5 of 478 portraits of Queen Alexandra
after Luke Fildes
oil on canvas, 1920, based on a work of 1894
50 1/2 in. x 40 1/2 in. (1283 mm x 1029 mm)
Given by King George V, 1920
Sitterback to top
- Queen Alexandra (1844-1925), Queen of Edward VII. Sitter associated with 478 portraits, Artist associated with 10 portraits.
Artistback to top
- Sir (Samuel) Luke Fildes (1843-1927), Illustrator and genre and portrait painter. Artist associated with 13 portraits, Sitter in 14 portraits.
This portraitback to top
The portrait was commissioned and presented to the Gallery by her son George V in 1920 as a copy from the artist of the portrait originally painted in 1894 for his wedding. The dog, a Japanese Chin, is probably one called Punch, a particular favourite of Alexandra's.
Linked publicationsback to top
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- The British Portrait, 1660-1960, 1991, p. 63 number 58
- Gibson, Robin, The Face in the Corner: Animal Portraits from the Collections of the National Portrait Gallery, 1998, p. 69
- Ribeiro, Aileen, The Gallery of Fashion, 2000, p. 197
- Robin Gibson, Pets in Portraits, 2015, p. 105 Read entry
The daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark, Alexandra married the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII, in 1863 and made herself widely loved both for her charitable work and for her beauty. Her work for hospitals is still commemorated annually in Alexandra Rose day. When the National Portrait Gallery approached her son King George V in 1920 to enquire about the possibility of obtaining a portrait of her, he commissioned the artist Sir Luke Fildes to produce this replica of a portrait originally painted to commemorate his marriage to Princess Mary in 1894.
Although Alexandra had grown up with dogs in Denmark, it must have amazed her to see the huge number and range of dogs kept by her mother-in-law, Queen Victoria, in the royal kennels at Windsor. She continued the tradition with enthusiasm and, like Victoria, benefited from diplomatic gifts of the latest breeds from abroad. The first Pekinese, originally brought to Victoria in 1861, remained favourites all Alexandra’s life. One called Little Billie slept at the foot of her bed and is said to have accompanied her to Russia. After the opening up of Japan to foreigners in the 1870s and 1880s, other breeds began to appear, including the Japanese Chin pictured here. Alexandra owned a number of these, though the date of the portrait and the dog’s markings suggest that this is probably Punch, who was a special favourite and appears in several photographs with her. It is difficult to imagine that he was not also chosen to go with her dress.
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 9
Subjects & Themesback to top
Events of 1894back to top
Current affairsFollowing Gladstone's resignation, Queen Victoria calls on the Liberal MP Archibald Primrose, the 5th Earl of Rosebery to become Prime Minister, a position he reluctantly accepts. His government is largely unsuccessful as the Tory-dominated House of Lords stop the whole of the Liberal's domestic legislation, and his foreign policy plans are defeated by internal Liberal disagreements.
Art and scienceThe Prince of Wales opens Tower Bridge, built over the Thames to improve access to the growing commercial district of the East End. The bridge was constructed from two bascules, or leaves, which could be raised to allow ships to pass underneath.
Rudyard Kipling's hugely popular collection of children's stories and poems, The Jungle Book, is published. The stories, based on Kipling's own experiences in India, have been adapted many times.
InternationalThe arrest and court-martial of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish artillery officer, opens up divisions in France over anti-semitism continuing until Dreyfus's exoneration in 1906. The French President Sadi Carnot is assassinated by an Italian anarchist in Lyon.
Nicholas II becomes Tsar of Russia following the death of Alexander III.
Japan and China go to war over control of Korea, with the more modern Japanese army winning an easy victory.
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