Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait enamel of King George IV as Prince Regent (1738-1820), 1811, after Horace Hone ARA (1754/6-1825) 

Henry Bone RA (1755-1834)

Portrait enamel of King George IV as Prince Regent (1738-1820), 1811, after Horace Hone ARA (1754/6-1825), Henry Bone RA
Enamel on metal
19th Century
Oval, 42mm high
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Gold frame with inner gilt-metal mount.

The possibility of George reigning as Prince Regent first arose in 1788 when the mental instability of his father, George III first became apparent. Before The Regency Bill could be passed however the King recovered and George remained Prince of Wales. The next stage of George’s life was marked by a series of complex love affairs and financial worries, and by 1795 his debts were reportedly £50m in today’s money. This incredible sum was relieved in part by parliament and also by the King, although the latter only agreed to help if George married his cousin Princess Caroline of Brunswick, which he did in 1795 with much resentment. The marriage was an unhappy one and George took several mistresses, including the actress Mary Robinson and several wives of renowned aristocrats. By 1806 the debt was settled, although the balance didn’t include the money accrued since 1795.

Following the death of his youngest daughter Princess Amelia in 1810 the King was once again overcome by his ailments and granting the bill of 1788 the Lord Chancellors, acting in proxy of the King, passed what would become known as The Regency Act of 1811 and George thus became Prince Regent on 5th February 1811.

Politically, the Prince Regent contributed relatively little when compared to his father, however in terms of art and culture, George was highly influential. With the help of great masters such as the architect John Nash and the painter Sir Thomas Lawrence, the Prince Regent set about defining what would later be called The Regency Style; a development with greater elegance and form on the previous neo-classical Georgian Style.

The present work is after the original by Horace Hone, most probably the version in the Royal Collection painted just after George was appointed Regent and subsequently bought by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. The Prince is shown wearing a black coat, white waistcoat and cravat, the Ribbon and Star of the Garter at his chest and his hair powdered. It was copied by Bone in 1811 and was presumably worn as a sign of support for the recently appointed Regent.

Bone was highly successful enamellist celebrated for his strength of drawing and sound use of colour. Bone attained royal patronage throughout the reigns of three monarchs; George III, George IV and William IV and his reputation can be seen reflected in the high prices he charged, including a large enamel of a mythological scene which he sold for 2,200 guineas – about £75,000 in today’s money.
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