Henry, Prince of Wales
5 of 29 portraits by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger
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Henry, Prince of Wales
by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger
oil on canvas, circa 1603
63 3/4 in. x 46 in. (1619 mm x 1168 mm)
An important portrait of Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales commissioned shortly after the accession of his father, James VI of Scotland, to the English throne.
The portrait is likely to have been commissioned by Sir Henry Lee for his house at Ditchley Park, and to have remained there until 1932 when it was bequeathed to the Gallery by Harold Lee-Dillon, 17th Viscount Dillon. It was accepted by the Gallery in 1933.
The portrait shows Prince Henry in the robes of the Order of the Garter, aged around nine. The ship jewel in the hat is also depicted in a half-length portrait of the prince in the Royal Collection (RCIN 406972) and in a full-length portrait of the prince in Garter robes at Welbeck Abbey, both by unknown artists. The portrait was previously thought to depict Henry’s younger brother, the future Charles I, but was re-identified by Roy Strong in 1979 based on provenance, style and costume.
Sir Henry Lee had been Elizabeth I’s champion and saw in the young prince the chance to revive English chivalry; he wrote to him saying that he intended ‘to bestowe the remnant of my tyme all I may to please you’ and remarked on his ‘aptenes to horsemanship, and matters of armes’. Henry hunted at Ditchley in 1608 and 1610.
Notes on attribution
Sir Henry Lee was one of Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger’s major patrons. This portrait may have been commissioned to hang as a companion to two portraits of a similar composition by the same artist: one of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex (NPG 4985) and one of Lee himself (Worshipful Company of Armourers and Brasiers, London), and there may have been others in the group. The preparation layers and paint handling technique used in this portrait compare closely to other works by Gheeraerts, including the full-length portrait of Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex (NPG 4985), and like that work, the portrait appears to have been painted with some studio assistance.
Justification for dating
Henry, Prince of Wales was invested as a knight of the Garter on 2 July 1603 and it is likely that this portrait was commissioned to celebrate the event. The techniques and materials in use are appropriate for a work of this period and the apparent age of the sitter compares well to a portrait of Prince Henry that is dated 1603 (Metropolitan Museum of Art).
The original paint surface is considerably abraded. The background was entirely overpainted, probably in the first half of the eighteenth century, with the addition of a window and balustrade on the right-hand side, through which the corner of a building was visible; changes were also made to the hat and robes. Much of the overpaint was removed during treatment in 1974 but residues remain on the paint surface and many passages are difficult to interpret as a result. For example, there are still passages of blue overpaint covering jewels in the hat that were originally painted black. It is difficult to determine the original colour of the mantle; the tassels have been overpainted with purple, but the blue layer beneath may also be overpaint as it is similar to the blue used to paint the jewels on the hat.
Extensive overpaint makes it difficult to assess the painting technique and the extent of studio involvement in the portrait. Some finely painted details can still be seen, such as St George and the Dragon on the Garter medal and the stitching around the sole of the shoe. The fine plain weave canvas support was prepared with a grey priming. The flesh paint was applied thinly over this layer, with the blue veins in the temple painted with azurite.
The pigment mix in the original paint in the mantle contains smalt mixed with lead white and a small amount of red lake and yellow, which suggests that the mantle was originally purple. This is similar to the mixture in the mantle in the portrait of Robert Devereux (NPG 4985), which contains large blue particles mixed with lead white, bright opaque red and red lake. It is possible that the campaigns of overpaint changing the colour of the mantle from purple to blue and back again reflect responses to changes in the official colour of the mantle and subsequent misunderstanding of the original colour due to degradation of the smalt. In the early statutes of the Order of the Garter the mantle was ordered to be blue, but by 1564, if not earlier, it was usually purple; this continued until 1634, when it was agreed that the mantle should revert to blue.
Drawing and transfer technique
Black underdrawing marking out the features can be seen using infrared reflectography. The lines evidently reinforce a transferred pattern that has been augmented with softer freehand hatched lines to mark areas of shadow in the face. The strong line of underdrawing along the edge of the nose is clearly visible during surface examination and it is likely that it was intended to form part of the finished appearance.
