Portrait of a Man in Armour
Old Master Paintings
This unmatched masterpiece was added to the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in 2019 through the highest-value purchase of the last 100 years in the history of the institution. The large-scale painting by Anthony van Dyck has great importance not only for art history but also in the context of history and cultural history. The exceptional picture is the portrait of Princess Mary Henrietta Stuart (1631–1660), eldest daughter of King Charles I of England, and it was commissioned to celebrate the alliance of the British and the Dutch courts sealed by a wedding. On 2 May 1641, Mary Henrietta Stuart married William II, Prince of Orange, the son of the stadtholder of Holland. At that time, the princess was nine and the prince was fourteen years old.
Their child, who would be the English king as William III, was only born nine years later. In the wedding portrait, the princess has a wedding ring on her left hand, and wears on her dress the large diamond brooch she received as a wedding gift from her husband. Her richly draped coral dress testifies to a change in fashion that was introduced in the English court by her French mother.
In the last decades of his relatively short life, the Flemish painter, Anthony van Dyck, spent almost all his time in London, where he became the leading artist in the court of King Charles I. His elegant portraits of the ruling family and the English nobility radiate aristocratic grandeur and had a lasting influence on centuries of European portrait painting. The picture depicting Mary Henrietta Stuart is one of his last works. Art historians regard this version as being the first to be executed and highest quality of the known three variants. The personal relationship between the painter and his model most probably contributed to the intimate character of the picture, since Van Dyck painted several portraits of the princess during his stay in London.
© Júlia Tátrai
This record is subject to revision due to ongoing research.