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James II 1633-1701

Oil paintings

Object details:

Object ID BHC2798
Description A half-length portrait to right in a feigned oval. He wears gold embossed armour and silver-edged red material appears beneath the pouldrons with red silk bows beneath his lace neckcloth. He wears a brown full-bottomed wig in the French style and the ribbon of the Garter. The portrait is believed to have been painted shortly after James's accession to the throne of Great Britain and Ireland in 1685. This is reflected in the depiction of the armour that incorporates the rose of England and the lily of France. As Duke of York during his exile in the Commonwealth period, James was a professional soldier in Europe and won a reputation for bravery. When his elder brother Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660 he became his Lord High Admiral until excluded from office as a Catholic under the Test Act of 1673. Like Charles, James was interested and skilled in naval matters. He commanded the fleet that routed the Dutch at the Battle of Lowestoft in 1665, the first action of the Second Dutch War, and with less success at the indecisive action at Solebay in 1672. This was the last time that a prince and future monarch directed a fleet in action, and the occasion when his flag-captain, Sir John Narborough, called him one of 'the greatest princes in the world for resolution' under fire. As both Duke of York and king, James was a constant supporter of Pepys in his efforts to reorganise naval administration but his political skills after his accession did not equal his military virtues. His own open Catholicism, and his moves to reinstate Catholic power in England, were seen as a major threat to the Restoration settlement between the Crown and Parliament. In 1688 he was unceremoniously deposed and exiled in the largely bloodless 'Glorious Revolution' that put his Protestant daughter Mary (by Anne Hyde, his first wife), and her Dutch husband Prince William of Orange on the throne as the joint monarchs, William III and Mary II. The portrait is one of a matched pair; the whereabouts of the other, of Mary of Modena, James's second wife and queen, are no longer known. Both, however, were engraved in mezzotint by John Smith in 1686. The print of James (PAF3274) is in reverse to the original oil, which suggests that the print of Mary (PAF3174) probably was as well. Largillière was an important French artist who learnt portraiture in Sir Peter Lely's London studio from 1675, working with him for four years before returning to France and becoming one of Louis XIV's court artists. He returned to England specially to make these portraits.
Date made circa 1686

Artist/Maker Largilliere, Nicolas de
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Caird Fund.
Materials oil on canvas
Measurements Painting: 762 mm x 641 mm; Frame: 960 mm x 850 mm x 110 mm
  • James II 1633-1701 (BHC2798)
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