Underdrawing can also be seen in other areas; there are faint lines around the fingers and the sword hilt has a drawn line with ruled crossing lines to centre the blade and hilt, and softer lines to mark the hilt. The grid pattern for the rushes was outlined in a grey sparkly material that was applied in a fluid manner with a brush, and it is notable that the rushes on the portrait of Robert Devereux are marked out with the same material.
Other known versions
No other versions of this portrait are known.
Begent, Peter J., and Hubert Chesshyre, The Most Noble Order of the Garter: 650 Years, 1999, p. 149
MacLeod, Catharine, The Lost Prince: The Life and Death of Henry Stuart, 2012, p. 56
Rae, Caroline, ‘Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, John de Critz, Robert Peake and William Larkin: A comparative study’, in T. Cooper, A. Burnstock, M. Howard and E. Town, eds, Painting in Britain 1500-1630: Production, Influences and Patronage, 2015, pp. 171-9
Strong, Roy, Henry Prince of Wales and England’s Lost Renaissance, 1986, pp. 67, 117, 224
As Charles I:
Cust, Lionel, ‘Marcus Gheeraerts’, The Walpole Society, III, 1913-1914, p. 20
Viscount Dillon, A Catalogue of Paintings in possession of the Rt Hon Viscount Dillon at Ditchley, 1908, p. 43 (No. 77)
Piper, David, Catalogue of the Seventeenth Century Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery 1625-1714, 1963, pp. 59-60
Toynbee, Margaret, R., 'Some Early Portraits of Charles I', Burlington Magazine, XCI, January 1949, pp. 4-9
‘The Lost Prince: The Life and Death of Henry Stuart’, National Portrait Gallery, London, 2012-2013
‘A Loan Collection of Portraits of English Historical Personages who died prior to the year 1625’, exhibited in the examination schools, Oxford, under the auspices of a committee of the Oxford historical society, 1904
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The canvas has an old glue-paste lining which is in sound condition. The original tacking edges have been cut a little, but evidently not significantly because the cusping in the canvas weave can be seen in x-ray on all sides (see X-ray). There is a a long repaired tear in the canvas approximately halfway down the left edge, another towards the bottom of the tablecloth and another across the kirtle. There are areas of paint loss scattered over the whole paint surface. Many parts of the painting had been overpainted, probably in the nineteenth century. This was removed during cleaning and restoration in 1974, but old overpaint remains in some areas. The background curtain had been overpainted, with the addition of a landscape. Considerable overpaint on the red kirtle was also removed. The blue Garter mantle had been overpainted with Prussian blue and some of this remains over the original paint. The blue is smalt that has discoloured. The blue visible on the jewels in the hat is Prussian blue but the original paint beneath should be black, representing diamonds. Overpaint was not removed along the top edge above the fringe and down the left-hand edge. It can be seen that the original upper paint layers were not applied right up to the edges and that only the original ground and underlayers lie beneath the overpaint. The paint surface appears to be in sound condition. The retouchings on the green areas are a little mismatched. The varnish has a rather matt sprayed surface.
Panel condition observations
The canvas has an old glue-paste lining. There several old repaired tears: in the centre of the lower part of the red kirtle, in the lower part of the tablecloth and a long tear down the left edge of the curtain. There are also several old restored holes. The original canvas and the lining canvas appear in reasonable condition.
An examination of tree rings, which can help to provide the earliest possible felling dates for the wood used for the panel. The technique can also indicate the geographical origin of the wood.
Last date of tree ring: n/a
The painting is on a canvas support.
A technique used to identify changes in composition beneath the surface of the paint layers and to understand the physical structure of a panel or canvas.
The canvas weave can be seen clearly in x-ray (see x-ray mosaic 01). The canvas is finer than that used in the 'Ditchley' portrait of Elizabeth I (NPG 2561) and the portrait of Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex (NPG 4985). Cusping from the first stretching of the canvas can be seen at the edges, which shows that it has not been cut significantly, but the original tacking margins have been cut off when the canvas was lined.
The old tears in the canvas can be seen clearly. The stretcher members are evident in x-ray. Most elements of the composition can be seen in x-ray and the fringe along the top and the rush matting are very clear.
A technique used to observe the layers beneath the paint surface which can reveal underdrawing and changes to the initial design.
