Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Prince James Francis Edward Stuart, the Old Pretender (1688-1766), 1702 

Jacques-Antoine Arlaud (1668-1743)

Portrait of Prince James Francis Edward Stuart, the Old Pretender (1688-1766), 1702, Jacques-Antoine Arlaud
Watercolour on vellum laid onto card
18th Century
Oval, 61 mm (2 3/8 inches) high
English Private Collection
This fine miniature shows James Francis Edward Stuart, son of the exiled King James II, at the age of fourteen. James was then living at the Court of Saint-Germain-en-Laye in France, where he had been secreted in 1688 during the collapse of his father’s reign after the ‘Glorious Revolution’. The 1702 date recently discovered on the reverse of this portrait is particularly significant, as his father had died only the year before. His son James was now recognised as King James III by Spain, France, the Papal States and Modena.

James is here shown in his martial armour, with a Garter sash, which was constantly worn by the exiled Stuarts as an assertion of their legitimacy, and, in a sign of his maturity, a full wig. He is deliberately presented as the archetypal prince. The strong likeness with his father would have further reaffirmed his legitimacy, in face of the famous rumours in London at the time of his birth that he had been smuggled into his mother’s confinement in a warming-pan. The artist, Jacques-Antoine Arlaud, has placed the Prince against an open sky, a common attribute in Jacobite portraits used to reinforce the notion of the exiled ‘King over the Water’.

This portrait type by Arlaud was previously thought to have been based on large-scale painting by Francois de Troy. However, recent cleaning of the miniature has revealed a hitherto hidden inscription in Arlaud’s hand. This inscription clearly states not only the month and year of the portrait but also the vital words ad vivum (from life). This miniature is now clearly the pivotal image from this period and the original portrait from which the oil paintings and further miniatures derive. Interestingly, this is also the case with the portrait of James’s wife, Maria Clementina, by Carriera (Coll. No.?) from which oil portraits by Louis Gabriel Blanchet were thought to be the source. It has now been established that Blanchet did not leave France until 1728 and that the Carriera is the ad vivum portrait from which further derivations were sourced.

Such portraits were vitally important to the exiled Stuarts, and acted as a means of keeping the cause alive amongst their Jacobite supporters and supportive governments in Europe. Pictures of the young Prince were particularly valued, for though his father lived until 1701, James’s central political significance lay in the fact that he was a boy, whereas his sisters, Mary and Anne, who ruled in his and his father’s place, were conspicuously unable to provide any Stuart heirs themselves.

While life-sized Jacobite portraits were invariably political or propagandist in nature, often full of crowns and armour, miniatures were particularly important for their secretive and portable nature. Examples such as this could be easily sent to sympathisers in England, and were greatly in demand around the time of the various Jacobite uprisings.

The royal family were also collectors of miniatures themselves. An inventory of Mary of Modena’s possessions in 1718 records fifteen miniatures in her collection, including portraits of earlier Stuarts from James I onwards . Later, during their increasingly frenetic and peripatetic lives, miniatures were treasured as valuable family mementoes. In 1744, Prince Charles, while living incognito in Paris prior to his departure for Scotland, wrote to his father describing his loneliness; “Nobody nose where I am… I am obliged very often not to stur out of my room, for fier of some bodys noing my face.” So, missing his family, he wrote “with a request which is to have your picture, the Queen’s and the Duke’s in miniature so that since I have the misfortune of not seeing you, the pictures will be of some comfort in the meantime, which I hope in God may not be too long.” It was a task the family took seriously, with Henry, Duke of York, Charles’ brother, sitting for “about 14 Ours” for his portrait.

Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.