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Prince Charles Edward Stuart

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Prince Charles Edward Stuart

by Hugh Douglas Hamilton
oil on canvas, circa 1785
9 7/8 in. x 8 3/4 in. (251 mm x 222 mm) oval
Purchased, 1873
Primary Collection
NPG 376

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This portraitback to top

This portrait was painted by the Irish artist, Hugh Douglas Hamilton, while living in Rome. It depicts Bonnie Prince Charlie in old age, which he passed in rather pathetic retirement in Rome. He was described as of 'a melancholy, mortified appearence' by a visitor to Rome in 1770. The portrait is housed in a Roman neoclassical frame of a type associated with the artist. More detailed information on this portrait is available in a National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue, John Kerslake's Early Georgian Portraits (1977, out of print).

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Cullen, Fintan, The Irish Face: Redefining the Irish Portrait, 2004, p. 88
  • Kerslake, John, Early Georgian Portraits, 1977, p. 40
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 118
  • Simon, Jacob, The Art of the Picture Frame: Artists, Patrons and the Framing of Portraits in Britain, 1997 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 8 November 1996 - 9 February 1997), p. 164 Read entry

    Carved and gilt poplar(?), mitred lap joints with wooden dowels, yellow ochred on the reverse, impression of old, perhaps original, hanging fixture on reverse at top centre, the pine spandrels coated with gesso on reverse. 1 7⁄ 8 inches wide including spandrel at its narrowest.

    The Dublin-born portrait painter, Hugh Douglas Hamilton, used three distinctive frame types for his small-scale oval portraits, each of which can be more or less closely associated with a different period of his life and a different city: London from about 1763 to 1779, Rome from 1779 to 1791 (including a few years in Florence), and Dublin again from 1792.

    In London, where he had a very successful business drawing small oval portraits in pastels, he used a gadrooned oval frame with pearl sight, a common enough frame type for such portraits; among numerous dated examples of the early and mid-1770s are portraits of Lady Temple, dated 1770, and Samuel Ireland, dated 1776, in the National Portrait Gallery. By 1778 a husk top edge replaced the gadrooning on some of his frames.

    In Italy Hamilton branched out into oil painting and large-scale pastels. Of his small portraits of this period the rectangular frame on this oval-format portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie is typical: angular teeth inside a flat top edge, and inner spandrels with prominent rosettes on punched panels set within a string-and-pearl surround. This pattern is also found on the portrait of the Prince in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and on various other Roman portraits by Hamilton, including dated paintings of 1787, 1789 and 1790. Somewhat similar frames are occasionally found on the work of other portrait painters of the period in Rome. A receipt for three frames for the Duchess of Albany suggests that Lorenzo Dolci may have been Hamilton's framemaker in 1785).1

    In Dublin Hamilton reverted to an oval frame type with a husk top edge and pearl sight for the portraits he drew in 1793 and 1794 before abandoning small pastels altogether for life-size oils.

    1 Royal Archives, Windsor, RA SP 510/157, dated 23 September 1785. The receipt is on reverse of a note by Hamilton: 'Mr Hamiltons Compliments to Mr Stuart, the Bearer of the foreman of Sig4 Dolci the Carver of the frames intended for the Duchess of Albany they are very well executed. Friday morn' (quoted by gracious permission of Her Majesty the Queen).

Subjects & Themesback to top

Events of 1785back to top

Current affairs

George Prince of Wales secretly marries his mistress Maria Fitzherbert in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act of 1772.
Prime Minister William Pitt introduces a bill proposing parliamentary reform and the abolition of 'rotten boroughs' but is defeated.

Art and science

William Cowper publishes his best -known poem The Task.
James Boswell publishes The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, narrating his travels with the late writer Samuel Johnson.
Physician and naturalist James Hutton presents his studies of local rocks to the Royal Society of Edinburgh, launching the era of scientific geology.

International

Warren Hastings resigns as Governor-General of Bengal and returns to England. His trial begins on charges of corruption in the administration of India.
French sculptor Jean Antoine Houdon crosses the Atlantic to sculpt a statue of George Washington.
British government establishes a permanent land force in the Eastern Caribbean, based in Barbados.

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