Using infrared reflectography, underdrawing is visible marking out the features of the face (see DIRR detail 01). The underdrawing marks are typical of those used to reinforce a tracing or transferred design. Paler lines, which may be from the initial transfer, can be seen around the eye socket of eye on the left; these have darker lines over the top that do not exactly follow the lower line. The darker, thicker upper lines have been reinforced with short strokes to make up the lines around the eyes, nose and mouth. Softer and paler hatching lines have been drawn in freehand to mark areas of shadow around the face. The sword hilt has a drawn line with ruled crossing lines to centre the blade and hilt and softer lines marking out the curve of the hilt (see DIRR detail 02). Faint lines can also be seen around the fingers of the hand.
Investigation into microscopic pigment samples or samples of other media in order to help with dating, to reveal the order of the paint layers and help to understand the painting techniques used.
Paint samples were taken for analysis in January 2012.
It is unclear whether there is a chalk ground as the lowest layer; the only preparation layer present in the samples is a thick layer of pale grey oil ground, which consists mainly of lead white with some fine carbon black (possibly bone black).
Yellow fringe above green curtain
Sample 1: Cross-section shows the grey priming. Above this, there is a bright red layer that contains mostly vermilion or red ochre mixed with a little carbon black and lead white, A thin pale grey layer with lead white and carbon black was painted over the red layer in preparation for the green and yellow paint layers. The red might be a pentimento or a slip of the brush when painting the jewelled hat. The red seems to be painted only under parts of the green.
Blue near gold on the headdress
Sample 2: Cross-section shows the grey priming and a black layer above, which is probably the hat paint. At high magnification this layer appears to be more translucent and brown, with a large particle of red lead. Above the warm black layer there is a pale brown layer consisting of brown and orange earth pigments, carbon black, lead white, red ochre and a little lead-tin yellow. Above this there is a thin warm pale grey layer with lead white, carbon black and a little crimson red lake. The uppermost paint layer consists of an unidentified blue pigment and lead white. Dispersion from the blue layer shows that the blue has an unusual appearance. The pigment is possibly a good quality indigo, or it could be a later addition of modern blue paint. The dispersion also shows some lead-tin yellow from the gold paint.
Sample 4: Dispersion shows that the purple paint consists mainly of smalt and red lake. Also present are particles of bright yellow ochre and red ochre.
Sample 3: Dispersion from the slight shadow of the neck shows mostly lead white in particles of variable size and shape, a little black (plant or bone black) with traces of red, which is probably vermilion.
An examination of the construction of paint layers, glazes and condition often using a microscope. This method provides important evidence concerning an artist’s technique and paint handling and can reveal a specific artist’s characteristic painting style.
Painting style and method
The painting had been extensively overpainted at some point, with a completely different background added and changes made to the hat and robes. In the 1970s most of this overpaint was removed where possible because much of the original paint was beneath was intact and in a good condition. As well as undergoing extensive campaigns of restoration and cleaning, the paint layers have suffered from overheating during the lining process. The various layers of overpaint make many passages of the painting difficult to interpret.
The canvas may not have been prepared with a chalk ground (see Paint sampling); there is a cool grey oil-based ground layer that consists mainly of lead white and some carbon black. Underdrawing was carried out in a grey sparkly material.
The face has extensive overpaint, especially covering the craquelure pattern (see micro 04). The upper flesh layers have been thinly applied over the cool grey priming. The flesh paint contains a mixture of finely ground vermilion with a high proportion of azurite mixed with lead white and black. The shadows contain a higher proportion of vermilion, azurite and black, and the pink cheeks have a lot of vermilion mixed in. The veins on the temple are painted in a thin layer of azurite applied over the flesh tones (see micro 05). The shadows around the eye sockets have a high proportion of black pigment and orange, which has an unusual appearance of pitted circles on the surface. It is likely this is the result of overheating during the lining process. The strong line of underdrawing along the edge of the nose is clearly visible and it seems likely that it was always meant to form part of the finished appearance. The nostril has been painted in red lake. The ear has little restoration but is very abraded. The lips appear to be relatively free from later restoration (see micro 03). They have been painted in vermilion blended with lead white for highlights and applied over the cool grey priming. Large red lake particles are visible on the surface and are likely to be the remnants of a glaze layer. Red lake glaze has also been used to define the parting of the lips and closely follows the underdrawn line.
