Thursday, January 10, 2013

Charles I Painting in Downton Abbey

I apologize for focusing on setting-enhancing art recently, since I’ve found it persisting in many current films, I felt I had to include it. So, pardon me once more, while I turn to television for my next piece. And where better to look for art that in the historically grand Highclere Castle, the filming location for the hit masterpiece drama Downton Abbey which just entered its third season on PBS.

Van Dyck Charles I Highclere Castle

As the ancestral home of the aristocratic Carnarvon clan, Highclere Castle, an excellent example of Victorian architecture, is filled with art. However, I’m going to focus on one painting which has captured my attention multiple times throughout the series.

In the dining room there is a magnificent portrait of a monarch who looks like Charles that hangs, usually above Lord Grantham, in the dining room. It’s most apparent during the breakfast scenes, when light fills the room and the painting creates a glorious air about the room.
Highclere Castle

The painting is an equestrian portrait of Charles I pained by Anthony Van Dyck in 1633.Titled, Charles I with M. de St Antoine, it is, I believe, the first equestrian portrait of Charles I. It depicts Charles a gallant and grand monarch. It is, I believe, the first equestrian portrait of Charles I and depicts him as a brave and gallant monarch. The painting has a theatrical air and was supposed to impress visitors to St. James Palace where it would have hung originally.

Downton Abbey Charles I
In Highclere (Downton, for you TV viewers), the painting is surrounded by Carnarvon ancestors of who lived during the English Civil War (of the 1640s). It creates an air of history, of grandness that the makers of Downton would to convey. Also, to me, Charles I reminds me of the supremacy (or attempted supremacy) of the monarchy. Charles, of course, was tragically beheaded, after attempting to ignore the changing tides of English politics. Shocker there, as this is a key theme in Downton.

Granted, Julian Fellows didn’t have much work to do in including this painting. It already hung there, but nevertheless, it contributes, as does the entire house, to the mood of this stellar series.

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