When Charles I was executed, Parliament sold off his art collection. Now, for the first time in 370 years, a huge number of artworks owned by Charles are reunited for an exhibition.
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For the first time in almost 400 years,
King Charles I's art collection,
one of the greatest ever assembled,
is being reunited for a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition,
here at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.
Rubens, Rembrandt, Titian,
van Dyck, Veronese and Tintoretto.
Some of my very, very favourite paintings from all time are here.
The quality of the collection is simply staggering.
Within just two decades,
Charles I amassed works by the great masters of the age.
There's something quite moving about these pictures
being on the same walls again.
At the height of his powers,
Charles' royal palaces were bursting with almost 2,000 artworks
that would bring a taste of the Renaissance to Britain...
..then, calamity struck -
rebellion, civil war and the execution of the King.
His art collection was sold off and scattered all over the world.
One, two, three...
Now, Royal Collection Trust and the Royal Academy have joined forces
to bring Charles' collection back together again for the first time.
I'm going behind the scenes as the exhibition comes together...
These come back to England for the first time since the 17th century.
It's incredibly exciting.
..finding out about the history of the King and his collection.
This is an extraordinary moment.
I don't suppose even van Dyck saw all these together.
Now the collection is back together,
I want to see it for myself
to find out why Charles I loved his art,
how he lost it, and how it was reunited.
The exhibition is being assembled by two curators...
..Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures Desmond Shawe-Taylor...
..and, for the Royal Academy, Per Rumberg.
We didn't know if this exhibition was going to be possible at all.
It takes a long time to put an exhibition like this together,
and we've done it in about three years,
which isn't actually that long -
I mean, we could have easily taken another couple of years.
There are 140 works in the exhibition -
89 of them are coming from today's Royal Collection,
but some priceless works are returning from museums abroad.
We have been extremely fortunate in this case -
particularly the Louvre and the Prado,
but museums all over the world have been extremely generous.
The exhibition reveals the grandeur of Charles' collection...
..but his love affair with art began on a much smaller scale.
So, what's the story behind this beautiful object?
Well, it was given by the Grand Duke of Tuscany to Prince Henry -
that's Henry Prince of Wales, who is Charles I's elder brother
-and heir to the throne...
..and was much more glamorous and sporty
and generally popular than Charles.
He rather overshadowed Charles,
but died young,
and he gave this work, at his deathbed,
to his younger brother, Prince Charles,
who was only 12 at the time and was rather a weakling
and very much in the shadow of his elder brother.
So, it's a kind of special moment in the history of the collection.
And who made it? Where does it come from?
By Pietro Tacca,
and it's a sort of rough copy
of a horse from a Giambologna Equestrian monument in Florence.
This fantastic technique of bronze casting,
all this wonderful detail - you see those veins on the horse's flanks...
Yeah. It's quite moving, thinking that a piece of art like this
was handed from one brother to another.
Yeah, I think of it as a nice handing over of the mantle
-from elder brother to younger brother.
-So, when Henry dies,
Charles not only inherits the title - he's now to become King -
but he inherits this piece of art.
Do you think that that's what fuelled his passion?
Well, it's got to start somewhere -
but also, of course, when he becomes Prince of Wales,
he is going to inherit everything in the Royal Collection,
so it is an absolute jackpot moment.
The young Prince Charles developed a passion
for the art of the Italian Renaissance...
..but the great Catholic monarchies of Europe had all the best works.
Artistically, Britain was a backwater.
Charles goes to Madrid in 1623, and he sees the Habsburg collection,
and he must have been overwhelmed by it.
He comes back with his first Titians -
and one of them we have in the exhibition, a portrait of Charles V.
It has this wonderful sort of sparkling detail of his costume.
You have a kind of moody, atmospheric softness
in the way that Titian paints.
So I think that trip is completely critical, seminal -
that's the moment.
I think there was that revelation of what sort of prestige
painting could lend to a monarchy.
In 1625, after the death of James I,
Charles ascended to the throne.
Charles believed in the divine right of kings.
Right from the start, he provoked the wrath of Parliament
by setting out to rule and raise taxes
without parliamentary consent.
Now he also had the means to compete with Europe's best art collections.
At Hampton Court Palace, six weeks before the exhibition opens,
a series of huge paintings are being checked and prepared for transport
to the Royal Academy.
It's a sequence of nine paintings -
Mantegna's Triumph of Julius Caesar,
depicting an ancient victory celebration.
It's quite an undertaking.