The whites of the eyes have been blocked in with a grey paint that appears slightly different to the cool grey priming and contains a small proportion of azurite. A darker grey, containing a higher concentration of azurite mixed with large black pigment particles, has been applied for the iris. Strokes of white paint have been blended into this layer wet-in-wet to create the pattern of the iris (see micro 01). The pupil has been painted over this layer in a black translucent paint. Two daubs of lead white paint have been applied to the pupil as a highlight once the underlayer was dry. Highlights in lead white mixed with azurite have also been added to the whites of the eyes. The upper eyelid has been defined with an opaque red/brown paint, with a layer of darker grey added as a final layer. The corner of the eye has been marked in a salmon pink paint layer containing finely ground vermilion mixed with lead white, with a red lake glaze applied on top and slightly blended with the lower layer.
The hair has been thinly painted and is very abraded. It has been blocked in with a thin brown paint layer containing earth pigments. Individual strands have then been painted over the top in thin brushstrokes. The black background has been painted up and into the hair to create texture and shadow; a similar technique has been observed in a portrait of Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex (NPG 4985).
Hat and jewel
The hat had been completely overpainted early in its history. Although most of this has been removed, some of the jewels (which were originally black) still have passages of blue overpaint covering them (micro 06). The feathers in the hat are very abraded and what is now visible is mainly restoration (see micro 07). The gold settings of the jewels on the hat have been painted with yellow ochre mixed with red lead, with remnants of a red lake glaze visible in some areas. The rubies have been painted over the black of the hat in vermilion, with highlights in vermilion mixed with lead white and a red lake glaze as a final layer. The black of the jewels are reserves left in the composition to allow the black of the hat to show through with highlights applied over the top. The shape of the pearls has been marked out with a grey paint containing large black pigment particles. Thick lead white highlights have been added over this.
Purple mantle and lace collar
It is difficult to ascertain what the mantle would originally have looked like because it is so extensively overpainted; it currently appears as a vivid purple due to the tone of overpaint. The initial layer of this appears quite old, with later fluid retouchings in some areas matched to the purple. In many areas there is a bright blue paint layer visible beneath the purple; for example, around the lace of the collar (see micro 09). It is clear that the purple paint has been painted up and around the lace. However, at the bottom of the mantle, where it meets the rush matting, this same blue can be seen to slightly extend onto the rush matting and the thin white line marking the edge of the cloak appears to be original. The blue appears similar to the blue overpaint on the jewels of the hat. The matter is further confused when looking at the Garter medal and jewels. Around the pearl and in losses to the upper paint layer, a pale purple paint can be seen that does not appear to be overpaint as it extends beneath the original pearl (see micro 16). This lower layer appears to contain smalt. It seems possible that the blue layer is another layer of overpaint. Where the translucent fabric of the collar sits over the blue cloak the paint mixture contains smalt particles mixed with lead white and a small amount of red lake and yellow pigment (see micro 10).
The paint layers of the kirtle have been rapidly applied, with a feathered technique used to blend the different layers that softens the contours of the fabric (see micro 11). The highlights are painted in a bright vermilion, loosely covered with a red lake glaze that has been applied over all of the red kirtle. The deepest shadows have been painted in a medium-rich paint containing black pigment that has been thinly applied. The edges of the kirtle have been outlined with a thin line of lead white, which is strengthened in many areas with restoration.
Tassels and sword belt
As with the cloak, the tassels have been extensively overpainted to appear a vibrant purple colour. The details have been painted in lead-tin yellow that is mixed with a small amount of azurite in some areas. A bright mustard yellow pigment has also been applied for highlights. The overpaint has been painted up and around these details (see micro 12). The sword belt has been laid in with a dull orange paint mixture containing earth pigments. The pattern is painted with lead-tin yellow and bright mustard yellow paint, with dots of lead white for highlights. A bright blue is visible beneath the patterned areas, which may be the original colour of the belt. Purple overpaint has been painted up and around the pattern (see micro 13).
