Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Royal Favor

Joshua Reynolds
When George III was asked by Lord Eglinton to sit for the most fashionable portrait painter of the day, Joshua Reynolds, he replied: ‘Mr Ramsay is my painter, my Lord.’ Reynolds tried to gain royal notice with two speculative ventures – a portrait of George III as Prince of Wales and an oil sketch for a depiction of his marriage to Queen Charlotte – both of which remained on his hands. Reynolds was knighted by George III, made first president of the Royal Academy and Principal Painter to the King upon Ramsay’s death in 1784, but never asked to paint anything. 

Jacopo Amigoni
Frederick Prince of Wales
This portrait was painted for the Prince's friend, George Bubb Dodington (1691-1762); the artist was paid forty guineas for it in 1736. As is appropriate for a friend's portrait this one shows the Prince in an informal and affable guise, as patron of the arts. An admirer of the poet Alexander Pope, the Prince is shown holding a book inscribed Pope’s Homer, alluding to Pope’s famous recently-published translations of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Cherubs fly above the Prince holding a lyre (the attribute of Poetry) and a snake biting its tail (the attribute of Eternity, the duration of a true poet's fame).

Peter Oliver
Alexander the Great
c. 1630
Peter Oliver was trained as a miniaturist by his father, Isaac Oliver, and became court limner to Charles I. He produced portrait miniatures in an increasingly free and naturalistic style until c. 1630 when he began to focus primarily on producing limned copies of Old Master paintings from Charles I's collection. 

Jean Clouet
Man holding a volume of Petrarch
c. 1530-35
The sitter in this arresting portrait remains unidentified. In his ungloved hand he holds a small volume by the celebrated fourteenth-century Italian poet Petrarch, though the inscription ‘Petrarca’ is on the back cover of the volume rather than the front. The laces of the binding are undone, as if the man has just stopped reading the volume. 

Domenico Fetti
A Bishop-Saint Writing
c. 1620-22
Here a bearded middle-aged figure, with a halo, is shown in profile to the left. He is holding a pen in his right hand and a paper in his left. He wears a green and yellow cope with a jewelled clasp and his mitre is in the background, indicating that he is a bishop saint, possibly St Augustine or St Ambrose. Both bishop saints were Fathers of the Church and popular figures in painting, who were frequently shown writing.

Giuseppe Macpherson
Portrait of Camillo Boccacci
c. 1772-80
This miniature is one of the collection of copies of 224 self-portraits by artists in the Uffizi Palace, Florence, that Lord Cowper, the art collector and patron, commissioned from Giuseppe Macpherson (1726-1780). He presented the miniatures to King George III in two batches, in 1773 and 1786. Macpherson followed the original self-portraits quite closely, but copied only the head and shoulders.

Hans Holbein
Portrait of Derick Born
The inscription on the stone ledge at the lower edge suggests that the portrait appears to be so lifelike that you would doubt whether it is painted (by the artist) or is in fact the real living person (the child created by the father): DERICHVS SI VOCEM ADDAS IPSISSIMVS HIC SIT / HVNC DVBITES PICTOR FECERIT AN GENITOR / DER BORN ETATIS SV AE 23. ANNO 1533. "If you added a voice, this would be Derich his very self. You would be in doubt whether the painter or his father made him. Der Born aged 23, the year 1533"

Antonio Canova
Mars (detail)
The full length sculpture of the Roman Gods ‘Mars and Venus’ was carved from a single marble block. It was commissioned by the Prince Regent for Carlton House in 1815 during Canova's visit to London to see the Elgin Marbles. The work was intended as an allegory of War and Peace after England’s victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

George Stubbs
John Gascoigne (d. 1812) with a Bay Horse
George IV's Hunting Groom (later Head Groom) is shown with a chestnut horse, which has been identified as 'Creeper', which George IV acquired in 1791. The horse is approached from the right by a groom in a grey coat and black top hat, holding out a seive; fence and barn visible in the middle ground.