Anthony Van Dyck, Portrait of Charles II when a boy, c. 1638
William Cavendish (1593 – 1676) was a member of Charles I’s court. In 1638 he was appointed governor to the King’s 8-year-old son, the Prince of Wales – later King Charles II (1630 – 1685).
William embodies the popular image of a cavalier. He was both courageous and cultured. His passions were architecture, horses and women.
These qualities made Cavendish an ideal tutor to the young prince, and he clearly enjoyed his role as he described the young prince as “the handsomest, and most comely horseman in the world”.
Cavendish likely commissioned it directly from Anthony Van Dyck (1599 – 1641). The prince is dressed in child-sized armour, so that he could feel the weight of his future responsibilities.
The Portland Collection contains a group of excellent full-length portraits by Van Dyck, including a portrait of Cavendish himself.
The backbone of the collection is one of the greatest assemblies of family portraits in any house in the country. Among the earliest is a group of full-lengths by Van Dyck that unforgettably evoke the splendour of Charles I’s court[…]
William Cavendish deeply admired the art of Anthony Van Dyck, whose paintings in the Portland Collection are of outstanding quality.
Michael Hall, Treasures of The Portland Collection
Cavendish also commissioned a copy of this painting in miniature. This was a common practice and several of the large oil paintings in the Collection have miniature copies. This enamel miniature was painted by Jean Petitot (1607 – 1691), a favourite of Charles I, Louis XIV in France, and John III in Poland.
The Portland Collection contains one of the largest collections of portraits painted in oils, still privately owned in England. It includes works by John Singer Sargent, Philip de Lazslo, Hyacinthe Rigaud and Sir Peter Lely.