Not currently on display at the V&A

Caroline of Brunswick (1768-1821), Queen of George IV

Oil Painting
1798 (painted)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Caroline of Brunswick, (1768-1821), was painted in 1798, two years after the sitter’s separation from her husband, George, Prince of Wales. It is the earliest of three portraits of Caroline by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) and is typical of his style which highlights intimacy, poetic feeling and a sitter’s easy grace. The broad, robust brushstrokes are also typical of his work as is its highly-polished finish. Lawrence was the most celebrated portraitist of his age, both at home and abroad, and was patronised by international statesmen and society figures as well as royalty and military leaders.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Oil on canvas
Brief Description
Oil painting, Caroline of Brunswick, (1768-1821), Queen of George IV, British School, 1798
Physical Description
A three-quarter length portrait of a woman standing and facing, with her right arm raised to her head and resting on a bank. She wears a white short-sleeved dress and bonnet with flowers and holds a scarf in her right hand.
Dimensions
  • Approx., including frame height: 170cm
  • Approx., including frame width: 146cm
  • Approx. depth of frame depth: 20cm
  • Frame height: 1710mm
  • Frame width: 1472mm
  • Frame depth: 216mm
framed dimensions are approximate because taken from object when crated 01/03/2006
Style
Credit line
Bequeathed by Mrs White
Object history
Bequeathed by Mrs White, 1877
Historical context
This oil painting on canvas is a portrait of Caroline of Brunswick (1768-1821). Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel married her first cousin, George, Prince of Wales, (later George IV) in 1795 and although she was abandoned by her husband in 1796 she remained Princess of Wales until 1820, and on George’s accession to the throne in 1820, his Queen, until her death in August 1821. It is evident that the portrait depicts the sitter two years after her separation from her husband as the date ‘1798’ is painted on the back of the canvas.



The portrait is representative of Lawrence’s style which highlights intimacy, poetic feeling and a sitter’s easy grace. The broad, robust brushstrokes are typical of his work as is its highly-polished finish. The sitter’s wistful expression is reflected in the romantic landscape in which she is set, with dark foliage and rocks in the foreground, left, and a stormy sky overhead.



Caroline’s private life was complex: when she married George the Prince of Wales in 1795, he was already secretly married to Mrs Fitzherbert and only agreed to the marriage to salvage his financial situation. He abandoned Caroline after the birth of their first daughter, Princess Charlotte, in 1796, and she set up an alternative court at Montague House in Blackheath. She proceeded to lead a life of liberal behaviour and exotic travel around the Mediterranean, including Jerusalem, Ephesus and Constantinople. George ascended the throne in 1820 and the same year she was tried and acquitted in the House of Lords for adultery. She was refused entry to George’s coronation in July 1821 and died only a few weeks later; her body was returned to Brunswick.



This is the earliest of three portraits Lawrence painted of the Queen (see also Queen Caroline, when Princess of Wales, with her daughter, Princess Charlotte, (1801) Royal Collection, RCIN 407292 (Kenneth Garlick, Sir Thomas Lawrence: A Complete Catalogue of the Oil Paintings, Oxford: Phaidon, 1989, no. 168b) and Caroline Amelia Elizabeth of Brunswick, (1804), National Portrait Gallery, NPG 244, (Garlick, no. 168c)). It was given to Lady Anne Hamilton, one of the Queen’s Maids of Honour, in 1820 and bequeathed to the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria & Albert Museum) by a Mrs White in 1877.



There are two references to copies of this work. Garlick notes that the artist and art administrator at the South Kensington Museum, Thomas Armstrong, painted a copy (Garlick, Sir Thomas Lawrence, London: Routledge & Paul, 1954, p. 31). In 1932, George C. Mackay, attorney and counsellor at law, wrote to the museum that, ‘we have in our collection of pictures [Security Building, St. Louis, Missouri] Sir Thomas Lawrence’s Queen Caroline of Brunswick which is a duplicate of the canvas in your museum’.



Lawrence was the most celebrated portraitist of the Regency and Napoleonic age, both in England and abroad. His prodigious talent was early recognised when George III appointed him painter-in-ordinary in 1792 at the age of twenty three. Soon after, in 1794, the Royal Academy of Art elected him as a full academician. He later became its President in 1820, having been knighted in 1815. Lawrence was known for his technical brilliance and as well as painting oils, which showcase his bravura brushwork, he excelled in painting pastel portraits.

Production
the date is given as 1798 because the painting is dated 1798 on the back
Subject depicted
Summary
Caroline of Brunswick, (1768-1821), was painted in 1798, two years after the sitter’s separation from her husband, George, Prince of Wales. It is the earliest of three portraits of Caroline by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) and is typical of his style which highlights intimacy, poetic feeling and a sitter’s easy grace. The broad, robust brushstrokes are also typical of his work as is its highly-polished finish. Lawrence was the most celebrated portraitist of his age, both at home and abroad, and was patronised by international statesmen and society figures as well as royalty and military leaders.
Bibliographic References
  • Dayot, Armand, La Peinture Anglaise, 1908, p.79
  • Abridged Catalogue of Oil Paintings, 1908, plate 15
  • Armstrong, Sir Walter, Lawrence, London, 1913, p.120
  • Garlick, Kenneth, Sir Thomas Lawrence, London, 1954, p.31
  • Garlick, Kenneth, A catalogue of the paintings, drawings and pastels of Sir Thomas Lawrence, Walpole Society, 1962-64, v.39, pp. 50-51
  • Garlick, Kenneth, Sir Thomas Lawrence, Oxford and London, 1989, p. 165
Collection
Accession Number
121-1877

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record createdMarch 1, 2006
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