Francesco Fanelli

Fanelli Prince Charles later Charles II

The Portland Collection contains a rare group of five bronze statuettes by Francesco Fanelli (c. 1590–1653) who was ‘sculptor of the King’ to Charles I.

It’s believed that Fanelli had caught the King’s eye for his work in ivory. However, his genius was in casting bronze statuettes.

Fanelli was born in Florence, and was working in England, where he spent much of his career, from 1610. He left England in 1642 due to the Civil War and we know little of him after this time.

Fanelli’s prime patron

Charles I’s loyal follower, William Cavendish (1593 – 1676) collected the pieces on show in the Museum. Cavendish was Fanelli’s prime patron and commissioned several works, including a portrait of Prince Charles (later Charles II) which is Fanelli’s only signed work.

You might recognise this sculpture from the V&A, where it has been on loan and has been a highlight exhibit. It has been returned to Welbeck for the Unseen Treasures exhibition.

Cavendish had a keen interest in art and supported famous artists like Fanelli, Mytens, and Anthony Van Dyck. The bronze echoes Van Dyck’s portrait of the young prince, who had been Cavendish’s student.

The Fanelli sculptures also reference Cavendish’s love of horses, with a statuette of a pacing horse with a short mane, and further work depicting St George on horseback, fighting the dragon.

Rebecca Hardy

Rebecca Hardy

Rebecca Hardy trained as a fine artist and has been working in the culture sector for over a decade. She writes for a number of publications on topics such as art history, contemporary exhibitions, and museum marketing.

Plan your visit

See the Fanelli statuettes in the Museum.