Nine enormous canvases.
You do want to be sure
that the getting of them from here to the Royal Academy
is a completely safe, stable, protected process.
In 1630, when Charles brought these paintings to London,
Britain had never seen anything like them before -
and Charles had got hold of them by a stroke of good luck.
Basically, collecting is all about opportunity,
and opportunity comes with somebody else's misfortune.
The Duke of Mantua was head of the powerful Gonzaga family in Italy.
They had made their fortune from the silk industry,
but had now fallen on hard times.
The Gonzaga Dukes were going bankrupt,
and they were very threatened by their neighbours,
so they were looking to bail themselves out.
The Gonzaga collection was one of the most extraordinary collections
of Italian Renaissance art,
and so, their collection came up for sale,
it was just incredibly fortuitous.
Charles cleared them out.
He bought the lion's share of the collection -
over 400 works...
With one major bulk purchase,
he's able to create a collection
that is all of a sudden on par with all of the other courts in Europe.
..and the star turn of that purchase was the Triumph of Caesar.
Each painting is painted on three lengths of canvas
that Mantegna had stitched together,
and I'm just checking the seams,
checking that there are no weaknesses in it -
but I do get caught up in this one,
because, in theory, it's a freeze, it's still,
but I keep getting struck by the amount of tension there is
in the painting, and the movement.
So, just this tiny little clasp holding his tunic together,
it's pulling because he's moving.
Again, here, there's a ribbon wound around, hanging down,
but there's tension of holding it, holding it in his fingers.
At the National Gallery,
conservators are preparing one of their paintings for the exhibition.
While working on it, they've made a surprising discovery.
This is a painting by Guido Reni,
who is one of the great artists of the Italian Baroque.
Charles would have loved a painting like this.
It's a big, elegant, Baroque composition.
I think he'd have loved a subject like the goddess of love,
this incredibly beautiful woman.
She's got her jewels and her attendants,
it's a very kind of rich and opulent subject.
This is certainly a painting
I think you can say has been somewhat overlooked -
and that's partly - or, I think, in fact, largely -
been to do with its condition.
I've been working on this painting since June of 2016.
That involved removing a couple of layers
of degraded and yellowed varnish
that were over the surface of the painting...
..and then doing really careful retouching
just to the areas of loss or damage,
to really enjoy as much as possible the original paint.
This painting, as far as I know,
has always been called Studio of Guido Reni.
What we mean by that is we know that Guido Reni painted
an original of this composition.
In this instance, we actually didn't know where the original was -
so it's just a way of differentiating
between the prime version that the main artist himself worked on
and other versions or copies
which probably had less involvement of the master himself...
..but when we started looking closely
once it had been cleaned a bit, just with the naked eye,
we found a lot of evidence of changes on the painting -
and that's not something you see in a studio copy,
because a copyist is just making a copy of the finished product.
So, these pale pink lines here,
which are outlines for this beautiful pink drapery.
Clearly, Reni thought, originally, he might have that coming higher up,
but we still see that trace of his original thinking.
Similarly, we can look here and you've got the lovely Cupid
and his beautiful wing,
and if you look closely behind his hand
you can see a sort of dark shadow -
and that, we know now,
was going to be his other wing, so that he had a wing on each side.
When you find really extensive changes, as we did here,
that's very strong evidence
that you're actually looking at the original.
So this is a kind of hugely exciting moment
to think, "Wow, we're actually looking at an original painting
"by Guido Reni here."
Charles' collection now included over a hundred classical statues...
..and works by Titian...
..and Giulio Romano...
..hung in his private quarters in Whitehall Palace.
Charles now had a treasure trove to be proud of -
but his appetite couldn't be satisfied
just by buying other people's art.
Acquiring great masters of the past is essential
if you've got to catch up,
and that's quite frustrating because these very precious things
have to come on the market, which you can't guarantee.
So you look to get somebody, get a player.
In the 1620s, this was the most famous living painter
in the world...
..Peter Paul Rubens -
and Charles was smitten.
The clearest indication of what he would have felt about Rubens
is that the first work - or the first proper work -
which he acquired from Rubens at his own request was a self-portrait.
The prince said, "I want you - you, as an artist."
Rubens noted in a letter
that he thought that perhaps this wasn't quite appropriate,
to send a picture of himself -
but he says that the Prince "overcame my modesty".
I should think Rubens' modesty would be quite easy to overcome -
but still, there you are.
At this time, Europe was ablaze with religious conflict.
