Queen Henrietta Maria, 1609-69

A half-length portrait to right in a white lace collar and grey silk overdress. There are pearls around her neck and in her hair and she wears a fleur-de-lys brooch.

The sitter was the daughter of Henri IV of France, sister of Louis XIII and, as wife of Charles I (whom she married by proxy at his accession before coming to England), Queen Consort of Great Britain and Ireland until his execution in 1649, and Queen Dowager thereafter. She was also the first queen to reside in the Queen's House at Greenwich, which Inigo Jones completed for her structurally in 1635, although its planned complement of art works and decoration was never fully accomplished before the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642. She was extremely fond of the House and though she went into exile from 1644 she returned to live there briefly in 1662-63, following the Restoration (1660) of her son, Charles II, in 1660. In 1665 she finally left England for France, where she died.

About 1636-37, van Dyck painted a famous triple portrait of Charles I (Royal Collection) showing his head in three positions. This was sent to Rome where the sculptor, Gianlorenzo Bernini, used it to create an equally celebrated marble bust, which may originally have been placed in the large sculptural niche in the hall of the Queen's House, though it was later lost in the Whitehall Palace fire of 1698. (It is now known from a copy by Francis Bird, also in the Royal Collection). Henrietta Maria then wished to commission a companion bust of herself - despite Bernini's unwillingness to do it - and three heads on separate canvases (all still in existence) were finished by van Dyck for the purpose in 1639, although the bust was never made. This painting, with a long provenance in the family of the Earls of Denbigh, is thought to be a studio version from the original right profile now in Memphis, Tennessee. Although van Dyck's portrait implies a lady of elegance, a contemporary account described Henrietta Maria as 'a short woman perched on her chair, with long bony arms, irregular shoulders and teeth protruding from her mouth like a fence'.

Object Details

ID: BHC2761
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Display - QH
Creator: Dyck, Anthony van
Date made: circa 1638
Exhibition: Caird Collection
People: Queen Henrietta Maria, Consort of King Charles I
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Measurements: Frame: 1000 mm x 880 mm x 120 mm;Painting: 762 mm x 635 mm

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