Garter chain and medal
The Tudor rose motif on the chain has brushstrokes of brown forming the centre of the flower, with dots of lead-tin yellow and mustard yellow for stamens (see detail 07). The inner petals have been quickly painted in a fluid lead white paint. The outer petals are painted in vermilion with a red lake glaze over the top. Strokes of deep red lake have been applied as final details to the roses. Small leaves have been painted in-between each petal in a mixture of lead-tin and mustard yellow, with a copper green glaze over the top. St George and the dragon have been quickly painted in fluid brushstrokes over the red robes. The green dragon is painted with a mixture of lead-tin yellow and azurite. The settings of the jewels are painted in mustard yellow with lead-tin yellow highlights, and touches of pure azurite have been applied in certain areas. The black jewels are very worn and abraded showing the red of the robes beneath. The pearl has a grey underlayer with white highlights painted on top in a creamy paint. A stroke of orange has been painted at the bottom to indicate the reflection of the red fabric in the jewel.
Sleeve and sword hilt
The sleeve on the sitter's left arm has been painted with a warm brownish-grey underlayer. Over this, the folds of the fabric are depicted in an opaque grey paint, with the deepest shadows marked in a thin dark grey scumble. Small strokes of lead white have been applied for the brightest highlights. The lines of pattern have been marked out in a thin translucent layer, with the details marked in lead-tin and mustard yellow. The highlight on the handle of the sword hilt would have originally been an area of thick impasto but now appears flat and smooth due to overheating during the lining process (see micro 17). The hilt is painted in a warm brown paint that has been thinly applied in a brushy manner; the underdrawing can clearly be seen underneath. Lead-tin yellow and red lead have been used for highlights and there are also traces of a red lake glaze used in some areas.
Shoes and stockings
The stockings and shoes have been painted in a quick and simple manner, using a paint mixture containing lead white and a small amount of black. The stitching around the sole of the shoe has been depicted in small, carefully applied brushstrokes. The rosettes on the shoes have a pearl at the centre painted in grey containing large particles of black pigment (see micro 18). Both pearls have a highlight in a creamy lead white paint. The pearl on the left has a pink highlight at the bottom and the pearl on the right has a yellow highlight. The ribbon forming the rosettes is painted in vermilion with lead white highlights blended with red lake (see micro 19).
Tablecloth and curtain
The green tablecloth and curtain have been painted in the same manner. A dark brown underlayer is visible as the lowest layer, which in same areas may be from an extension of the background paint. Highlights of the fabric have been applied in loose brushstrokes over the dark underlayer. A copper green glaze has been applied over the whole area. Residues of old overpaint are present in the interstices of the canvas but the original glaze appears to be in a good condition overall. The fringing along the top edge has been painted in lead-tin yellow (see micro 08). There are also traces of bright red paint visible in this area but it is unclear what the function of this paint layer is. Paint sampling shows that the red paint mixture is made with opaque red (vermilion or red ochre) with a little carbon black and lead white.
The background has remnants of old overpaint in many areas. The original background paint appears to have been quite dark and contains earth pigments mixed with black and lead white.
The matting has been blocked in with a thin layer of orange/brown paint containing earth pigments. The grid pattern of the woven rushes has been marked out over this layer in a sparkly grey material similar to that used for the underdrawing. A similar technique has been observed in the rush matting in a portrait of Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex (NPG 4985). The details of the matting have been painted in a yellow paint mixture containing ochres mixed with lead white. The shadows of the weave are painted in grey, with two dabs of a translucent black paint at either end of a line (see micro 20). The underlayer extends to the edges of the canvas but the detail of the matting stops at the bottom and left-hand sides before the edge.
Order of construction
The layer structure and order of construction is very difficult to determine due to the extensive campaigns of overpaint on the picture.
Smalt, azurite, vermilion, red lake, red lead, red ochre, lead-tin yellow, earth pigments, copper green glaze, lead white, bone black, plant black, indigo (possibly)
Changes in composition/pentimenti
There have been extensive campaigns of overpaint.
A method which helps to reveal past restoration and the extent of varnish layers.
Examination with ultra violet light shows residues of old varnish left after varnish removal (see UV 01). There is an overall pale fluoresence, but also there are also more dense areas where thicker residues of varnish remain. This is more evident on the red costume. On the cloak the fluorescence is uneven and mottled, light and dark, where there are extensive old overpaints, varnish residues, and various campaigns of restoration. In all areas the most modern restoration appears very dark in ultra violet light.