Sir Anthony van Dyck

Charles Seton, 2nd Earl of Dunfermline, 1608 - 1672. Lord Privy Seal (About 1640)

About this artwork

Charles Seton was a leading covenanter – one who opposed the religious policies of King Charles I. Essentially a moderate, he nevertheless took part in his enemies’ unsuccessful campaign to free the king in 1648. After Charles’s execution, he supported Charles II and, at the Restoration in 1660, he was appointed to various high offices of state. At his death in 1672, his two sons, Alexander and James Seton, 3rd and 4th Earls of Dunfermline, succeeded him in turn. Both died without heirs, and the title became extinct when James Seton was outlawed for Jacobite sympathies. The impact of this portrait derives from Van Dyck’s almost abstract treatment of Seton’s robes, and the contrast of the stripes of gold brocade and white ermine with the scarlet cloth and white satin.

Sir Anthony van Dyck

Sir Anthony van Dyck

Van Dyck is perhaps most famous for the grand and elegant portraits he painted of the British aristocracy when he was court painter to King Charles I. He trained in Antwerp, and worked in Rubens’s studio as an assistant. His outstanding talents were recognised and encouraged by Rubens, who described him as his ‘best pupil’. Van Dyck developed his sumptuous portrait style during time spent in Italy, but also painted impressive religious, allegorical and mythical works. After returning to Antwerp for several years, Van Dyck moved to London in 1632, having accepted the King’s invitation to work for him, and remained there for the rest of his short but influential career.