Protestants and Catholics were slaughtering each other
in the Thirty Years' War.
As King of a Protestant country with connections across Catholic Europe,
Charles was a divisive monarch at home...
..but Catholic Spain saw his religious ambivalence
as an opportunity...
..and Rubens wasn't only an artist.
He was also a diplomat.
So when Spain needed an envoy to broker a peace deal with Charles,
who better to send?
In 1630, Rubens helped secure peace with the Treaty of Madrid.
He was rewarded with a knighthood.
That same year, the artist painted this powerful allegory.
Religious war is represented by the fearsome dragon -
and here, to save Europe from destruction, is St George,
looking remarkably like Charles...
..but Charles had bigger plans for his new favourite.
In 1619, his father James I
had commissioned a new banqueting house
for Whitehall Palace in the Italian classical style.
Ten years later, Charles asked Rubens to decorate the ceiling.
It was a powerful and provocative statement
of the King's divine right to rule.
The big thing about this ceiling
is that it's about the power of the monarchy.
So what it is really about
is about how the King has this God-given right to rule the land.
So it's a great big piece of fantastic visual propaganda -
but you really have to figure out who's doing what,
why they're up there and what the message is
to get any real pleasure out of it -
and I have to tell you, the best way to do that
-is not to stand here and look up...
..but to go down and lie on the floor,
because, that way, we get to see it as it's meant to be seen.
-What are we waiting for?
So what's happening in these three main panels?
Well, the big one in the middle, the oval,
that's the apotheosis of James I,
so that's Charles I's father going up to heaven,
and he's going up on the back of a giant eagle.
-Can you see the eagle up there?
So he's being crowned by the gods up in heaven -
and this allegory of peace,
has got a laurel wreath that's got to go on his head.
So this is, as it were, the ultimate destination of the King.
He's going up to heaven where he's going to join his equals, the gods.
So how do these other panels relate to this story here?
Over there, that scene shows James seated on a throne, as it were,
conquering all the bad things that were happening in the world,
ushering in this period of prosperity and success.
He's cast James I as King Solomon from the Bible -
who was famously wise, of course.
If you can see the woman with the helmet,
-left of the King...
the goddess of wisdom, who's all over this ceiling -
and she's fighting off Mars, the god of war,
because, under James I, peace will triumph.
It's another bit of typically Rubensian,
very action-packed propaganda, saying how great James was.
And this Rubensian propaganda, I guess, continues behind us.
But do you know what?
To see that properly, we're going to have to swivel round.
This is my favourite scene, actually.
Minerva again, the goddess of wisdom,
is supplying the two crowns -
the crowns of England and Scotland -
and they're being placed on the head of this lovely little baby
who is probably meant to represent Charles I.
So although this is about James, the father, the King's father,
it's more importantly about his son, Charles I,
because the son has inherited all the power,
all the God-given right,
and all the nobility that the rest of the ceiling ascribes to his dad.
And everything is fine, dandy, and harmonious.
Isn't it just? But what a thing.
You know, what a thing.
We are so lucky, in England, to have this.
I mean, it's just wonderful that this is here.
But not everyone found it wonderful.
Charles's attitude to art and religion outraged his enemies.
In Westminster he was constantly clashing with the House of Commons.
Many saw Charles as a tyrant,
and in 1629 the King confirmed their worst fears
when he dissolved Parliament.
It was the height of the battle between, you know,
the King and the puritans.
So, you know, I think bad things were happening in government
and the King was trying to impose his personal rule -
and parliament was dissolved,
so it was a really fractious moment -
and at the same time, there he is,
spending all the nation's money on art.
You have to think that no English monarch
had ever been as keen on art as Charles I,
never lavished as much resource of the nation on art as Charles I.
So, all of those things stacked up against Charles,
and were very, very important reasons why the Civil War happened.
But even as political and religious tensions mounted,
Charles was cultivating a new rising star among artists.
What a stunning room.
Yeah, this is the van Dyck room.
At his home in Antwerp, Rubens had a clutch of apprentices.
One was good at landscapes, another at clothes -
but the best at faces was an artist called Anthony van Dyck.
How did van Dyck come to be working in England, and with Charles?
Basically, Charles I needed to get the best painter,
and he was prepared to pay very generously -
and if you asked the absolute elite of Europe at this time
they would have said that van Dyck is the best,
and Charles I finally got him.
It's a bit like, you know, a Premiership club
that just has this idea it wants a star,
and is just going to look for the right moment.
What was it that was unique about the way in which he painted Charles?
