Circle of MICHEL VAN MIEREVELT
Dutch School circa 1630
Olivier Mertens of Artmorial has suggested the seal on the reverse of the King’s panel may belong the 5th.Earl Stanhope (1805-75), a celebrated antiquarian whose collection included works by
Titian and Velazquez and who was and one of the founders of the National Gallery.
Carved wood and gilded 19th.century frames
The RKD, The Netherlands Art History Bureau, has kindly confirmed that this pair of portraits are variants of originals by Mierevelt, of which several are listed below.
The sitters in these portraits are among the most romantic figures in European history and the direct ancestors of our royal family. It is exceptional to find a pair of the images of the couple, who were devoted to each other, as there exist several portraits of the Queen in exile, but few of her husband.
Frederick, Elector Palatine, was the husband of Princess Elizabeth, the daughter of King James I. He proved to be a pawn in the kaleidoscopic, shifting alliances between the Protestant and Catholic powers in central Europe during the early 17th.century – a conflict that led to the disastrous Thirty Years War. Chosen to lead the Protestant League as their candidate for the throne of Bohemia, he was encouraged in this strategy by his wife who, as the daughter of a king and therefore a royal princess, was anxious to elevate her status from that of a mere Electress. When political support fell away his forces were overwhelmed at the Battle of the White Mountain outside Prague in
November 1620, thus ending a reign which had melted away like the snows of winter. Furthermore after more political infighting among the Protestant League, Frederick was again defeated, this time by the Spanish forces, and lost his ancestral lands in the Palatinate. He retired with his family to The Hague where he was supported by his cousin the Stadtholder, Prince Maurits of Nassau. While fighting alongside a fellow sovereign, Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, against Bavaria, Frederick died of an infection at Mainz in 1632. His widow, romantically labelled The Winter Queen, was forced to eek out a penurious existence at The Hague, dependent on the charity of Stadtholder and her brother Charles I. Ironically both her husband and son, Prince Rupert of the Rhine, had tried to bring influence on the English king to moderate his arrogant and intransigent dealings with Parliament and subsequently the Roundhead opposition. Charles’s eventual demise left his sister even more bereft, and less able to find adequate spouses for her many daughters, though fortunately she found one, the Elector and Duke of Hanover, for her daughter Sophia. Their son became King George I. Elizabeth was unable to return to her native country until the restoration of her nephew Charles II, and by this time she was receiving support from her close friend Lord Craven.
The age of the sitters in our portraits would suggest a date in the late 1620’s for the King, and the early1630’s for his widow, who, as in all her portraits of this period, is dressed in deep mourning but draped in impressive jewellery, while her husband wears “The Great George” pendant of the Order of the Garter.
Although Mierevelt became the leading portraitist of the Orange-Nassau court at The Hague, he was born and spent most of his career in Delft. Given his interest in depicting jewellery and ornaments, it is significant that his first master was a goldsmith. He subsequently studied under Adriaen Blocklandt in Utrecht before returning to his home in 1589.
In 1607 Mierevelt became official painter to the stadholder court and executed his first portrait of the ruling house, that of Prins Maurits of Orange Nassau. He continued to depict other members of the dynasty, but included among his sitters foreign clients, such as the English ambassador and Charles I’s art agent in The Netherlands, Sir Dudley Carleton. It was only natural, therefore, that Mierevelt should have executed a portrait of Charles I’s sister Elizabeth of Bohemia, Queen-in-exile at The Hague. The demands on the artist’s time meant that he had to employ a workshop to execute replicas; prominent among his assistants were his sons Pieter and Jan van Mierevelt, who may also have helped with subsiduary details in the portraits. Our image of the Queen is a reduction of the face in the full-length version by Mierevelt in Sint Maartensdijk (Tholen) at Arundel Castle (no.245, 81 1/2 x 45 1/2in.). Other versions were in the collection of the Viscount Cobham at Ragley Hall, the Duke of Westminster,), at Arundel Castle (no.245, 81 1/2 x 45 1/2in.) and with the Spencer-Churchills at Norwick Park. This image was also engraved by Mierevelt’s son-in-law, Willem Delff. The portrait of Kind Ferdinand is based on Mierevelt’s portrait in the Stedelijk Museum Het Prinsenhof, Delft.
Mierevelt’s sober, restrained style was excellent at capturing the presence and hinting at the character of his court sitters. Although less probing than his near contemporaries Hals and Rembrandt, Mierevelt coaxed out more personality than his impassive faces initially suggest.
However, his detailed rendering of costume and accessories also served to emphasise the heiratic distance of his sitters.
The painting of the king is painted on a solid panel. The one of the queen is split in the middle and restored in the past.The paint is very stable in the portrait of the king. The queen had some paint lifting around the fracture and background. The paint is thin in some areas particularly in the queen’s face where the wood grain comes though more predominantly than in the rest of the painting. There was a yellow varnish on both paintings. There were some retouches mainly in the portrait of the queen. Overall the paintings are in good condition, apart from the split in the queen’s portrait, showing an homogeneous surface and bright and stable colours.