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Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue: Sophia

The following text is from the National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Kerslake, Early Georgian Portraits, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1977 (now out of print). For the most up to date research on the Collection, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text. This can be accessed by following the link with each portrait’s title.

In consulting the following, please note that apart from the reformatting which allows the printed catalogue to be made available on-line the text is as published in 1977. Footnotes in the original edition are given within square brackets.

Contents Foreword Introduction Catalogue scope Abbreviations Arrangement of entries

Sophia Dorothea (1685-1757)

Princess Royal, later Queen of Prussia; daughter of George I, married 1706, Frederick William I of Prussia; mother of Frederick the Great.

489 After Johann Leonhard Hirschmann, c.1706
Oil on copper, 6 ¼ x 5 ½ in. (159 x 133 mm), oval; dark eyes, finely marked eyebrows, full lips, long fair hair dressed with strings of pearl falling over her right shoulder; loose blue dress fastened with two black brooches; another brooch on the ermine-edged cloak on her left shoulder.

A pair with the copy of Kneller's portrait of her father George I, NPG 489 apparently derives from J. Smith's engraving of 1706 (CS 206), lettered I. Hirseman pinx. after the portrait by J.L. Hirschmann painted probably in Berlin at the time of her marriage. An English source for Smith's engraving is not yet established. A possibility is the three-quarter length with similar face mask at Blenheim attributed to H.H.Quiter when exhibited 'House of Guelph', 1891 (1). Although lent by the Duke of Marlborough to the ’NPE' 1867 (199) as the sitter's mother Sophia Dorothea, Electress of Hanover, the portrait surely represents the sitter. A miniature of the same type was sketched by Scharf [1] in 1862 when on loan to South Kensington (2005) from the Marquess of Bristol's collection at Ickworth.

Condition:varnish now discoloured.

Collections:bought, 1877, with NPG 488 (seeabove, George I) from C.H. Waters; earlier history unknown.


Portraits in England are rare. A mezzotint by J. Smith after the portrait by F.W. Weideman painted, 1714, in Berlin, was published in London the following year. Later in life Sophia was painted at least three times by A. Pesne: standing, with a small dog on her left arm, a fan in her right hand and, behind, the Prussian crown with its characteristic vertical diamonds, at Drottningholm Castle (205), Stockholm; a matronly portrait seated to the left, Drottningholm (166), a fan held between her hands and wearing widow's weeds, a variant engraved, 1732, by J.G. Wolfgang, [2] and third, seated to the right, again with a dog and in widow's weeds, Gripsholm Castle (1099), signed and dated 1748. A three-quarter length in similar pose 'old and fat', her left hand on the crown and without the dog, was sketched by Scharf at Buckingham Palace in 1887. [3]

Some confusion, as already indicated, has arisen between Sophia Dorothea, our sitter, daughter of George and Sophia Dorothea her mother. A portrait of a lady holding a parrot in the Ellesmere collection (377) has been said to represent our sitter [4] and an oil now in the collection of F.G. Colman Brown of Englefield Green, formerly at Brent Eleigh Hall, is apparently inscribed on the back as a portrait of her by Kneller. [5]


1. SSB, vol.63, p.90.
2. Father of Georg Andreas Wolfgang, see Handel, Iconography.
3. SSB, 115, p.42.
4. This or a very similar portrait was sold at Christie's, 28 March 1947, lot 62.
5. Farrer, Suffolk (West), p.47.



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