Charles I at the Hunt

Anthony van Dyck, ca. 1635
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Anthony van Dyck’s Charles I at the Hunt embodies the artist’s transformation of English royal portraiture. Juxtaposing three men and a single animal, Van Dyck established a social hierarchy expressed in a seemingly natural arrangement of figures. While the horse and grooms overlap, Charles I stands apart. In painting the king as a huntsman, Anthony van Dyck drew on earlier portraits of Stuart monarchs, but infused this tradition with his close study of Venetian painting and the precise observation of local flora. Van Dyck also succeeded at endowing the king with an appearance of subjectivity lacking in earlier British royal portraiture. As the consummate image of royal self-possession, Van Dyck’s portrait has lent itself to emulation and appropriation. In one recent example, American artist Kehinde Wiley (b. 1977) reprises Van Dyck’s composition, but replaces the king and his attendants with three Black figures in contemporary dress, their bodies entwined with branches of stylized foliage.

Adam Eaker, Associate Curator, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York