Page last updated at 08:31 GMT, Thursday, 12 February 2009

Portrait returns to Palace 'home'

Van Dyck portrait of Princess Mary

A portrait of the eldest daughter of King Charles I is to return home to Hampton Court Palace after more than 360 years.

The oil painting of Princess Mary, by Anthony van Dyck, is thought to have hung in the palace the last days of Charles I's reign.

The work was saved for the nation with an offer in lieu of 1.05m of inheritance tax.

It will go on display at Hampton Court Palace from Thursday.

1637 - Anthony van Dyke paints Mary, Princess Royal, later Princess of Orange, for King Charles I
1647 - King Charles I escapes from Hampton Court Palace, leaving instructions that "the Originall of My Eldest Daughter [which] hangs in this chamber over the board next the Chimney which you must send to my Lady Aubigny"
1648 - King Charles I is executed and Lady Aubigny, an active Royalist supporter, flees to The Hague, taking the painting with her
1654 - The painting is recorded in a Dutch inventory and remains in various European collections for over 300 years
1967 - Sir Oliver Millar buys the painting when it appears on the London art market
2009 - The painting returns to Hampton Court Palace

The painting, dated to around 1637, shows Princess Mary at the age of five or six, wearing a rich silver-laced gown and pearl head-dress, standing before a classical column and ornate gold damask curtain.

It is thought to have hung at Hampton Court while Charles I was under house arrest at the palace during the English Civil War.

Culture Minister Barbara Follett said: "This is a beautiful painting with a fascinating story and has quite rightly been returned to its former home."

The work was secured for the nation through the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme - administered by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) - which enables items deemed to be of historical or artistic importance to be given in place of inheritance tax.

The painting was owned by Sir Oliver Millar, who was the surveyor of the Queen's pictures from 1972 to 1988 and a leading scholar on the works of van Dyck.

After he died in 2007, the painting was offered in memory of Sir Oliver and his wife, Delia, who died in 2004, on condition that it should return to Hampton Court Palace.

MLA chair Andrew Motion said: "This is a very beautiful painting, and a very important part of our historical and cultural heritage; it's wonderful to see it back in Hampton Court Palace, where it once hung, this time to be enjoyed by all."

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Croydon Guardian Van Dyck portrait to return to Hampton Court Palace - 50 hrs ago
Telegraph Van Dyck painting back at Hampton Court Palace after 300 years - 54 hrs ago
Boston Globe Royal portrait comes home after 350 years - 59 hrs ago

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