Most artists at this date were quite mechanical in their executions,
and van Dyck had this way of just suggesting it.
He conveys all the richness of that detail, so it feels all sumptuous,
but it's very, very sketchily and freely painted,
so it has a kind of spontaneity and brilliance about it.
The lighting's fantastic - particularly on the hand.
Yes, and that's partly done by the hand against the background,
which is much darker, but also much more thinly painted,
so you can see the under paint showing through -
and the hand also shows these areas of very beautiful drawing.
It's got that lovely kind of gentle sweep to it, shape to it.
He was a very fine draughtsman.
Now, rumour is, Charles,
he was about my height, which is 5'4" -
but he looks grand and athletic in that picture.
Yeah, that's what you're paying for,
when you get a portrait painter -
and the best way of doing that is just to get a low viewpoint
so you're looking up at the figure.
-So, do you think he transformed him from a king to an icon?
It's a brilliant style of painting,
but it also kind of suggests a brilliant style of kingship -
it's like the King doesn't have to try too hard.
A delighted Charles anointed van Dyck
official court painter in 1632.
He was knighted and paid £200 a year -
twice as much as any other artist.
Charles set him to work on his young family.
This, I think, is a royal image
which is intended for the King and Queen themselves,
so it's like a family image -
and what's very clever is that it's got all that majesty and dignity
that you'd associate with a royal portrait,
but it's also got a kind of comedy
and a slight undermining of that affect.
So you can see that the eldest prince, Charles,
who would become Charles II, he's very imposing -
he's got a bit of the Henry VIII look,
he's definitely a prince...
..but there's just enough for us to see these are just children -
particularly, the sort of very unruly baby
that's not going to keep still and shut up for the portrait sitting -
and I think the cleverest thing is this huge dog, it's a mastiff dog.
It is quite funny, the way it's all quite scrunched up like that,
and we can see that if it got up
it would just send all these children scattering
-all over the place.
-Apart from him,
he looks like he's got the strength to hold that animal down!
He's got that thing that children do, you know,
they push their hand all over the eyes of the dog.
-Yeah, he's dominating the dog.
and there's a sort of play between the great big manly heroic dog
belonging to the heir to the throne
and the little sort of friendly weedy spaniel.
It's completely wonderful,
-it's all kind of soft and furry.
It's got those lovely foldy bits.
-The costumes are impressive in this one, aren't they?
I mean, that lovely gloss on the silk.
-It's just the ultimate family portrait.
This doesn't look like any other portrait.
It's a one-off.
With a few weeks to go,
the team at Royal Collection Trust's conservation studio in Windsor
are checking works...
..and packing them up for the exhibition.
It's extraordinary what is required to put together an exhibition,
because everything has to be exactly correctly organised.
You also require teams of art handlers.
They've got to get them onto the walls, get them into the trucks -
and all the time you have conservators
who examine every square centimetre of the surface
to ensure it's still safe to travel,
that it hasn't been damaged.
So it's a massive team effort, an exhibition like this.
We're here sort of from dusk till dawn,
overseeing the works coming in, hanging them,
getting the labels on the wall.
So we're here sort of 24/7 in the weeks leading up to the opening.
For one visitor to the exhibition,
this painting has a special interest.
When I was playing Charles, this was the picture I had
under my dressing room mirror...
..so I could get every side correct!
It's amazing to see it up close for the first time.
You can see so much of the personality of the man in it.
..to use an old-fashioned word, he looks very sensitive.
The sort of permanently...
which make him look on the point of tears the whole time...
..and, of course, van Dyck's fabric is always utterly immaculate -
and the little detail of the pearl earring
I think is very beautiful -
and that incredible moustache.
The hair is one thing, but the moustache is extraordinary...
..and his style.
I mean, what can you say?
He's a bad king with great taste -
and we've had a lot of bad kings,
and very few with any taste whatsoever.
Which I think is probably what, in the end,
makes him very special to me!
I find him an extremely fascinating person.
Certainly, I was desperate to play him,
I've always wanted to play him.
Because of that weird combination
of sadness and grace and monstrosity.
You know, it's like a perfect job, really.
I think maybe within here is the most personal image of Charles.
Cos we're so used to seeing him on horseback...
essentially propaganda pictures,
and this is obviously much more intimate.
He has a stricken sort of look to him.
You cannot take away the innate sort of tragedy of his features.
Charles' collection continued to grow.
By 1639 he had 546 works in Whitehall Palace alone...
