Theodore Roussel (1614-89)
Painted within a few months of Van Dyck’s arrival in London, this portrait-type appears to be the earliest known separate portrait of the King...
This small oil on panel painting of Charles I derives from a now lost portrait by Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1588-1641).
Recorded only through copies, the original was probably the portrait described as ‘our owne royall portrature’, for which a payment of £20 was authorized on 8 August 1632, and was possibly a pendant to a portrait of the Queen. Painted within a few months of Van Dyck’s arrival in London, this portrait-type appears to be the earliest known separate portrait of the King. Copies and variants were quickly produced by Cornelius Johnson and Daniel Mytens, both of whom were working for Charles during the 1630s.
Upon arrival in England, Van Dyck threw himself into working for his new royal patron, producing a successful series of portraits of the royal family. This included the ‘greate peece’ – an ambitious conversation piece showing Charles and Henrietta Maria of France, with their two eldest children, Prince Charles and Princess Mary. The portrait on which the present work is based appears to have been a sensitive, intimate portrayal of the king, soon to be somewhat eclipsed by Van Dyck’s later more idealized and monumental images.
It is possible that Roussel, an assistant to Van Dyck, may have copied his reduced version from the original or from his uncle, Cornelius Johnson (1593–1661), who also used this head type (see the full-length, currently attributed to Johnson, The Suffolk Collection, Ranger’s House). There was strong market for reduced copies such as this and Roussel may have painted such works for supporters after the King’s execution.
Theodore Roussel was born in London in 1614. The son of the Royal Stuart jeweller, he spent a nine year apprenticeship with his uncle, Cornelius Johnson before working as an assistant to Van Dyck after 1632. Following the latter’s death in 1641, Roussel began producing fashionably small-scale portraits that are predictably Van Dyckian in mood and presentation. Sets of his portraits (some copied directly from Van Dyck) can be found at Knowle,
 S. J. Barnes, N de Poorter, O. Millar and H. Vey, Van Dyck; a complete Catalogue of the Paintings, New Haven and London, 2004, IV. A7, p. 630
 Ibid, IV. 113, p. 519 (Private collection)
 According to his son, Anthony, Roussel regularly copied Van Dyck’s ‘pictures on small pannells’.