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Studio of Anthony van Dyck, Prince Rupert, Count Palatine

Key facts
Full title Prince Rupert, Count Palatine
Artist Studio of Anthony van Dyck
Artist dates 1599 - 1641
Series The Brothers: Princes Rupert and Charles Louis
Date made about 1637
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 216 × 133.3 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Cornelia, Countess of Craven, 1965
Inventory number NG6363
Location Room 21
Collection Main Collection
Prince Rupert, Count Palatine
Studio of Anthony van Dyck

Elegant and full of self-confidence, the young Prince Rupert stands every inch a member of the royal Stuart dynasty. Known as Rupert of the Rhine, he bears a striking resemblance to his cousin the Prince of Wales, later Charles II. The portrait is designed to place us at his feet, and yet he looks directly at us, a technique common in paintings of royalty. But his gaze doesn't seem to engage us – he is above us, a distant being to be admired and revered.

During the English Civil War, Rupert fought in the Royalist army as a commander of cavalry. At first he met with great success but later, when he failed to hold the city of Bristol for Charles I, he was banished and returned to Europe. When Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, Rupert became squadron commander in the Royal Navy, active in government and a leading member of the London social scene.

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The Brothers: Princes Rupert and Charles Louis


The portraits of these two princes are often displayed in the National Gallery on either side of one of their mother, Elizabeth Stuart, who was the sister of King Charles I of England. The three pictures may well have been shown together in this way since the seventeenth century, and are a testament to the importance of continuity of power to a royal dynasty.

Elizabeth was married to Frederick V, Elector Palatine. After dynastic squabbles involving almost the whole of Europe, they were deposed in 1620 and went into exile. When Frederick died in 1632 Elizabeth sent her three eldest sons to the court of Charles I, to strengthen the family ties and to gain support for their cause. Her eldest surviving son, the heir to the Electoral Palatinate, was Charles Louis; her second son was Rupert, known as Prince Rupert of the Rhine. It was while they were in England that their portraits were painted.