..but Charles wasn't the only royal collector.
Henrietta Maria was just 15 when she married Charles I.
A catholic princess born in France,
she didn't speak a word of English.
The new Queen's Catholicism and taste in art
added to suspicions that the king was a closet Catholic himself.
As Queen of England, Henrietta Maria was given her own royal residence...
..and she filled her house in Greenwich with European art.
Tell me, what would this building have looked like
in Henrietta Maria's day?
Well, it would have been quite a striking contrast to most of London,
and it afforded these spectacular views,
and a lot of ceremonial visits and ambassadors
would come up the Thames,
so this was a place for entertainments
and viewing and being viewed.
This was a place of discernment and sophistication.
You know, the height of fashion
in terms of interior decoration and pictures.
So everything very beautiful and exquisite -
and, in fact, in the early 1640s,
one person referred to it as the Queen's House of Delight.
Above all, the Queen loved Italian art...
..and this was one of her favourite paintings.
It used to hang on this very wall
over 300 years ago.
Soon, it will be moved to the exhibition.
This painting is by Orazio Gentileschi.
It's an Old Testament story.
It comes from Genesis.
Now, this is Joseph.
Joseph was bought as a slave for Potiphar,
who was a captain in the Pharaoh's guard,
and this is Potiphar's unnamed wife,
but she took a fancy to Joseph
and tried on a number of occasions to seduce him,
and Joseph was ultimately imprisoned.
It's clearly a striking piece.
What do you think Henrietta Maria appreciated
about Gentileschi's work?
Henrietta Maria liked pretty pictures with attractive people.
Its luminous, bright, clear colours.
There's a crispness to it,
with a great attention to textiles and fabrics.
You see these beautiful vignettes
like this detail on Joseph's silk stocking.
You see these brilliant rumpled, dishevelled white sheets.
There's a lot of energy in this picture.
The Queen's taste in art and her religion
added to the King's growing troubles with Protestant parliamentarians.
So, what did the general public make of their Queen?
Her Catholicism was deeply, deeply polarising.
She was showy in her Catholicism.
She also engaged in other activities
that didn't necessarily ingratiate herself to the wider public -
for example, she was a regular performer
in court theatricals and court masques,
and her puritan detractor William Prynne
wrote a virulent criticism of female actors for being notorious whores -
and while it doesn't name Henrietta Maria,
because she was such a prolific actor in court masques,
she was, of course, implicated.
The result, as you can imagine - Prynne was harshly punished.
His ears were cut off, apparently,
and he was branded with "SL",
meaning "seditious libel".
After a decade of rule without parliamentary consent,
Charles' enemies were rebelling against him.
Britain was a tinderbox waiting to explode.
In 1642, the King raised his standard
against Oliver Cromwell's parliamentarian forces,
and Civil War broke out.
England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland
were all drawn into the bloody conflict.
Roundheads versus Cavaliers,
one town, one village against the next.
Royal art also came under attack.
Puritans stormed into Henrietta Maria's Catholic chapel
in Somerset House.
They climbed on the altar and slashed with an axe
at a Rubens painting of the crucifixion,
before dumping it into the Thames.
They then made a bonfire of her religious art.
This painting by the English artist William Dobson
shows a glimpse of the defining conflict in Charles' life.
This is the picture that's in the Royal Academy,
and it's actually a portrait of Charles II - so Charles I's son -
and what he's doing is, he's quieting down
these forces of envy and evil and fury -
-and you see this horrible, grimacing face in the corner.
-That's actually Medusa...
..who is being quietened like a dog being told to sit.
So, it's a painting that looks forward
to this triumphant reign of Charles II.
But what's going on here?
This interests me, all this battle going on in the background.
You've got this beautiful, serene foreground,
and then all this in the background.
Well, it's the Battle of Edgehill.
So, Charles II was there.
He actually saw the Royalist victory at Edgehill.
So he has located this portrait not in a palace, or away from reality,
but actually on the battlefield.
It's a painting about how, in the future,
all this will be behind us,
and this new king will take Britain into this next era
of prosperity and peace - so it's another piece of visual propaganda,
but a very sort of English and beautiful one.
You are a huge fan of William Dobson, aren't you?
I was put on earth to remind everybody
of how important William Dobson was.
He was a critical figure at this time,
because he was the only English painter
who was allowed to thrive and blossom under Charles I.
Van Dyck dies in 1641,
at exactly the point when the Civil War's about to break out,
so, for the next four years,
Dobson was the only artist at work in the royal court,
and, you know, that's such a God-given moment,
and made him the only great British figure of the Baroque,
and one who deserves far more attention than he gets.
