A Broken Engagement
It is known that Titian’s two great paintings first reached King Philip in Toledo in the autumn of 1560, and from there they were dispatched to Madrid. They are first recorded in an inventory of 1623 as hanging in the Alcazar, but later that year they were packed as a proposed wedding gift to King Charles I of England. Charles was a Catholic sympathiser who was engaged to the Spanish Infanta Maria Anna. Paintings commonly exchanged hands as diplomatic gifts, but the engagement was called-off and Charles married Henrietta Maria of France in 1625. Diana and her nymphs remained in Madrid.
This portrait was painted when Charles I was still a child and before the death in 1612 of his older brother and heir to the throne, Prince Henry. He is dressed in vibrant red embroidered with real silver and wears shoes decorated with fantastic rosettes, a fashion item which Peake seems to have particularly enjoyed painting. Charles became a strong-minded king whose policies on taxation and religion made him very unpopular. Civil wars dominated the last ten years of his reign. Despite these troubles, Charles was a generous patron of the arts and famous painters like Rubens and Van Dyck worked for him.
In 1604 the English artist Robert Peake became Principal Picture Maker to Henry, Prince of Wales, the eldest son of King James VI and I and brother of Charles I. His role was to promote the Prince as a dashing young man, depicting him on horseback, hunting and displaying his swordsmanship. In 1607 he became Serjeant Painter to King James, sharing the position with John de Critz. His style, especially the use of bright colours, was influenced by the miniatures of Nicholas Hilliard, but by 1610 he was considered old-fashioned.