In 1632 Anthony van Dyck was invited to England to work at the court of King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria. In Van Dyck, the royal couple and the English aristocracy found an artist whose gifts perfectly matched their artistic sensitivities as well as their political needs and aspirations. Van Dyck infused his portraits of the king and queen, including this depiction of Queen Henrietta Maria at age 24, with a tenderness and warmth of expression that fully convey the ideals of peace and harmony that underlay their philosophy of divine right to rule. Charles I not only commissioned Van Dyck to paint portraits for his own collection but also as gifts for loyal courtiers, ambassadors, and foreign rulers. This magnificent portrait of the Queen is the type of painting that the king would traditionally present to a court favorite for political purposes.
Henrietta Maria, daughter of King Henri IV of France and sister of King Louis XIII, exerted a strong influence on court fashion and protocol, and introduced continental fashions and Italianate gardens to England. Van Dyck portrayed her dressed for the hunt in a brilliant blue satin riding costume with a delicate lace collar instead of the stiff and formal Elizabethan ruff still widely in use. Whereas the queen's graceful pose and demure expression are at once regal and endearing, her stylish wide-brim feathered black hat and shimmering dress create a sense of vibrancy and vitality.
The queen's love of entertainment is symbolized by the presence of 14-year-old Sir Jeffrey Hudson and Pug the monkey, both royal favorites. Hudson, a perfectly proportioned dwarf whose services had been offered to the queen as a young boy, possessed a ready wit, and became one of the Queen's trusted advisors, even joining her in exile in France in the early years of the English Civil Wars (1642–1651).
This portrait superbly demonstrates Van Dyck's working methods and the reasons for his phenomenal success. Even though the portrait shows a tall woman with an oval face, pointed chin, and long nose, the queen was reportedly petite, with a round head and delicate features. Van Dyck greatly idealized her in the portrait—and this artistic flattery must have pleased her. To further accentuate her status Van Dyck revisited a compositional idea he first developed in Genoa during the early 1620s with his portrait of Marchesa Elena Grimaldi Cattaneo (NGA 1942.9.92): he has portrayed the queen standing just beyond the portico of an imposing architectural structure. The fluted column emphasizes her already exaggerated height, and the crown and cloth of gold emphasize her royalty. In preparation for the portrait, Van Dyck must have done a careful study of Henrietta Maria's head, but as she probably posed only briefly for a sketch of the overall composition, he likely painted the actual portrait from a model or mannequin dressed in the queen's costume.
The orange tree behind Henrietta Maria, who was named after both her father, Henri IV of France, and her mother, Maria de' Medici, pays visual homage to her powerful Florentine ancestors. The Medici crest contains five gold balls, thought to represent oranges from the family's renowned citrus tree collection. A symbol of purity, chastity, and generosity, the orange tree was also associated with the Virgin Mary, Henrietta Maria's patron saint.
Thomas Newport [c. 1655-1719, created 1st and last Baron Torrington in 1716], London, before 1716; by inheritance to his third wife and widow, Anne, Lady Torrington [d. 1735, née Anne Pierrepont], Newport House, Twickenham, and London; by inheritance to her sister-in-law, Mary, Countess of Bradford [1661- 1737, née Mary Wilbraham, widow of Richard Newport, 2nd earl of Bradford of the first creation], Weston Park, Shropshire; by inheritance to her daughter, Diana, Countess of Mountrath [d. 1766, née Lady Diana Newport, wife of Algernon Coote, 6th earl of Mountrath], 20-21 Grosvenor Square, London; by inheritance to Caroline, Baroness Milton [1718- 1775, née Lady Caroline Sackville, wife of Joseph Damer, later 1st earl of Dorchester], Milton Abbey, Dorset; by inheritance to her son, George Damer, 2nd and last earl of Dorchester [1746-1808], Milton Abbey; by inheritance to his sister, Caroline Damer [1752-1829], Milton Abbey; by inheritance to her first cousin once-removed, John Dawson, 2nd earl of Portarlington [1781-1845], Milton Abbey; by inheritance to his nephew, Henry John Reuben Dawson-Damer, 3rd earl of Portarlington [1822-1889], Emo Park, Queens County, Ireland; by exchange 1881 to Thomas George Baring, 1st earl of Northbrook [1826-1904], Stratton Park, Hampshire; by inheritance to his son, Francis George Baring, 2nd earl of Northbrook [1850-1929], Stratton Park; sold March 1927 to (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris); sold May 1928 to William Randolph Hearst [1863-1951], San Simeon, California; on consignment 1938 with (M. Knoedler and Co., New York) by (Parish-Watson and Co., New York), for Hearst; returned 1939 to Hearst; (his sale, held at Gimbel's and Saks Fifth Avenue by Hammer Galleries, New York, 25 March 1941, no. 174-1); consigned 1952 by Hearst's estate to (M. Knoedler and Co., New York); sold September 1952 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1952 to NGA.
