I absolutely love and adore charity shops. In fact, in intend to write a post on that at some point. One of the great things about them is that you never know what you’re going to find. Usually when I have an exciting charity shop discovery it’s a gorgeous dress or some gloriously impractical shoes, but today, it was a book. (Well, I also got some rather nice Armani jeans, but that’s not the point of the story).
That’s right, it’s a huge book filled with paintings by Van Dyke. One of the things I miss about Oxford is being surrounded by beautiful books. My degree was History, but a large proportion of my modules were on Art History, probably the best way of making a notoriously impractical degree that little bit less practical, but making you an invaluable companion on trips round art galleries.
I firmly believe that there are few better ways of understanding a historical period than through it’s art and its literature, and that’s particularly true for the seventeenth century. Van Dyke is a painter I studied in detail and he’s one of my favourites. He mainly painted portraits, and they both beautiful to look as and seem to give a real insight into the character of the sitter. I’ve wanted copies of lots of his paintings for ages, and now I have them. You may be wondering why any of this is relevant to the blog. The answer is quite simple. If there was one thing Van Dyke liked painting, it was Cavaliers. Most of Charles I’s court sat for him just before the Civil War. The paintings are in many cases tinged with sadness, as large numbers of the happy, glamorous young men, mainly in their late teens and early twenties, died in the war just a few years later.
Here are some of my favourites. If you don’t know what Cavaliers look like, scroll down to find out, and you’ll see why I love them so much.
The book is great because next to each portrait, it provides a fairly detailed biography of the sitter. After slowly having my enthusiasm sucked out of me by proofreading Oxford Blood, this has reminded me that the point of my book isn’t commas, it’s attractive historical men!