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King George IV

King George IV, by Sir Thomas Lawrence, circa 1814 - NPG 123 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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King George IV

by Sir Thomas Lawrence
oil on canvas, circa 1814
36 in. x 28 in. (914 mm x 711 mm)
Purchased, 1861
Primary Collection
NPG 123

On display in Room 17 at the National Portrait Gallery

Images

The compo frame is original to the picture an…

Sitterback to top

  • King George IV (1762-1830), Regent 1811-19; Reigned 1820-30. Sitter associated with 262 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), Portrait painter, collector and President of the Royal Academy. Artist associated with 687 portraits, Sitter in 25 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Lawrence's unfinished profile was intended for a medal which was never struck. The cosmetic-wearing and much overweight Prince was regularly mocked as the 'Prince of Whales' and Lawrence had to defend this elegant portrait as a true likeness.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Audio Guide
  • Smartify image discovery app
  • Cannadine, Sir David (Introduction); Cooper, Tarnya; Stewart, Louise; MacGibbon, Rab; Cox, Paul; Peltz, Lucy; Moorhouse, Paul; Broadley, Rosie; Jascot-Gill, Sabina ., Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits, 2018 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA, 7 October 2018 -3 February 2019. Bendigo Art Gallery, Australia, 16 March - 14 July 2019.), p. 152 Read entry

    The flamboyant and profligate Prince of Wales was well served by the brilliant portraitist Thomas Lawrence. This unfinished profile was created as the model for a medal that was never struck. The overweight Prince was regularly mocked as the 'Prince of Whales' and Lawrence had to defend this elegant portrait as a true likeness.

  • Colville, Quinton; Williams, Kate, Emma Hamilton : seduction & celebrity, 2016, p. 223
  • Cooper, John, Visitor's Guide, 2000, p. 66
  • Gibson, Robin, Treasures from the National Portrait Gallery, 1996, p. 81
  • Holmes, Richard; Crane, David; Woof, Robert; Hebron, Stephen, Romantics and Revolutionaries: Regency portraits from the National Portrait Gallery, 2002, p. 85
  • Ross, Josephine, Jane Austen and her World, 2017, p. 101
  • Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery: An Illustrated Guide, 2000, p. 111
  • Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery, 1997, p. 111 Read entry

    In 1814 Lord Stewart, who had been appointed ambassador in Vienna and was a previous client of Thomas Lawrence, wanted to commission a portrait by him of the Prince Regent (later King George IV). He therefore arranged that Lawrence should be presented to the Prince Regent at a levee. Soon after, the Prince visited Lawrence at his studio in Russell Square. Lawrence wrote to his brother that 'To crown this honour, [he] engag'd to sit to me at one today and after a successful sitting of two hours has just left me and comes again tomorrow and the next day.' The result was a drawing in the Royal Collection, this dashing oil sketch of his head in profile like a Classical god, and a large portrait of him in Field Marshal's uniform, of which Hazlitt wrote, 'Sir Thomas Lawrence has with the magic of his pencil recreated the Prince Regent as a well-fleshed Adonis of thirty-three.'

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 241
  • 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. 101, 167 Read entry

    Gilt compo on pine, mitred with corner blocks, the inner section nailed in and fitted with blocks, the ground punched but much of the detail lost in regilding, the flat fillets water gilt (the leaf overlap clearly visible at the top), all the projecting centres and corners repaired, shrinkage in the frieze visible along the left side. 7 1⁄ 2 inches wide.

    An example of the compo frame type favoured by Lawrence in the 1810s.

  • Walker, Richard, Regency Portraits, 1985, p. 201
  • Williamson, David, Kings and Queens, 2010, p. 138
  • Williamson, David, The National Portrait Gallery: History of the Kings and Queens of England, 1998, p. 142

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1814back to top

Current affairs

Princess Caroline leaves England for a lengthy series of travels in Europe and the Middle East. Scandalous gossip promptly surrounds her relationship with her Italian valet, Count Bartholomew Bergami.
George, Prince Regent, hosts a visit of the victorious allies to England with spectacular celebrations and fireworks at Carlton House.

Art and science

John Soane completes the construction of Dulwich Picture Gallery.
First steam printing machine in the world is used to publish The Times.
New Royal Mint opens at Tower Hill with improved precision machinery.
Grand Western Canal completed from Loudwell to Tiverton.

International

Paris falls under allied attack; Napoleon sent into exile on Elba.
Force of British veterans lands at Chesapeake Bay, defeats Americans at Bladensburg and burns parts of Washington DC.
Peace treaty signed with Americans in Ghent. General Pakenham is killed leading attack on New Orleans before news of the peace reaches America.

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