Prince Regent, from Life
Miniature artist Andrew Robertson first expressed an ambition to paint the Prince of Wales (later George IV) and his siblings in a letter to his brother in 1805. This wish was partially granted in February 1807 when he was engaged by the Royal Family at Windsor to paint miniature portraits of the princesses. Robertson’s diary entries reveal how he found the princesses to be “quite endearing” and though Princess Mary was a “beautiful creature” she was most difficult to paint as she could not sit still. Robertson was nonetheless pleased with his finished portraits calling them his “best pictures” and anticipated being able to paint lucrative copies in due course.
In a letter to a friend in July 1807, Robertson related how the Prince of Wales had twice sat for him, having commissioned three small miniatures for snuff boxes. The Prince had also promised to sit for a larger miniature. Robertson found the Prince to be affable and elegant and they “laughed considerably” during the sittings. Writing to the same friend in September, Robertson related how he was not afforded sufficient time to finish the portrait of the Prince exactly to his liking as, with only a few hours notice, the Prince had decided he wished to send the portrait to the Continent that very evening. The artist believed it had in reality been promised to “a fair lady” whom the Prince did not wish to disappoint. The Prince was apparently happy with the finished portrait and promised to sit again.
The finished portrait from these sittings is not recorded within the Royal Collection. This copy appears to been retained by the artist who later signed it on the reverse – ‘Unfinished copy / of a Picture for which / The King sat to me / in 1812 — / A.R.’
A similarly unfinished sketch, on loan from the Robertson Family, was exhibited in Edinburgh in 1965. It was inscribed in fuller detail – ‘A.R. / The Prince Regent, from a / miniature for which he sat in / 1812, One of my best. It was / called for suddenly so that I / had not time to carry this / further. It was said at the Royal Table to be the best & most / Gentlemanlike picture of him / But he had not then sat to Lawrence.’
As it is unlikely that Robertson would have been twice obliged to complete his portrait of the Prince in such a hurry, it seems more credible therefore that in later years he had mis-remembered the date of those first sittings and that both the unfinished copies were actually from the 1807 portrait.
The portrait is in fine condition and is set in a later gilt metal frame with a gilt metal mount and beaded edge. The frame is also glazed on the back to show the artist’s inscription. With hanging rings and an easel stand, it is engraved across the front edge ‘H.R.H. The Prince Regent (George IV)’.
The son of a Scottish architect, Andrew Robertson (1777-1845) showed early musical talent but chose to pursue drawing and painting as a career despite having studied medicine. In 1801 he sailed from Edinburgh to London where he entered the Royal Academy Schools. There he benefitted from the influential patronage of Benjamin West President of the Royal Academy and, in 1805, was appointed Miniature Painter to the Duke of Sussex (George IV’s younger brother). Robertson worked hard at perfecting his art but also found time to set about raising an Artists of London Volunteer Corps in response to the threat of French invasion, intending to use the Royal Academy building as an arms depot. The plan was not, however, sanctioned by the Government. Robertson was a founder member of the Associated Artists in Water Colour and exhibited his miniature portraits of the princesses there in 1808.
Item Ref. 7239
Size: framed, 110 x 93mm
Literature: Letters and Papers of Andrew Robertson ed. Emily Robertson, 1895