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Bust - King Charles I

King Charles I

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1635-1640 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Fanelli, Francesco (sculptor)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Cast bronze

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with Art Fund support, and the assistance of the Murray Bequest, the Horn Bequest, the Hildburgh Bequest, the John Webb Trust, the Bryan Bequest, the Vallentin Bequest, the Barber Bequest, the J. R. Jones Bequest, the Crescent Trust, Mr Daniel Katz, The Sealed Knot Ltd, R.B.K. & C. Decorative & Fine Arts, G. Dockrell & Gift Aid, Mrs G. Wordsworth, R. J. Rankin, C. M. Diamond and Mr B. R. E. Cox

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 56, The Djanogly Gallery, case 10

Object Type
Portrait busts on this tiny scale are extremely rare. They resemble the small-scale bronze busts of Christ, and occasionally of individuals, produced in 17th-century Italy.

The Florence-born sculptor Francesco Fanelli arrived in England from Genoa in the early 1630s. By 1635 he was employed by Charles I and in 1640 he signed himself as Sculptor to the King of Great Britain. However, Fanelli's role as royal sculptor is unclear as no records of large-scale commissions for the King survive. Although Fanelli was said to have 'livd and dyd in England', his exact fate is uncertain.

Subject Depicted
The fanciful armour of the king is decorated with beautifully modelled but lively reliefs of a unicorn, a lion and two marine deities. These are closely related in style to other reliefs by the artist and may possibly have symbolic meaning, as well as being decorative. The unicorn, for example, was associated with purity and the lion with strength, power and kingship.

Ownership & Use
This intimate object was probably commissioned by the King himself, and may derive from a wax sketch model for a life-sized bust.

Physical description

Bronze bust of King Charles I wearing armour which is decorated with reliefs of a unicorn, a lion and two marine deities.

Place of Origin

London (made)


ca. 1635-1640 (made)


Fanelli, Francesco (sculptor)

Materials and Techniques

Cast bronze


Height: 24.2 cm, Width: 13 cm maximum, across shoulders, Depth: 7.6 cm base, Width: 8.1 cm base

Object history note

This is the only known version of this subtly modelled and virtuoso portrait bust, which was probably made either for the King himself or for one of his courtiers.

Descriptive line

Bust, bronze, of King Charles I, by Francesco Fanelli, Anglo-Italian, ca. 1635

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Radcliffe, Anthony and Thornton, Peter. 'John Evelyn's Cabinet', in: Connoisseur. CXCVII, April 1978, pp.260.
White, Adam. Francesco Fanelli. In:Jane Turner, ed. The Dictionary of Art. 10, London, 1996, 787p.
Williamson, Paul. "Acquisitions of sculpture at the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1992-1999". The Burlington Magazine, CXLI, 1161, December 1999, no. VII. pp.785.
Guelfi, Franchini F. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani. Rome. 1994, vol. 44, pp.569.
Pope-Hennessy, John. ‘Some Bronze Statuettes by Francesco Fanelli’, in: The Burlington Magazine, XCV, May 1953, reprinted in: Essays on Italian Sculpture, London and New York, 1968, pp. 161, fig. 14 (reprinted on 'Essays on Italian Sculpture', London, 1968, p. 170, fig. 197)
Bilbey, Diane and Trusted, Marjorie. British Sculpture 1470-2000. A Concise Catalogue of the Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 2002, p.3, cat.no. 2
Avery, Charles, ‘Sculpture gone wild: Bernini and the English’, in: Grell, C. and Stanic (eds.), Le Bernini et L’Europe. Du baroque triumphant à l’âge romantique, Sorbonnne, 2002, pp. 161-178, esp. p. 165

Labels and date

British Galleries:
This is the only known version of this virtuoso portrait bust. It was probably made either for the king himself or for one of his courtiers. Francesco Fanelli, 'the one eyed Italian', came to London in the early 1630s and was the first to manufacture such bronzes in England. [27/03/2003]


Bronze; Bronze



Subjects depicted

Lion; Armour; Unicorn


Images Online; Sculpture; Royalty; Portraits; British Galleries

Production Type



Sculpture Collection

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