- International Exhibition of Arts and Manufactures, Dublin, 1865, no. 32 (under Paintings).
- Exhibition of Works by the Old Masters. Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1878, no. 166.
- Exhibition of the Works of Sir Anthony Van Dyck, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1887, no. 35.
- Loan Exhibition of Flemish and Belgian Art, Burlington House, London, 1927, no. 146, repro.
- Eighth Loan Exhibition of Old Masters. Paintings by Anthony Van Dyck, Detroit Institute of Arts, 1929, no. 42, repro.
- Masters of Portraiture Lent by Several Collectors, The Century Club, New York, 1938, no. 10, repro.
- Masterworks of Five Centuries, Golden Gate International Exposition, San Francisco, 1939, no. 92, repro.
- Loan Exhibition of Allied Art for Allied Aid, M. Knoedler & Co., New York, 1940, no. 3.
- Diamond Jubilee Exhibition. Masterpieces of Painting, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1950-1951, no. 31, repro.
- Bilder von Menschen in der Kunst des Abendlandes, Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin, 1980, no. 9, repro.
- Anthony van Dyck, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1990-1991, no. 67, color repro.
- A Gift to America: Masterpieces of European Painting from the Samuel H. Kress Collection, four venues, 1994-1995, no. 13, repro. (shown only at first two venues: North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston).
- Van Dyck 1599-1641, Koninklijke Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp; Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1999, no. 67, repro.
- Velázquez, Rubens y Van Dyck: Pintores Cortesanos del Siglo XVII, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 1999-2000, no. 10, repro.
- Great British Paintings from American Collections: Holbein to Hockney, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven; The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, 2001-2002, no. 3, repro.
- Rule Britannia! Art, Royalty & Power in the Age of Jamestown, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, 2007, no. 12, repro.
- Hearst the Collector, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2008-2009, no. 132, repro.
- Valentiner, Wilhelm R., ed. Unknown Masterpieces in Public and Private Collections. London, 1930: n.p., pl. 47.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Colllection Acquired by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation 1951-56. Introduction by John Walker, text by William E. Suida and Fern Rusk Shapley. National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1956: 70-73, no. 241, repro., as Queen Henrietta Maria with Her Dwarf.
- Walker, John. "The Nation's Newest Old Masters." The National Geographic Magazine 110, no. 5 (November 1956): 619, 622, repro. 656.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959: 295, repro., as Queen Henrietta Maria with Her Dwarf.
- Broadley Hugh T. Flemish Painting in the National Gallery of Art (Booklet no. 5 in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC). Washington, 1960: 9, 38-39, color repro.
- Seymour 1961 (Kress), 149, color repro. pl. 139, repro. pl. 140
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 48, as Queen Henrietta Maria with Her Dwarf.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 122, repro., as Queen Henrietta Maria with Her Dwarf.
- Eisler, Colin. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: European Schools Excluding Italian. Oxford, 1977: 116-118, figs. 106, 107, color repro., as Queen Henrietta Maria with Her Dwarf.
- Pope-Hennessy, John. "Completing the Account." Review of Colin Eisler, Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection, London 1977. Times Literary Supplement no. 3,927 (17 June 1977).
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 254, no. 339, color repro., as Queen Henrietta Maria with Her Dwarf.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 147, repro., as Queen Henrietta Maria with Her Dwarf.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 53, repro.
- Rogers, Malcolm. "Van Dyck's Portrait of Lord George Stuart, Seigneur d'Aubigny, and Some Related Works." Studies in the History of Art 46 (1994): 263.
- Van der Stighelen. Van Dyck. België, 1998: 109. fig. IV.1, repros.
- Barnes, Susan J. Van Dyck: A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings. New Haven, 2004: IV.119
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 218-219, no. 174, color repro
- Fahy, Everett, ed. The Wrightsman Pictures. New Haven, 2005: 126-127, under cat 35, fig. 2.
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Flemish Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 2005: 84-90, color repro.
- Kennicott, Philip. "Van Dyck Exhibit Shows Clothes Do Make the Man, and the Woman.) Exh. review of "Van Dyck, The Anatomy of Portraiture" (New York, 2016). Washington Post 139, no. 106 (March 20, 2016): E5.
- Smith, Roberta. “A Century Through a Painter’s Eyes.” Review of “Van Dyck: The Anatomy of Portraiture” New York, 2016. New York Times 165, no. 57,168 (March 11, 2016): C20, color repro.