Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait miniature of Prince James Francis Edward Stuart, the Old Pretender (1688-1766), wearing armour, white lace stock and blue sash of the Garter 

Anne Marie Belle (née Cheron) (c.1663-1718)

Portrait miniature of Prince James Francis Edward Stuart, the Old Pretender (1688-1766), wearing armour, white lace stock and blue sash of the Garter, Anne Marie Belle (née Cheron)
Oval, 60mm. (2 23/64 in.) high
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Anne Marie Belle was one of three miniaturists known to have been employed at the exiled Stuart court in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Paris. Her main role, as demonstrated by this example, was to translate the oil paintings of her husband into the portable miniature portraits, which played a vital role in Jacobite propaganda.

This particular portrait of James, Prince of Wales, relates to a portrait painted by her husband Alexis Simon Belle (1674-1734). Here, James is shown wearing the distinctive blue Garter ribbon over armour but without other royal regalia. Despite his fervent claim to the British throne, the portrait reflects his ambitions for a peaceful restoration after the death of his half sister, Queen Anne (r.1701-14).

The rare and important signature and date on the reverse of this miniature state that this particular copy was taken shortly after the oil portrait by Belle was completed, although it is quite possible that Chéron began her copies in her husband’s studios while he worked. In this inscription, Anne Marie also states her association with her artist husband, while maintaining her maiden name as painter.

The oil portrait of James by Belle was taken early in the course of the prince’s exile, just a year after he became the Jacobite claimant to British throne in 1701. It is also a portrait painted shortly after Belle’s marriage to Anne Chéron, which took place in November 1701. In 1702, war broke out between Great Britain and France and the couple then began what was to be a long employment within the exiled Stuart court, continuously engaged in the production of portraits, many of which would be smuggled by loyal supporters across the English Channel.

Portraits of the exiled James III, or ‘The King over the Water’ as supporters knew him, were a vital part of keeping the Stuart cause alive. Such works were chiefly political, or propagandist, and designed to create, or maintain, loyalty among Stuart followers. Miniatures and smaller scale portraits such as the present example were particularly valued for the ease with which they could be dispatched to followers across Europe, or secreted back to Britain.
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