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James Stuart was a well connected nobleman who commissioned his own portrait from Anthony van Dyck in 1637
This was to be one of the artist's last few paintings, with him passing away just four years later. Stuart was fortunate with his timing, therefore, in commissioning a painting from an artist who had reached the peak of his powers after tutoring from Peter Paul Rubens many years earlier, plus considerable travel around England and Italy.
Stuart would marry Mary Villiers, daughter of George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham and that links his portrait to several others from Van Dyck. The artist would typically cover the same extended family in several paintings, with different poses and combinations of members. He would also add family pets on occasions, when providing a more personal finish.
As a Royalist in the English Civil War, Van Dyck had now painted both sides of the battle, with parliamentarians also captured in other paintings. Van Dyck was firmly connected, first and foremost, to the monarchy and would have felt an allegiance to that side because of the amount of work and great respect that they had consistently bestowed upon him. In the long run, it was the right side to be on, with several parliamentarians that did survive the battle being victimised for the rest of their working lives.
The stunning detail of the Duke's clothing is perhaps the most memorable item of this portrait, along with the inclusion of his dog. The pet looks at him lovingly, clearly demonstrating a strong bond between man and animal that can't be matched by anything other than a man and his devoted dog. There is some drapery in the background to set the scene of being indoors in a grand setting, but is all fairly subtle to avoid subtracting attention from the main figure.
Richmond is a district of Surrey in the UK and sits to the South West of central London. It has a strong history in British art, thanks to some of the stunning scenery that can be found in this leafy part of the South East. The most famous paintings produced in Richmond would have to be several landscape scenes by William Turner.