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East India Company, courtier


Unlike other English courtiers whom Van Dyck painted—Lords John and Bernard Stuart in English court finery, James marquis of Hamilton in armon, Archibishop William Laud in clerical robes—his portrait of William Feilding, earl of Denbigh, depicts him in an exotic costume. The portrait, since 1938 in the National Gallery, commemorates Denbigh’s 1631–33 voyage to India and Persia in East India Company ships. He may have commissioned it for his daughter, the marchioness of Hamilton, or for his son-in-law the marquess, who owned it in 1641 (two years before Denbigh’s death), and in whose heirs’ Scottish mansion it remained until 1919. If Denbigh kept any written account of his travel to and in the East, it has disappeared, leaving only the portrait as his personal record; when, where, and how he went can, however, be discovered in occasional records of the East India Company and in a few of the State Papers Domestic for the reign of Charles I.