The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

King Charles I

© National Portrait Gallery, London

 Like voting
is closed

Thanks for Liking

Please Like other favourites!
If they inspire you please support our work.

Buy a print Make a donation Close
  • Buy a print
  • Use this image
  • ShareShare this

King Charles I

by Unknown artist
oil on copper with 17 mica overlays, second half of 17th century
3 1/8 in. x 2 1/2 in. (79 mm x 64 mm) oval
Purchased, 1996
Primary Collection
NPG 6357

Sitterback to top

  • King Charles I (1600-1649), Reigned 1625-49. Sitter associated with 335 portraits.

Artistback to top

This portraitback to top

When this unusual portrait was offered by an art dealer in 1996, the Gallery already owned ten painted portraits of King Charles I (1600-49), and over 200 printed images. The portrait was nevertheless considered a valuable addition to the Collection as it gives a fascinating insight into seventeenth-century history and visual culture.
The oil on copper miniature of the king is accompanied by a set of 17 overlays made from a transparent glass-like material called mica. These can be laid over the miniature in order to dress him in different costumes and introduce other figures. Together they tell the story of his imprisonment, trial and execution on 30 January 1649. The final scene shows an angel trumpeting his arrival in heaven. It was one of the many objects made in the aftermath of his execution that honoured him as a holy martyr. They are very fragile and have deteriorated over time.
Nothing certain is known about the portrait’s origin and provenance but it can be dated to the second half of the seventeenth century. It is possible that the portrait was produced in Holland and collected by exiled Royalists or smuggled into England during the period of the Commonwealth and Protectorate (1649-60). Despite attempts to suppress royalist sympathy, items such as this fuelled a growing cult of Charles I as King and Martyr. The popularity of devotional miniatures such as this can be gauged by the number of similar examples that survive in public and private collections today. The Gallery collecting policy usually favours portraits made during the sitter’s lifetime but an exception was made for this fascinating posthumous portrait.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Cannadine, Sir David (Introduction); Cooper, Tarnya; Stewart, Louise; MacGibbon, Rab; Cox, Paul; Peltz, Lucy; Moorhouse, Paul; Broadley, Rosie; Jascot-Gill, Sabina, Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits, 2018 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA, 7 October 2018 -3 February 2019. Bendigo Art Gallery, Australia, 16 March - 14 July 2019.), p. 76
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 116

Subject/Themeback to top

Events of 1651back to top

Current affairs

Charles II, crowned King of Scotland, daringly invades England. His defeat at the Battle of Worcester by Oliver Cromwell permanently ends further military action against Parliament. Charles's escape from Worcester becomes legendary, as a fugitive, he seeks refuge for six weeks before finally fleeing to Normandy.

Art and science

Social philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, publishes his major work, Leviathan. Recognised as a cornerstone of western political philosophy, Hobbes's implication that the new political authority should be accepted, angering many exiled royalists.

International

Headed by Chief Justice, Oliver St. John, a delegation is sent by the Rump Parliament to The Hague to negotiate a union between England and the Dutch Republic. The mission fails, principally over refusal by the Dutch to expel the exiled Stuart royal family from the country.

Tell us more back to top

Can you tell us more about this portrait? Spotted an error, information that is missing (a sitter’s life dates, occupation or family relationships, or a date of portrait for example) or do you know anything that we don't know? If you have information to share please complete the form below.

If you require information from us, please use our Archive enquiry service. You can buy a print of most illustrated portraits. Select the portrait of interest to you, then look out for a Buy a Print button. Prices start at £6 for unframed prints, £25 for framed prints. If you wish to license this image, please use our Rights and Images service.

Please note that we cannot provide valuations.

We digitise over 8,000 portraits a year and we cannot guarantee being able to digitise images that are not already scheduled.

What can you tell us?close

There are occasions when we are unsure of the identity of a sitter or artist, their life dates, occupation or have not recorded their family relationships. Sometimes we have not recorded the date of a portrait. Do you have specialist knowledge or a particular interest about any aspect of the portrait or sitter or artist that you can share with us? We would welcome any information that adds to and enhances our information and understanding about a particular portrait, sitter or artist.

Citationclose

How do you know this? Please could you let us know your source of information.

* Permission to publish (Privacy information)
Privacy Informationclose

The National Portrait Gallery will NOT use your information to contact you or store for any other purpose than to investigate or display your contribution. By ticking permission to publish you are indicating your agreement for your contribution to be shown on this collection item page. Please note your email address will not be displayed on the page nor will it be used for any marketing material or promotion of any kind.

Please ensure your comments are relevant and appropriate. Your contributions must be polite and with no intention of causing trouble. All contributions are moderated.

Your Emailclose

Contributions are moderated. We'll need your email address so that we can follow up on the information provided and contact you to let you know when your contribution has been published.

Do, draw and make!

Do, draw and make!

From building dens to food faces – enjoy our Playful Portraits activities and find out about some brilliant people!

Get Creative

Healthcare Heroes

Activities for children and families inspired by three healthcare heroes from our Collection.

Learn together

Learning resources

Downloadable and web based resources to support learning at home linked to art, history, citizenship and literacy.

Get learning