|Charles I and Henrietta Maria|
Anthony van Dyck was born in Antwerp in 1599, the son of a draper, Frans. His mother died when he was seven, and a few years later his father was effectively declared bankrupt. Many of his 11 siblings joined the church. Anthony, however, became one of the best portrait painters who ever lived.
Luckily, his skills were developing fast and in 1617 he had a great stroke of luck when hhe Antwerp Dominican church, which had commissioned renowned artists to execute a cycle of paintings, invited Van Dyck. Van Dyck painted his "Jesus Bearing the Cross" for which he received the same amount as his celebrated elders van Balen and Rubens. Fame seemed to be beckoning. Within a year, the artist who was already running his own studio was officially recognized as a master by gaining admission to the Saint Luke guild.
Rubens, who had probably been employing him since 1617 to paint tapestry cartoons, wrote in a letter to a patron that he rated the youth, then 19, as the best among his disciples. A vist to Italy, contacts with European royals and his increasing popularity lead to him becoming court painter to Charles I. Some critics have complained that his later work became stylized and routine; would that all routine work look so fresh and accomplished!