Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales

Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales, by George Dawe, 1817 -NPG 51 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Regency Portraits Catalogue

Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales

by George Dawe
55 in. x 42 1/2 in. (1397 mm x 1080 mm)
NPG 51

This portraitback to top

Several variations and copies exist (Sir Oliver Millar, The Later Georgian Pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen, 1969, 740, 751-3); the full-sized whole-length in the Belgian Embassy London is in reverse to the NPG one and has roses in the hair. According to a letter from Colnaghi, 10 July 1858 in the NPG archive, 'this Picture is the first one painted from the life, and remained in the Painter's possession until his death. Mr Dawe leaving it to his sister, the picture now belongs to her son'. Two pictures by Dawe were exhibited RA 1817 and 1818 but these are more likely to have been Prince Leopold's version (with roses in the hair) and the Belgian Royal family version whole-length (walking on a terrace); a miniature copy by Jeremiah Steele is in the Prince of Hanover's collection (Calenberg).
Dawe had been 'honoured with the constant and liberal patronage of the royal couple' soon after their marriage in 1816 and his products were hung at Claremont, but Leopold preferred George Sanders's portrait of Princess Charlotte 'which is more Lady like than Mr Daw's coarse paintings'. Certainly the NPG type with its more restrained hair-style is less vulgar than the others which Dawe seems to have preferred for the mezzotints. Even from an early age the Princess had a liking for extravagant hair-styles, deplored by Lady Charlotte Bury in 1813 - '... looking handsome, very pale, but her head more becomingly dressed, that is to say, less dressed than usual' (Diary of a Lady-in-Waiting, 24 January 1813).
The portfolio under her wrist presumably contains etchings, a medium in which the Princess was a skilful practitioner. The blue dress, probably Russian fancy dress, is in the Museum of London, presented by George V in 1927; the blue is lighter than in the portrait and none of the lace has survived.

Physical descriptionback to top

Three-quarter-length seated to left aged 21, in a royal blue dress with gold borders, white lace chemise with pearl clips, Star of St Catherine of Russia on her left breast, two diamond and green jade brooches, wedding ring and ruby engagement ring on left hand; brown hair piled up and dressed with pearls, blue eyes, fresh complexion; a large leather-bound portfolio edged with crimson behind her on the sofa; landscape and column in left background, red curtain right.

Provenanceback to top

The artist then to his nephew from whom bought through Colnaghi in 1858.

Reproductionsback to top

A mezzotint of a head and shoulders version with roses in her hair and a different chemise was engraved by Say and published 1 December 1817; it belonged to Prince Leopold and other whole-length mezzotints of it are by Henry Dawe and T. Hodgetts 12 January 1818, and by S. W. Reynolds 13 March 1818; the original of these is in the Belgian Royal Collection on loan to the Belgian Embassy in London where it has been since the house was occupied by her aunt the Duchess of Kent. A watercolour drawing of the head, close to Say's mezzotint, is at Windsor Castle (2481).

This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: Richard Walker, Regency Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, 1985, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.

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