This spontaneously painted oil sketch is related to Van Dyck's "Portrait of Queen Mary Henrietta" (now in a private collection in New York), which the master painted for Cardinal Barberini in 1636-1637 (see S Barnes, N. Depoorter, H. Vey, Van Dyck: a complete catalogue of the paintings, Yale University Press, pp. 526-527).The queen was regarded by the pope and his entourage as "the great protector" of Catholicism in England. She is richly dressed and the hands that she ostentatiously holds under her belly are said to indicate pregnancy.
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