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The Art of the Garden

British School, 17th century

Charles II Presented with a Pineapple c.1675-80

Oil on canvas | 96.6 x 114.5 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 406896

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Charles II, wearing star of the Garter, stands on a terrace, his left hand on hip. To the left, a man, possibly John Rose, the royal gardener, kneels before him and presents him with what is said to have been the first pineapple grown in England (although at this date it is more likely that the pineapple had been imported). Pineapples in the seventeenth century were rare and highly valued exotic items. In the background is a formal garden and large house, possibly that of Dorney House, near Oatlands Park. Several versions of the composition exist - that at Houghton Hall is attributed to Hendrick Danckerts. The painting may have been painted to comemorate the death of Rose in 1677. To add credence to this date Charles II is depicted without a moustache and it was in 1677 that he shaved it off.

This painting is unusual in that it depicts Charles II wearing typical fashionable clothing of the 1670s, rather than the ceremonial robes or armour in which he was usually painted. The knee-length brown coat is of a style said to have been initiated by the monarch himself in October 1666 and which replaced the short doublet. Both Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn report the introduction of the new style. With this coat, which has large cuffs turned back to reveal the linen shirt beneath, Charles II wears knee-length petticoat breeches trimmed with bunches of black ribbons at the waist and knee. His shoes have fashionably square toes and red heels. At his neck is a rabat of expensive needlepoint lace and he wears a black hat probably of beaver fur.