This imposing double portrait shows the youngest sons of the third Duke of Lennox. Lord John Stuart (1621 - 1644), left, and Lord Bernard Stuart (1622 - 1645) were younger brothers of the Duke of Richmond and Lord George Stuart, who also sat for Van Dyck. Both young men fell on the Royalist side in the Civil War.
The brothers were granted leave to make a three-year tour of the Continent in 1639 and may have sat for Van Dyck shortly before their departure. The simple background sets off the aquiline features, confident poses and rich clothing.
Jennifer Till: The young man with the silver cloak is wearing a sword and his very fancy boots have got spurs on them. His curls are very feminine, but the face is absolutely not and the way he’s standing, with one leg up, the way he’s looking at the viewer – there’s no tip of the head, there’s nothing diffident – it’s very proud, it’s very assured, and though the clothes are extremely dramatic – that huge sweep of silver lining in the blue velvet cloak – nonetheless, he is wearing that costume, it’s not wearing him, he’s not cowed by it. So in terms of characterisation, if you got a boy who suddenly appears and there he is at Covent Garden, he’s playing a prince, to have an image like that in his mind, would kind of feed his body the right stance, the right feeling.
From The National Gallery Podcast: Episode Twenty One, July 2008