By the end of the Civil War,
proportionally more people had died in Britain
than in the two World Wars combined.
Parliament held Charles accountable.
He was arrested, put on trial, and found guilty of treason...
..and that crime carried the death penalty.
Most traitors were executed at the Tower of London...
..but not Charles.
He got up and he was led through St James's Park
and brought into here, brought into the banqueting house.
They built the scaffold for the execution just over there,
outside the actual building,
so he had to pass through this great room
that he had commissioned from Rubens,
in which the ultimate irony
was that this is all about the divine right of the King,
and yet, here he is being shuffled off for his execution.
I mean, imagine, also, looking up and seeing himself, you know,
as this little baby
who is going to bring peace and plenty to the nation,
and having to pass underneath that.
One of the things that surprised people most
was how well the King carried it off.
I mean, people were expecting him to crumble, to beg,
you know, to ask for forgiveness, but none of that happened.
It was infamously an incredibly cold January morning,
so we know that he put on this extra shirt, or two shirts,
specifically so that the public wouldn't see him shivering.
Amongst his final words - I mean, Charles is supposed to have said,
"Today is my second wedding day,
"because today I'm going to be married to Jesus,"
and for him, certainly,
there was always this religious underpinning to it all.
He'd been chosen by God to be the king of the nation.
Now, the nation, for reasons known to itself, was getting rid of him -
but that was the nation's choice.
It wasn't God's choice.
They actually made him lie on the ground
with his head on the block at ground level...
..and the head was severed with one strong blow, and that was it.
There's all sorts of written reports of what happened next.
Wailing in the crowd -
a kind of ghostly moan went up from all the people watching -
and some of them rushed forward afterwards,
and tried to gather up some mementos.
People would get bits of cloth, and their hats and things,
and their fingers, in the blood.
There is something Christ-like about it.
There is the same sort of sense that the moment that Christ is crucified,
there's a kind of...
"Oh, Christ, what have we done?"
and it's no surprise that such a short time afterwards,
he was claimed as a martyr,
and, by certain parts of the establishment, probably still is.
Shock waves echoed through the kingdoms of Europe.
War and rebellion had resulted in the killing of an anointed king,
and a new republic had been declared,
with Oliver Cromwell at its head.
In terms of European history,
the execution of Charles I is a bolt out of the blue,
The King was dead.
His Queen was in exile.
The biggest Royal art collection in British history
was hanging unseen in dark, empty palaces.
Within two days of the King's execution,
Parliament decided that all of Charles' worldly possessions
should be sold off.
Parliament appointed 11 trustees
to go around a dozen or so of the royal palaces.
They needed money quickly,
and they just went in there
and started inventorying every single object.
All of the inventories that they compiled
were actually transcribed in this book.
It was a very fat book that has over 5,000 entries...
..and it just lists everything -
so, from the huge - like the royal barges, for example -
to the very small, like chairs, stools and cushions,
and, in some cases, dog collars and chamber pots.
In October 1649, the sale started, and it took place on this very site,
in the old Somerset House.
This was the sale of the century.
Everything was up for grabs - including Charles' art collection.
Everything was just dumped in this great hall
and stacked up against the wall,
and people were invited to come in and look around and rummage.
You could find a Titian next to an old blanket
in this kind of giant car-boot sale.
There was about 1,300 works of art,
and so, all of the items are here, listed, described, and valued.
Here, an old woman's head by Rembrandt, for £4...
..and here, Mars and Venus by Veronese,
valued only at £10.
The picture of Rubens by himself, for £16.
It's a bit of a bargain...
..and on this page, you can find the family of the Marquis of Guasto -
which was actually Titian's Conjugal Allegory - for £50.
Every artwork was listed, including Mantegna's Triumph of Caesar.
They had an incredibly high value on them.
I think it's £1,000 -
but although they were in the original sale of the King's goods,
they were held back.
They weren't sold.
They stayed here.
Cromwell was going to be living at Hampton Court,
and maybe he began to identify himself with Julius Caesar,
another great military leader who had triumphed.
Even though anybody could buy at the sale,
the ones who really did the best out of it
were those who knew what they were looking at and looking for.
One of the major players was called Everhard Jabach,
and he was an incredible collector, and he knew exactly what to get.
He then turned around and sold to the King of France,
which is why they're now in the Louvre in Paris.
