I don’t know if it’s just my blurry eyesight, but I looked at a photo of (or zoomed into) the scene on the left hand side (the tented civil war camp scene with it’s small figures) of the portrait of the Marquis of Montrose in the Red Drawing Room at Warwick Castle. It struck me that the little figure on the extreme right (the one half obscured by the black/yellow curtain) but apparently running towards his white Andalusian horse (being held ready for him and his mounting), is wearing a crown and a robe.
If this is correct (and this fact could be verified by someone studying this background scene and this mystery ‘crowned figure’ at closer range than I am able to from my old computer) it strongly indicates to me that it can be portraying none other than Charles I. Van Dyke invariably painted Charles I riding his white Andalusian so perhaps this little running background figure is no exception. I believe that this combination of clues means that he very likely is Charles. Montrose’s strong bond of loyalty towards the King gives me reason to think that he made it a prerequisite that the King be somewhere included in the background scenery as a sign of his royal allegiance, their kinship and their civil war collaboration.
Help to solve a conundrum
It is admittedly very unusual for Charles I to be portrayed wearing his crown (if? that’s what it actually turns out to be), however this is still only idle speculation. Only closer inspection of the canvas could reveal the truth. Can anyone out there help solve this little conundrum? The answer may even help to unlock some of the other remaining questions about this portrait such as whether it is in fact portraying the Marquis of Montrose at all or a different person entirely, not to mention who painted which bits and when (whether Van Dyke or Dobson).
I have no knowledge of the art world but to my untrained eye the darker yellow section of the curtain looks as if it might be authentic ‘original’ and possibly even contemporaneous with the main sitter painted supposedly by Van Dyke. I also incline towards believing that the tented scene including the King is original Van Dyke/Dobson rather than added later. I am less convinced about that large darker section of curtain half obscuring the small mystery figure – that bit looks to me like it was added later on, and if so I wonder why it was added and what lies hidden beneath it?
I wonder if whoever painted this little background scene may have been depicting Charles’s escape from the siege of Oxford on the night of 3rd June 1644? A famous coin engraved by Thomas Rawlins, the Oxford Crown, depicting the King on horseback and wearing his crown was minted during this period.