Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Frederick Louis Prince of Wales (1707 – 1751) 1742c.

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

Portrait of Frederick Louis Prince of Wales  (1707 – 1751), Studio of Jean-Baptiste Van Loo
Oil on canvas
18th Century
30 x 25 inches 76 x 63.5 cm
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This portrait derives from full-length portraits of the Prince and Princess 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 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.

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. There is every reason to believe that Frederick’s love of the visual arts was an entirely genuine and spontaneous matter.

He had already made the acquaintance of Antoine Pesne and Philippe Mercier when he was at Herrenhausen, his father’s palace in Hanover, where he was left by his parents as his grandfather’s representative. It was this separation from his parents, however, that was to shape his future dealings with them. In England the then Prince and Princess of Wales ignored their heir in Germany, and lavished all of their affection on his younger brother, William, Duke of Gloucester and later of Cumberland. When Frederick was finally permitted to come to England at his father’s accession in 1727 it became swiftly apparent that his relationship with George II was to be flawed by the same mistrust and jealousy as that between the previous King and his heir.

The King refused to allow the Prince the full sum of money voted for his income by Parliament, and regarded the Prince’s life as inappropriate. The Prince in turn played politics against his father and sponsored a court of ‘opposition’ politicians. He continued his feud into the world of the performing arts, giving, for example, his and his friends’ support to the Opera of the Nobility in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, merely because the more-established King’s Theatre in Drury Lane, where Handel was in residence, was patronised by his father. These unproductive wrangles were ended by the Prince’s death in 1751, still quite unreconciled to his father. The cause of his death has never properly been established, although it is generally believed to have stemmed from an injury he received whilst playing tennis at Hampton Court, when he was struck on the head by one of the heavy balls used in the Real Tennis Court.

1. Vertue Notebooks Vol. III p.110
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