You must imagine a greedy, elegant crowd,
maybe not so different from what one experiences today...
..trying to grab some of the art of the other late king.
Everhard Jabach -
"Zhaback", as the French say -
was at the sale,
and he acquired, severally, ten pictures -
especially The Supper At Emmaus by Titian,
which is now at the museum here at the Louvre...
..and also, this wonderful other picture by Titian,
which is the Conjugal Allegory.
Those are quite remarkable instances
of Jabach's flair for goods which would be sellable
to the French.
We're standing right now in front of one of the gems
of the Musee de Louvre, which is the Roi a la chasse,
the portrait of Charles I, King Charles I,
in the hunting field...
..and what we see is the King,
who's just dismounted,
his silvery horse - and the horse's mouth is full of foam.
Van Dyck was a keen observer,
not only of human nature and psychology,
but also of animals and beasts.
This one is a true, breathing, living, foaming horse.
This is quite remarkable,
and in a way, although this may be stretching it a bit far,
the beast steals the show...
..but of course, the King stands regal, his arm akimbo,
resting on a cane,
and this delightful hat just on the verge of falling,
which is so stylish.
Charles was a stammerer.
He was also shifty, he was not at ease with other people,
and so this slightly awkward figure is transformed by van Dyck,
here, in this wonderfully poised figure.
The most important work for us in this show
was Charles I in the hunting field by van Dyck -
the one royal portrait that got away, as it were.
When organising exhibitions like this,
you have to meet curators face-to-face
and get them enthusiastic about the project.
You're very much in the hands of the lenders.
It's only if they're willing to part with their most precious works
that you can actually make your vision happen.
When we received the loan request from the Royal Academy
asking for some of our paintings,
especially this one, well, of course, we were...
..slightly taken aback.
It's a bit difficult for a curator to let go...
God, we were relieved that they agreed
and that they were willing to send them.
..but it will be back,
and, in the meantime, will have been admired
and studied by so many.
In a way, we're very proud to be part of it all.
Every work of art had a different fate.
This painting was given to puritan brewer Robert Houghton
to clear unpaid royal bills.
It looked different then -
the catalogue described the woman showing her naked breast.
It's been suggested that its new puritan owner
cut off the offending nudity.
The painting disappeared for almost 300 years
before resurfacing in a London art gallery in the 1930s.
Collector Martha McGeary Snider bought it in the 1980s.
30 years later, she reluctantly parted with it.
How does it feel, being reunited?
You haven't seen it for over a year.
Very emotional. Thrilling.
So, tell me about when you first saw this painting.
It was the summer of '89, when I first started collecting.
I had actually come to London
to take a look at some of the great art that you have in this city,
and that's when I walked into the gallery,
and across the room, on the wall, I saw...
..this incredible woman staring back at me,
and I was compelled immediately.
I was drawn to her, and mesmerised by her, actually.
The light and the shading's fantastic, as well.
-What was it about her that attracted you, and you thought,
-"I like this"?
-Because she's looking straight out at the viewer.
Yeah, she's quite defiant and confident.
She holds her own presence so strongly
that she is just not an extra in a painting.
She is the star of something -
and as I lived with her for almost three decades,
she seemed to ask me the question, you know,
"Are you doing your best today?"
-So you built a relationship with her!
Now, apparently, Charles hung it, like you,
-in a very special place.
-Yes, he did.
It was in his private chamber,
right outside of his breakfast room,
so he was able to look at it during his most intimate times.
She's very different and very unique
to the rest of the collection that we see here.
Do you think it's important that this piece is here?
In a way, she's timeless.
She kind of steps out of this slice of history that we are looking at,
and she can kind of look in a more personal way at the viewer.
The most valuable works in Charles' entire collection ended up in Paris.
Today, they are rarely seen,
hidden away deep underground
in the storage of the Mobilier National museum.
We're looking at two of the four tapestries
that will be lent to the Royal Academy
for the Charles I exhibition.
It will be the first time
since the middle of the 17th century
that a broad group of this set of tapestries
come back in England.
The tapestry hanging on the wall is an episode of Saint Peter's life.
We can see the Christ
blessing and filling all the little boats with fishes.
It is one of the miracles of Christ.
The face of Saint Peter is exceptional, and very powerful.
The expression of the face, all the details of the eyes,
the weavers succeeded in rendering emotions and life in this tapestry.
All the parts that you can see here in dark originally were gilted.
It would have shined like proper gold.
