn and modelled with care and restraint.
Our concept of this scholarly patron of the arts has been formed by the sheer volume of the artist’s likeness of him.
There is a distinct contrast between the blue Garter ribbon and three different colours of the King’s costume. Three differently patterned lace collars turn a utilitarian commission into a work of great beauty.
During his lifetime, Charles 1 had a profound influence on English craftsmen.
He acquired and commissioned exceptional masterpieces from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries, including works by the great masters of art, Peter Paul Rubens, Hans Holbein the Younger, Tiziano Vecelli called Titian and Leonardo da Vinci.
A number of Leonardo’s botanical drawings executed in red chalk on paper with an orange-red coating, includes a remarkably bold study of a sprig of oak.
The dense shading he used gives the drawing a great sense of solidity and life; the oak tree, symbolises both England and strength
This exhibition reunites around 150 of the most important works for the first time since the seventeenth century, providing an unprecedented opportunity to experience the collection of objects that changed the appreciation of art in England.
Charles I influence would be put on the backburner with the removal of his head outside Inigo Jones’ elegantly proportioned Banqueting House in 1649 and advent of Cromwell and the Commonwealth (1649-1659).
Anthony Van Dyck arrived in England in 1632 bringing the continental Baroque style. He proved he had a unique ability to capture the national character, which meant all of his English portraits are decidedly English, which is fascinating to contemplate.
At that time they could not have been painted anywhere else in the world and perhaps we can read into his portraits of the King the pathos of a society blind to the possibility of defeat, unconscious of the catastrophe ahead.
Charles I son, who became Charles II (1630-1685), fought for seven years in the English Civil War before escaping to France. He headed straight onto Holland, where his sister Mary had married the Prince of Orange the Stadtholder, or Chief Magistrate of the United Republic of the Netherlands.
A unique experience for a potential King of having to live rough and allow himself to be helped by ordinary people who risked their lives to do so had an effect on Charles II’s persona and attitudes for the rest of his life.
The various disguises Charles used during his escape gave him the confidence to be his ‘own man’. He spent his years of exile gaining first-hand knowledge of just how sophisticated life was lived and how far his own country and its future vision lagged behind.
He lived in Brussels, Bruges and Breed witnessing first-hand the international trading connections of Antwerp and its closure as a port in 1649 due to the Treaty of Westphalia.
Signed in 1648, it closed part of the Scheldt River to all non-Dutch ships guaranteeing the golden age of Amsterdam, which took over becoming the region’s premier port where ships of the Dutch East India company brought in exotic goods.
When on 3rd September 1658 in England Cromwell died it General Monck (Duke of Albermarle) found himself free to negotiate Charles’ restoration to the English throne, which happened on his thirtieth birthday on the 29th May in 1660.
Charles II was crowned King of England on St. George’s Day 1661 by the Archbishop of Canterbury William Juxon, who, as a prelate, had attended his father on the scaffold. During the following years he enacted retribution against all those involved in his father’s death… ‘Killers of the King’.
He carried out serious business in his cabinet off his bedchamber where he discussed policy with his inner circle of advisers and his king’s cabinet council, which became the ancestor of the Prime Minister’s cabinet of today.
His wife Catherine of Braganza proved unable to have children and so he fathered many children by his mistresses following French tradition. The present Dukes of Buccleuch, Grafton, Richmond and St. Albans all derive their origin from Charles II. This display will showcase glittering silver-gilt used at the King’s coronation, old master paintings, tapestries and silver-covered furniture, representing the rich material world of Charles II’s court and how the arts and Charles’ determination helped re-establish the reign of the Stuart monarchy.
Barbara Villiers, both luscious and animated was one favourite. Artist Sir Peter Lely painted her often and used to say ‘it was beyond the compass of art to give this lady her due, as to her sweetness and exquisite beauty.
She taught other court ladies how to look languishing. She had six children by the King, who created her Duchess of Cleveland in 1670
The experiences of Royalists abroad were of tremendous importance for the future evolution of art, design and style in England. Charles II provided energetic, enterprising and determined men of his acquaintance with opportunities to become richer than ever before. This ensured that commerce began to thrive again.
The Dutch dominated world trade during the seventeenth century, operating the largest fleet of trading merchants and the county of Holland became the wealthiest and most urbanized region of Europe.
This is reflected in The Exeter Salt (c1630), made of silver, gilt, and enamel mounted with almandine garnets, turquoises, sapphires, emeralds, rubies and amethysts made in the image of a fantasy castle and the only surviving work of a Hamburg goldsmith, Johann Hass.
The salt was presented to Charles II by the City of Exeter in 1660 for his coronation, possibly as a gift of propitiation.
It was at this date Robert Vyner (1631-1688) added jewelled mounts. The windows of the castle were enamelled for the Coronation banquet of George IV in 1821.
A ‘Salt’ exemplified the belief complexity can be as virtuous as simplicity; a belief we find hard to accept because our aesthetics are conditioned by a need to economise and by the loss of the necessary technical skills needed to produce such fabulous objects as they did at the time.
During the ceremony of eating important guests were placed according to their rank ‘above the salt’, to the right hand of the host. If you were ‘below the salt’, you knew you were not in favour.
Silver furniture was the height of royal fashion in the second half of the seventeenth century, but it is very rare today. A wooden table covered with individual silver sheets, embossed (repoussé) and chased with the crowned cypher of Charles II, tulips and scrolling acanthus leaves before being pinned in position is thought to have been supplied to Charles II around 1670.
The King abandoned puritanical coldness and stimulated the expansion of the textile industry. By the second half of the fourteenth century weaving and needlework was an important aspect of England and Europe’s societies and economies.
Charles II owned a series of French tapestries, depicting the History of Diana… including one illustrating the birth of the Goddess and her twin brother, Apollo.
More than likely woven in Paris at the workshop of the Flemish weavers Francois de la Planche (Franz van der Plancken) of Oudenarde and his brother-in-law Marc de Comans of Antwerp, it is one of a set of six panels from this series in the Royal Collection, known to have been sold by an Edinburgh merchant John Coupar in 1668.
England during the reign of Charles II was a pre-industrial society in which most capital was engaged in agriculture, commerce and distribution. Work was still on a small scale and few capitalists employed more than half a dozen people, a fact which made it difficult to define the break off point between the rich and working peoples.
Indeed, the majority of citizens belonged to the working classes, such as poor farmers and most artisans who owned their own tools, used their own money to buy raw materials, seed and stock and hoped to make a profit by the labour which they added to a small amount of capital.
What lifted some out of this system to the next level was the fact their activities not only fed and clothed them but also enabled them to accumulate funds on a regular basis.
They sought to improve themselves and their quality of life which became the essential feature of the ‘middling’ sort of people.
A new class, the landed gentry, arose from the merchant or growing professional classes. They shared roughly the same ideals as their so-called superiors, currying their favour by backing up the ideas and ideals of the aristocracy.
Charles II died in 1685 the year Louis revoked the Edict of Nantes a document that granted the right of religious toleration to his subjects and society in both England and France would never be the same again.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2017