Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History



  • Portrait of Charles I, ca. 1650–70
    English
    Silk satin worked with silk and metal thread; split, straight, and satin stitches; 6 1/4 x 4 1/2 in. (15.9 x 11.4 cm)
    Purchase, Mrs. Thomas J. Watson Gift, 1939 (39.13.7)

    This embroidered portrait miniature, Portrait of Charles I, is one of the most beautifully executed examples of professional embroidery from the seventeenth century. All of the elements, from the lace collar and medallion of the Order of the Garter worn by the king, to the highlights in his eyes and hair, are rendered in minute stitches of silk and metal thread. A number of similar portraits survive in public and private collections, further evidence that these were produced in a professional workshop setting. However, the Museum's example is the only one known to include the inscription "Deus meus est Rvpis mea Psa: 18," a reference to Psalm 18:2–3, which reads: "The Lord is my rock and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength in whom I trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies." This psalm was reputedly one of Charles' favorites.

    The portrait miniature can be understood as a commemorative object associated with the cult of the "Martyr King," which developed after the beheading of Charles I in 1649. The image was based on a 1641 engraving by the Bohemian artist Wenceslas Hollar, which was in turn taken from a 1632 formal portrait of Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria by court painter Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641). This same image appears as the frontispiece for the 1651 Reliquiae Sacrae Carolae.

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  • Portrait of Charles I, ca. 1650–70
    English
    Silk satin worked with silk and metal thread; split, straight, and satin stitches; 6 1/4 x 4 1/2 in. (15.9 x 11.4 cm)
    Purchase, Mrs. Thomas J. Watson Gift, 1939 (39.13.7)

    Macro image, magnified 30 times

    The Medallion of the order of the Garter is recognizable although it is less than 1/2 inch (1 cm) wide. The figures are worked in spit and satin stitches and the medal has been outlined with two rows of gilded silver filé.

    Macro image, magnified 30 times

    The lace edged collar is depicted with a combination of split, straight, and satin stitches, with the satin weave foundation fabric representing the linen fabric of the shirt. The underdrawing is visible along the edge of the hair.

    The small bubbles are in the glass of the frame of the embroidery. This miniature portrait is most likely in its original frame. The small bubbles are in the period glass through which these images were captured.

    Macro image, magnified 30 times

    The very fine modeling of the features in this embroidered portrait was achieved with silk floss that was both un-dyed and dyed in brown blue and black. The floss was slightly twisted into a fine thread, often blending several shades of a color together. Each stitch is carefully placed to indicate highlights and shadows. The softly colored blue eyes were made luminous with a single white stitch on the upper edge of the pupils. These stitches were worked with un-dyed, un-spun silk floss, maximizing the reflective qualities of the silk.


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