Arts and Culture,  Auctions

AUCTION: A Masterpiece by Sir Anthony Van Dyck: Portrait of Princess Mary, daughter of King Charles I of England

A Masterpiece by Sir Anthony Van Dyck: Portrait of Princess Mary, daughter of King Charles I of England

AUCTION HOUSE: Christie’s, London

WHEN 6 December 2018, Old Masters Evening Sale

This piece considered one of the most important European Royal Portraits to come to auction for a generation. It was Commissioned to celebrate the crucial alliance between the British crown & the House of Orange.

‘In the portraits commissioned by the King and Queen, Van Dyck produced a series of masterpieces unsurpassed in the history of the European royal portrait’ (Sir Oliver Millar)


Portrait of Princess Mary (1631–1660), daughter of King Charles I of England, full-length, in a pink dress decorated with silver embroidery and ribbons by Sir Anthony van Dyck, 1641, will be offered from a Distinguished Private Collection in Christie’s Old Masters Evening Sale on 6 December, during Christie’s Classic Week.

Commissioned to celebrate the crucial alliance between the British crown and the House of Orange, this intimate ad vivum (from life) portrait of Princess Mary, the finest portrait of the type, is remarkable for its royal provenance, the superb quality of its draughtsmanship and its exceptional condition. It is one of the most important European Royal Portraits to come to auction for a generation.

In 1632, van Dyck — by then well-reputed for his spectacular portraits of many of the most important noble dynasties of Europe — was appointed ‘Principal Painter in Ordinary to their Majesties’ by King Charles I in London. A passionate collector and patron, the King had long hoped to attract a painter of such status to his service, and found in van Dyck an artist not only capable of fulfilling his desire for magnificent portraits and paintings, but also one who shared his tastes, especially for Venetian pictures.

Mary’s spectacular coral-coloured gown, which falls in broad, heavy folds and is trimmed in rich, silver thread, is thought to be similar to the one she wore for her marriage to the prince. The incredible sheen of Mary’s pearls, ribbons and textiles, which are painted in assured, swift strokes, are testament to van Dyck’s precision and skill at rendering different textures — characteristics that define his finest late works.

John Stainton, Deputy Chairman, Old Master Paintings, Christie’s EMERI:

“This beautifully-preserved full-length portrait of Princess Mary, eldest daughter of King Charles I of England, and future mother of King William III of England, was one of the last commissions executed by van Dyck, in the summer of 1641, only months before the artist’s premature death at the age of forty-two. It bears many of the hallmarks of his remarkable genius – in the subtle rendering of the sitter’s physiognomy, the masterful depiction of the shimmering drapery, the brilliance of the palette, and the assured draughtsmanship and deft handling of the paint. A work of the finest quality, it represents the culmination of all that van Dyck had learnt from his master, Peter Paul Rubens, and from his Venetian predecessors, notably Titian. By developing his own distinctive style of portraiture, characterised by a calm authority and supreme elegance, van Dyck both revolutionised portraiture in Europe and left a legacy for future generations of artists from Gainsborough and Lawrence, to Sargent and Freud.”

Royal Provenance

Identified by Sir Oliver Millar as one of two portraits commissioned from van Dyck for the court at The Hague, this painting would originally have formed part of the prestigious collection of the Princes of Orange, Stadtholders of the United Provenances of the Netherlands. It would likely have been displayed in one of their principal palaces, possibly at Binnenhof Palace in The Hague, where Princess Mary lived with her husband William, alongside works by many of the principal Dutch and Flemish painters of the seventeenth century.

On Public View Prior to Auction

The painting goes on public view for the first time, ahead of the auction, at Christie’s Shanghai on 19 until 21 September, later touring to New York where it will be on public view from 25 to 30 October and to Hong Kong between 23 and 26 November, ahead of the pre-sale public exhibition in London from 1 to 6 December. (Auction estimate: £5,000,000-8,000,000)

About Christie’s

Christie’s, the world’s leading art business, had global auction, private and digital sales in the first half of 2018 that totalled £2.97 billion / $4.04 billion. Christie’s is a name and place that speaks of extraordinary art, unparalleled service and international expertise. Christie’s offers around 350 auctions annually in over 80 categories, including all areas of fine and decorative arts, jewellery, photographs, collectibles, wine, and more. Prices range from $200 to over $100 million. Christie’s also has a long and successful history conducting private sales for its clients in all categories, with emphasis on Post-War & Contemporary, Impressionist & Modern, Old Masters and Jewellery.

Alongside regular sales online, Christie’s has a global presence in 46 countries, with 10 salerooms around the world including in London, New York, Paris, Geneva, Milan, Amsterdam, Dubai, Zürich, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.

*Please note when quoting estimates above that other fees will apply in addition to the hammer price – see Section D of the Conditions of Sale at the back of the sale catalogue.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium. Sales totals are hammer price plus buyer’s premium and are reported net of applicable fees.

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