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Queen Henrietta Maria of England
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More about Queen Henrietta Maria of England

wbillingsley's picture

Contributor

This portrait was painted by Anthony Van Dyck, a man who defined the appearance of royalty in the early 17th century, immortalizing them in portraits housed everywhere from the Louvre to the Palazzo Pitti.

He did this through the use of the Baroque style and a masterful dexterity with color which allowed him to depict his royal subjects majestically while simultaneously highlighting their humanity. Then there is also the fact that he drew his subjects significantly more attractive than they actually were.

Van Dyck actually seemed to care very little about reality, as even the name of this picture is not quite accurate. History knows this Queen Henrietta (and there are more than one because of course there is) as Queen Henrietta of France, as even though she was a Queen of England she was very French.

Of course this is not nearly as scandalous as the vast discrepancy between how she looked and how she was painted. It was the woman’s niece who spilled the beans on this. She wrote that her aunt, the Queen, had uneven shoulders and teeth that protruded like tusks from her face. So, while in the painting she looks like a rather charming lady in her late 20’s, she actually looked like Quasimodo.

Apparently he worked some magic for Queen Henrietta’s husband as well. King Charles was self conscious about his height and justifiably so, as he was only five feet tall. In his pictures, you’ll notice he is either placed in the foreground or, when he is with his family, he stands while they collectively sit.

Unsurprisingly the Bristish aristocracy was perfectly fine being framed so dishonestly, and I suppose that we should be grateful to Van Dyck for only covering up some small flaws of his patrons. Really its a mercy that he didn’t go farther and give Charles I stellar abs, or give Henrietta dog ears. That would have looked ridiculous.

Sources

Sources

  1. Morrill, John “Henrietta Maria” Encyclopædia Britannica 06/25/2019 https://www.britannica.com/biography/Henrietta-Maria
  2. Thomas, Keith “Dressed to Impress” The Guardian 02/13/2009 https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2009/feb/14/anthony-van-dyck-po...
  3. Trueman "Charles I” The History Learning Site, 03/17/2015 https://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/stuart-england/charles-i/