Historical Portraits Picture Archive

King George IV 1820s

Sir Thomas Lawrence PRA, Studio of 

King George IV, Sir Thomas Lawrence PRA, Studio of
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Oil on canvas
19th Century
36 x 28 inches, 91 x 66 cm
 
Provenance:
Ernest Augustus, 1st Duke of Cumberland & Teviotdale, later King of Hanover (1771–1851); The canvas stamped on the reverse, “EAFC” – Ernesti Augusti Fideicommissum – to denote Cumberland’s entailed estate on his accession as King of Hanover. By descent through the Kings of Hanover to; The Prince of Hanover, Ernst August, Duke of Brunswick and Luneburg (b.1954 - )
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This striking portrait of George IV is a studio version of Lawrence’s original full-length portrait (Wallace Collection, London) commissioned in 1822 – the last of Lawrence’s striking portraits of the King. This particular picture, in both its subject matter and provenance, is a testament to the close and successful relationship between the Royal Family and one of Britain’s greatest artists.

Both the present painting and the original from-life sketch (previously with Historical Portraits Ltd) demonstrate Lawrence’s talent, or perhaps opportunism, in painting the most statesmanlike and flattering images of George IV. In Lawrence’s canvas we see no trace of the wigs, make-up, or fleshy corpulence that marked George IV’s appearance from the turn of the nineteenth century. Lawrence''s particular appeal to George was not only his agreeable manner and unrivalled technical skill, but his ability, like that of Van Dyck when painting for King Charles I, to overlook the physical shortcomings of his subject. Instead, Lawrence projected their image as they imagined themselves at their best.

And yet, despite the obvious flattery of his pictures, Lawrence’s royal portraits display all the hallmarks of an ability that led to his dominance of early nineteenth century portraiture. As in this studio example, they display his preference for bold, pure colours and broad robust brushwork, which, with his unrivalled draughtmanship, combined to portray skin, eyes, clothing and hair with an astonishing degree of realism. So successful were Lawrence’s portraits of George IV, that it is no surprise one contemporary (the Duke of Devonshire) recalled finding a whole room at Kensington Palace full of versions, part-replicas and variants.

This portrait, in its original Lawrence-designed frame, has until recently remained in the possession of the sitter’s relatives in the Royal House of Hanover, Germany. It is first recorded in the ownership of Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, who as George IV’s younger brother later became King Ernst August of Hanover. As a version of Lawrence's most intimate royal portrait, and in showing George IV in simple private dress (with only the Garter star and the Order of the Golden Fleece), the picture would have been the perfect family image for Ernest Augustus to take with him from England to Hanover on his accession as King in 1837.
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