Princess Sophia Matilda

Samuel Shelley attrib.


Looking coyly over her left shoulder, this young lady is Princess Sophia Matilda of Gloucester depicted as a six-year-old child, prettily dressed in pale pink with a lace cap trimmed with matching pink silk ribbon.

Born in 1773, Princess Sophia Matilda was the eldest child of Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Maria, countess dowager of Waldegrave, and as such the niece of King George III. Sophia’s parents had married in secret as the King did not approve of marriage between a prince and a widow of non-royal rank. Sophia never married. She lived near Windsor and died in November 1844; she is buried in St George’s Chapel, Windsor.

Another version of this portrait resides in the Royal Collection and is attributed to Samuel Shelley.

The portrait is very finely painted and has a blue grey hatched background. Dating to 1779, it is signed with initials – J.S. or possibly S.S. – and is presented in a beautiful and delicately carved boxwood frame, reputedly carved by George Michael Moser, a founder member of the Royal Academy.

There are two labels affixed to the reverse of the frame: one is an annotated auction catalogue clipping from 1930; the other a manuscript note that reads ‘According to Lady Dorothy Nevill this miniature was painted by Jeremiah Meyer and the frame carved by George Michael Moser a foundation member of the Royal Academy’.

Lady Dorothy Nevill (1826-1913) was the youngest daughter of Horatio Walpole, 3rd Earl of Orford. She grew up at Wolterton Hall built in 1727. She was a society hostess of great distinction but also an author, painter, illustrator, gardener and renowned collector. She counted Edward VII, Disraeli, Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin and Oscar Wilde amongst her friends – what a dinner party that would have been!

The portrait is in excellent condition. The frame has lost some swagging across the top and the hanger has been later affixed to the back with glue.

Item Ref. 6447

Size: portrait, 48 x 39mm ; framed, 108 x 81mm max.

Provenance: Lady Dorothy Nevill ; her son, Ralph Nevill ; Christie's Nov. 1930