Charles I was Britain’s most discerning and energetic royal patron, buying much art and encouraging many continental artists. With his ascension to the throne in 1625, it was a turning point in English connoisseurship. Charles had grown up under the influence of a group of men at his father’s court who were effecting a revolution in matters of taste. Later, as king, Charles I and his immediate circle kept in touch with all the leading artistic movements across the Channel. He himself at to Velazquez; Rubens, Van Dyck, and Jordaens were in his service; he owned superb modern Italian paintings; his bust in marble was carved by Bernini; and two of the first Rembrandts to leave Holland were set up at Whitehall.
In the development of the King’s tastes the Duke of Buckingham and the Earl of Arundel wielded strong influence. Arundel’s tastes were primarily for the Renaissance painters of Germany and the Netherlands. These preferences th King respected and partly shared. He owned magnificent portraits by Holbein, Arundel’s favorite painter which included the famous Erasmus; he was presented by the City of Nuremberg with Durer’s Self Portrait and Portrait of His Father, and by the Dutch States-General with Mabuse’s Adam and Eve. Bucjkingham’s less austere tastes embraced Caravaggio and his followers; his enthusiasm for Rubens and, above all, Titian deeply influenced the young prince.
Prince Charles made the most of his “Spanish marriage” visit in 1623, attending sales and meetings of connoisseurs, sitting to Velazquez, and buying such pictures as Titian’s Girl in a Fur Wrap. On his departure, Philip IV of Spain gave him Titian’s Venus of the Pardo, with which he was particularly smitten.
Just before his ascension a list of the prince’s pictures was drawn up, a microcosm of his future collections: the Trinity Altarpiece by Van der Goes; Holbein’s Erasmus; Titian’s Charles V; and a new Self Portrait by Rubens, at Windsor, and painted, as the artist hmself wrote, for “the Prince of Wales, of all the princes of the world, the greatest lover of painting.” An while he was in Spain the Prince had given orders ” for certain patterns to be brought out of Italy and sent to us in England for the making thereby a Suit of Tapestry, which drawings as we remember are to cost near upon the point of 700 pounds. ” These drawings were no less than the celebrated Raphael cartoons.