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King Charles II

1 portrait of King Charles II

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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King Charles II

by John Michael Wright
oil on canvas, circa 1660-1665
49 3/4 in. x 39 3/4 in. (1264 mm x 1010 mm)
Transferred from British Museum, 1879
Primary Collection
NPG 531

On display in Room 7 at the National Portrait Gallery

Images

An exceptional frame of the 1680s or 1690s, i…

Sitterback to top

  • King Charles II (1630-1685), Reigned 1660-85. Sitter associated with 295 portraits.

Artistback to top

This portraitback to top

This portrait of the king in garter robes shows him as he appeared to his subjects at the Restoration, a tall and imposing man in his thirties; in old age Charles's features would show the ravages of personal indulgence. The portrait is in an exceptional frame of the 1680s or 1690s in an idiom associated with Sir Christopher Wren's woodcarvers. It has cherubs on either side of a shell at the top, more cherubs on the sides and at the bottom, swags of fruit and festoons on ribbons at the top and sides, and additional swags at the bottom.

Related worksback to top

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Smartify image discovery app
  • Gibson, Robin, Treasures from the National Portrait Gallery, 1996, p. 43
  • Hart-Davis, Adam, Chain Reactions, 2000, p. 22
  • Ollard, Richard, Character Sketches: Samuel Pepys and His Circle, 2000, p. 29
  • Ollard, Richard, Pepys and his Contemporaries, 2015, p. 40
  • Perry, Gill (introduction) Roach, Joseph (appreciation) and West, Shearer (appreciation), The First Actresses: Nell Gwyn to Sarah Siddons, 2011 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 2011 to 8 January 2012), p. 72
  • Piper, David, The English Face, 1992, p. 103
  • Piper, David, Catalogue of Seventeenth Century Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery, 1625-1714, 1963, p. 67
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 116
  • Simon, Jacob, The Art of the Picture Frame: Artists, Patrons and the Framing of Portraits in Britain, 1997 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 8 November 1996 - 9 February 1997), p. 14, 154 Read entry

    Carved and gilt pine, the top frame with a mason's mitre, the back frame lap jointed at top and butt jointed at bottom, the rebate enlarged top and bottom, some of the carving renewed possibly including the top flower held by cherubs. 4 1⁄ 4 to 6 inches wide, 11 inches at top cresting.

    An exceptional frame of the 1680s or 1690s, in an idiom associated with Sir Christopher Wren's woodcarvers, with cherubs on either side of a shell at the top, more cherubs on the sides and at the bottom, swags of fruit and festoons on ribbons at the top and sides, and additional swags at the bottom. At some stage the frame has been stripped, repaired, regessoed and regilt and in the process much of the original surface detail has been lost.

    The purpose of this frame is not known but presumably it was made for an important picture. Very similar but even finer frames, each surmounted by a crown, graced portraits of William III and Queen Mary formerly at Cullen House, Banffshire.1 The frame of NPG 531 appears to have come to the Gallery on the portrait of Charles I's physician, Sir Theodore Mayerne, which was a copy after Rubens made in the late seventeenth century or early eighteenth century.

    1 Sold on the premises by Christie's, 22 September 1975, lot 479.

  • Williamson, David, Kings and Queens, 2010, p. 115
  • Williamson, David, The National Portrait Gallery: History of the Kings and Queens of England, 1998, p. 117

Events of 1660back to top

Current affairs

The Convention Parliament and Lords proclaim Charles II king after he issues a declaration from Breda offering an indemnity to those who had committed crimes against the crown during the civil war and Interregnum. Charles lands at Dover from The Hague on 25th May to great pomp and ceremony.

Art and science

Diarist Samuel Pepys starts his diary on 1st January, writing in shorthand. The diary became a unique social document, opening with a brief summary of his domestic situation and the political background.
Dutch portrait painter, Peter Lely, is appointed principal painter to Charles II.
Official foundation of the Royal Society.

International

The Anglo-Spanish War, begun by Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell, formally ends after the restoration of the British monarchy and peace is made with Philip IV of Spain.

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