The Royal Family at Buckingham Palace, 1913

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The Royal Family at Buckingham Palace, 1913

by Sir John Lavery
oil on canvas, 1913
134 in. x 107 in. (3403 mm x 2718 mm)
Given by William Hugh Spottiswoode, 1913
Primary Collection
NPG 1745

On display in Room 19 on Floor 2 at the National Portrait Gallery

Sittersback to top

Artistback to top

  • Sir John Lavery (1856-1941), Painter. Artist or producer associated with 17 portraits, Sitter in 19 portraits.

This portraitback to top

This striking family portrait shows King George V and Queen Mary with two of their children Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor (later King Edward VIII) and Princess Mary (later Countess of Harewood) in the opulent White Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace. It was commissioned by the publisher W.H. Spottiswoode, and the king and queen were closely involved with the portrait’s development. They visited the artist’s studio to assess its progress, and on one of these occasions applied royal blue paint to a Garter ribbon in the picture. When exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1913 critics noted its ‘romantic impressionism … a veritable triumph over the formalism to which in such pictures we are accustomed.'

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 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. 33
  • Cullen, Fintan, The Irish Face: Redefining the Irish Portrait, 2004, p. 25
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 713
  • 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. 79, 183 Read entry

    Carved and gilt pine, mitred and bolted, the top ogee carved section of 3 1⁄ 2 to 4 1⁄ 2 inches deep planted on the base frame and the carved centres and corners in turn planted on the ogee carved section, the corner shells fixed on with screws, oil gilt except for water gilding in the back hollow and on some of the highlights of the carving, with a red bole visible in places. 12 inches wide.

    For this portrait of George V, Queen Mary, the Duke of Windsor and Princess Mary, a commission from the printer, W. H. Spottiswode, for presentation to the nation, Lavery has used a very fine French-style rococo revival frame which is exceptionally bold in scale.

    The picture was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1913 and then at the Grosvenor Gallery the following summer, at which time Lavery's secretary wrote that the artist was 'desirous of trying one of two frames he has ready before finally deciding which one he leaves permanently on the picture. The frame that he prefers to use is now on the big canvas at the R.A.'.1 This canvas was The Artist's Studio (National Gallery of Ireland), completed in 1911, which appears to be the only other painting on this scale painted by Lavery at the period. It is no longer in its original frame so it is not possible to understand the nature of the choice Lavery faced when framing such large pictures.2 The royal group was finally fitted into its frame at some expense by the National Portrait Gallery's framemaker, Francis Draper, in December 1914. There is no record of who made the frame, but at the time Lavery was using Emile Remy to frame some of his smaller pictures, such as the portrait of Sir Lionel Cust (NPG 6337), and Remy is mentioned by the artist in 1918 as having been responsible for packing the picture.3

    1 Letter to Charles Holmes, 18 July 1914.

    2 I am grateful to Michael Wynne for information about the Dublin picture.

    3 Letter to James Milner, 6 January 1918.

  • Williamson, David, The National Portrait Gallery: History of the Kings and Queens of England, 1998, p. 161

Placesback to top

Events of 1913back to top

Current affairs

The Suffragette, Emily Davison dies after stepping out in front of the King's horse as a protest at the Epsom Derby. In the same year the Liberal government passed the Cat and Mouse Act allowing them to release and re-arrest Suffragettes who went on hunger strike while in prison. Davison, herself, had been on hunger strike and was force-fed while detained at Holloway Prison.

Art and science

Stravinsky's ballet The Rite of Spring comes to London following its premier at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris. Audiences were shocked by Stravinsky's rhythmic and dissonant musical score and by the violent jerky dancing of Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, which were intended to represent pagan ritual.


Henry Ford introduces the assembly line at the Ford Motor Company, rapidly increasing the rate at which the famous Model T could be manufactured, leading to massive growth in the motorcar industry and demonstrating to other industries the efficiency of mass production.

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