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Current time:0:00Total duration:4:25

Anthony van Dyck, Charles I at the Hunt

Video transcript

we're in the Louvre in Paris and we're looking at a large vertical portrait of Charles the first King of England Charles the first was self-conscious about being short but he seems anything but short here he's towering over the landscape well we really look up at him in fact his head is seen against the sky just below the high boughs of that tree but the artist is very cleverly framed his face by his hat so that the face isn't lost against the brightness of the sky and his clothing is fabulous the satin top turned down leather boots well he's incredibly fashionable throughout this entire painting there is a sense of studied elegant nonchalance it almost seems like he's even above posing as king here he's shown during the hunt he's come down from his horse as horse is being taken care of by the groom there's a page in the background who seems to be holding his hunting jacket he's stepped out to face the horizon but he turns to look out at us well it seems as if he's on his way but he's taking only the most cursory glance not even acknowledging us just oh yes of course you were there it's true and he was known for having this issue with authority one could say well he felt that he was the absolute authority an absolute monarch whose right to rule came from God and during his reign there were several conflicts with Parliament who tried to check his power and there were further problems because he was seen to be to high church right he married a Catholic and he had very strict ideas about worship that got in the way of the Puritans and Calvinists and there were other issues that had to do with the expenditure of money because of wars on the continent so eventually things came to a head with Parliament to civil wars ultimately he was arrested tried found guilty and beheaded in London and England was briefly ruled by Oliver Cromwell who was on the opposing parliamentary side as a republic but it's interesting to note that that brief period was followed by the restoration of the monarchy and Charles's son charles ii would then rule England what though is this prototype of the ideal aristocratic portrait that we see in England for another almost 200 years this has enormous impact especially on 18th century painters like Gainsborough and Reynolds and it's important when we look at this painting since we know the subsequent history of the beheading etc to understand that this painting was made well before this King is so clearly confident of his power Van Dyck was a child prodigy before the age of 20 he was a master in the painters guild the guild of st. Luke in Antwerp he was the head assistant in Rubens studio van Dyck became famous for painting portraits although he also painted religious images and Van Dyck like his great teacher Rubens had a large studio with lots of assistants so that he could turn out those portraits van Dyck was clearly influenced by Titian by later baroque painters I'm thinking a baroque art especially with that elbow that juts out into our space he's come off his horse this is in a sense an equestrian portrait but dismounted and if you think about a question portraits their history goes back to the ancient Roman emperors and there is an image by Van Dyck of Charles Affairs on a horse is a symbol of power but to show the Kings still powerful even off the horse is quite an achievement he doesn't need any of the trappings he doesn't need the crown he doesn't need the sceptre he doesn't need to be mounted on the horse he alone even in this informal hunting costume is enough to express his complete control of the state and he was smart enough to hire Van Dyck van Dyck had an official role in the court of Charles the first so Charles clearly also saw art as a way of proclaiming his powers a kind of propaganda for his role there is a corollary between the pose of the king as we see it here and the artists ability to make painting look easy that Dyck has an ability to run his paintbrush across the surface of a canvas delineating forms with a kind of ease that makes it look certain and it is a perfect coupling with the self-assurance of the king