These tapestries are not very often lent to exhibitions,
because they are very fragile,
and because the textile is very sensitive to the light -
but we were very excited by this request,
because we immediately understood that it would be the best occasion
to show again this tapestry in England.
Some of the artworks making their way to the exhibition
are closer to home.
This van Dyck portrait of Charles is being removed with great care.
Is everybody ready for this?
OK. Count of three, then.
One, two, three...
OK - and off...
That's it. Yeah.
Bit slower, bit slower. Slower.
It's only travelling in a few hundred metres up the road,
from Buckingham Palace...
..to the Royal Academy.
For the first time,
it will be joining two other van Dyck masterpieces.
Here they are.
I don't suppose even van Dyck saw all these three together,
so this is an extraordinary moment.
This has not been seen in England since the Civil War, so it's...
..unbelievable that it's here...
..and that we're able to see it with the other equestrian portraits.
You just have this incredible range
during van Dyck's, you know, fairly brief career in England.
You've got a kind of perfect threesome -
the image of almost a Roman emperor,
So that's an image of command, with a triumphal arch.
A simple message for a king.
This is the earliest,
and this is what you'd expect -
and then you have the National Gallery equestrian portrait
a few years later,
and it's sort of doing something completely different.
It's more complicated,
it's a more romantic, pastoral, Arthurian image
of the King still in armour, and command,
but looking not so masterful, looking more dreamy and poetical -
and finally, you have the hunting portrait from the Louvre.
It had to be a centrepiece, because it's such an important picture.
It feels like it's just brought the soul back into the exhibition -
but, also, it does add something completely new
to the image of the King.
I think this idea of sort of nonchalance and carelessness,
the sort of ideal of the Cavalier,
and I think you're really able to see
the distinctive character of each,
and the variety of van Dyck's art.
The installation is gathering pace.
Two weeks before the opening,
the tapestries have arrived from France.
-So, everybody, one set.
It is incredibly exciting,
I mean, even for us - I mean, Desmond and I have been...
We went to Paris to look at them.
As they were pulled up in front of us,
we knew that this was going to be special in the exhibition -
but we haven't seen all of...
..more than one at a time, so to see now four of them together
is rather moving, really.
It will make a real difference to the exhibition,
because these come back to England for the first time
since the 17th century...
..and I think this will be absolutely magical.
During Cromwell's Commonwealth,
hundreds of Charles' artworks left Britain.
Many changed hands over and over again, and disappeared from view...
..but a decade later, Cromwell died, and the Commonwealth crumbled.
In 1660, the monarchy was restored.
Charles II ascended to the throne,
and began trying to reassemble the collection.
The works he reunited
form the backbone of the Royal Collection to this day.
I have always been absolutely fascinated
by the issue of King Charles I's incomparable collection.
We are fortunate indeed
to be the first generation in nearly 370 years
to appreciate them as my ancestors once did.
So, thank you, all of you,
for all the parts you've played
in making this great exhibition possible.
The Royal Academy has been transformed
into Charles I's ultimate palace of art.
It's exciting to see so many works on display together
for the first time since 1649 -
and in a way that Charles himself
would never have seen in his lifetime.
This is an Arsenal exhibition.
This is very classy, this is really cool.
You know, it's not like a...
What's a club that's gone belly-up recently?
QPR. Sorry. Sorry, QPR fans.
What's really struck you in these galleries?
Oh, the Rubens and the van Dyck room, it's just incredible.
It's just... I've just been standing...
..really amazed... I can't find the words, really.
Some of my very, very favourite paintings
of all time are here,
and the prize must go to Mantegna's Triumphs of Julius Caesar.
Part of me thinks this is amazing,
and I also think, this is... this is the kind of power
of money and monarchy in the 17th century,
of which I fundamentally disapprove!
Well, I think people are awestruck
to see this extraordinary collection of things that Charles I owned,
which have been scattered to all four corners of the earth.
It's not until you come and walk around them
and see masterpiece after masterpiece
that you realise quite how passionate he was about art
and quite how much money he spent.
This shows the power of art.
This is not just a monarch's collection,
but it's a collection that...
..raises the monarch even more.
It's a very civilising power.
Charles I's Royal Collection didn't only delight the King -
it also introduced Britain to the art of Renaissance Europe.
It's been away on a great adventure,
but now it's together again, back home.
Brenda Emmanus explores the art collection of Charles I, much of which is being reunited for a unique exhibition for the first time since his execution. Brenda hears the stories behind the works of art and learns how the collection was sold off by Parliament following Charles's death.