1599-1641 Mary Villiers, Lady Herbert of Shurland ca. 1636 Oil on canvas, 42 x 33 in.
This recently discovered masterpiece was painted at the request of King Charles I, in whose collection the portrait once hung. Daughter of George Villiers, duke of Buckingham, Lady Mary Viillers (1622-1685) is one of the most intriguing individuals connected with the English court.
She was raised in the royal household after her father was assassinated. The husband she mourns was Charles, Lord Herbert of Shurland, who died of small pox in January 1636. This excellently preserved work reveals not only how wonderfully fluid van Dyck’s style could be but also how sensitive he was to the psychological nuances of the female sitter.
The intimacy of van Dyck’s portrayal is remarkable even within his own body of work and due, perhaps, to the special rapport he had with his young sitter, whom he had known since at least 1633, and whose portrait he painted on several occasions.