Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Augusta, Princess of Wales 1750c.

Studio of Jean-Baptiste Van Loo (1684-1745)

Portrait of Augusta, Princess of Wales, Studio of Jean-Baptiste Van Loo
Oil on canvas
18th Century
30 x 25 inches 76 x 63.5 cm (oval)
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This oval half-length portrait of Augusta Princess of Wales, derives from the full-length portrait of the Princess, with an accompanying portrait of her husband Frederick Louis Prince of Wales painted ‘at whole in their robes finely drest.’1 by Van Loo in 1742 (Royal Collection).

The full-length portraits, which were purchased for the Royal Collection by the Prince’s grandson George Prince of Wales later King George IV and now hang in the State Dining Room at Buckingham Palace, were painted for William Pulteney Earl of Bath, perhaps at the Prince’s expense, and entered the Royal Collection after the death of the Earl’s heirs in 1808. The Earl was one of the Prince’s supporters in Parliament and had moved the congratulatory address in April 1736 on the occasion of the Prince’s marriage. A contemporary copy (Royal Collection) from the Prince’s collection was most probably executed by the studio at the same time.

Both of the present portraits reflect the magnificence of these commissions, executed on a scale more suited to display in the houses of the Prince’s followers and admirers. It was appropriate that the Prince and his influential circle patronised such immigrant artists as Jean-Baptiste Van Loo, as – quite unlike his father King George II - Frederick Prince of Wales was a great amateur of painting, and at his court he encouraged a wide circle of artists and designers. The list of those he employed– Van Loo, Mercier, Wooton, Amigoni, Phillips and Goupy- reads as a roll-call of some of the principal figures of the rococo movement in England, whilst his sponsorship of William Kent resulted in some of that versatile genius’s more remarkable works. The appeal of Van Loo and his studio to English patrons is apparent is such works as this, which treat the sitter’s luxurious costume with as much care as their likeness, and suggest continental sophistication in a sufficiently workmanlike manner to avoid the usual criticism of frivolity that was levelled at the work of many French painters. By the time that Van Loo left England in 1742 his style had left a lasting impact on the work of native painters such as Thomas Hudson, George Knapton.and, it may be argued, Allan Ramsay.

After Frederick’s death in 1751 Princess Augusta might have been expected to have disappeared from any position of significance at the English court. Even her position as mother to the heir apparent, the twelve year-old Prince George now Prince of Wales, wold not ordinarily have saved her from obscurity, since he would at once have become the ward of his grandfather King George II. It was unusual, therefore, that she was allowed unrivalled influence in the appointment of her son’s tutors and household officers, and according to her own wishes, raised him largely apart from the rest of the Court. This circumstance has been credited, by recent historians, with informing George’s character with its more un-Hanoverian aspects, and with producing the monarch who was able to claim without a shred of pretence to ‘rejoice in the name of Briton.’

1. Vertue Notebooks Vol. III p.110
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