£1 million Van Dyck portrait returns to Hampton Court Palace

By Culture24 Staff | 12 February 2009
A picture of two women hanging the painting on a wall

£1,050,000 in inheritance tax has been settled with the acquisition. Pic: Frantzesco Kangaris/HRP/newsteam.co.uk

A 17th century Van Dyck portrait of Princess Mary, the eldest daughter of Charles I, has returned to its original home at Hampton Court Palace thanks to a tax settlement of more than £1 million under the government Acceptance in Lieu scheme.

The 1637 portrait has been allocated to Historic Royal Palaces under the MLA (Museums, Libraries and Archives Council) administered scheme, which enables items of “historical or artistic importance” to be given in place of inheritance tax.

“This is a very beautiful painting, and a very important part of our historical and cultural heritage – it’s wonderful to see it back in Hampton Court Palace, where it once hung, this time to be enjoyed by all,” said Andrew Motion, Chair of the MLA, who described the scheme as “a vital means of enhancing collections across the country.”

The painting shows Mary as a child donning a silver-laced gown and pearl headdress, and is believed to have hung at Hampton Court while her father was under house arrest at the palace during the English Civil War.

A picture of the painting, showing a young girl in a blue dress

Andrew Motion said the painting was "a very important part of our historical and cultural heritage." Pic: Frantzesco Kangaris/HRP/newsteam.co.uk

The deposed king was confined to the palace following his capture ten years later, and left a note to the site commander, Colonel Edward Whalley, urging him to send the painting to active Royalist supporter Lady Aubigny.

Aubigny’s subsequent escape to The Hague following Charles' execution in 1648 led to the painting entering various continental collections until it appeared on the London market in 1967. It has been accepted from the estate of Sir Oliver Millar, a leading scholar of Van Dyck works who was Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures from 1972 to 1988.

Sebastian Edwards, Head of Works of Art at Historic Royal Palaces, said the portrait will be given a prominent place in William III’s Baroque palace, hung next to a painting of Charles I.

“I am thrilled that we can welcome this enchanting painting to Hampton Court Palace after 360 years,” he added. “We hope that this beautiful portrait of a child princess and her moving story will delight visitors to the palace both young and old.”

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