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George IV

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    1830 (dated)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Cave, J. (modeller)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Wax on a gilt-wood base

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Rupert Gunnis, Esq.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 120, The Wolfson Galleries, case 7

Object Type
This small wax full-length portrait of George IV is based on the oil painting by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), now in the Wallace Collection, London. It was probably originally placed under a glass dome, as was another (undated) wax by J. Cave of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert seated on a sofa, recorded on the art market in 1974 (present whereabouts unknown).

This wax may well have been reproduced in some numbers, and was a posthumous portrait made to be sold after the monarch's death (George IV died on 26 June 1830; the wax is dated 1 July of that year). This is an interesting example of a wax sculpture in that it is a reduced three-dimensional version of a two-dimensional original. The relaxed pose of George IV, as well as its small scale, imply it was intended for the drawing room, rather than for a gallery or grander context.

Little has been discovered to date about the 'J. Cave' who signed this work. He worked in both wax and ivory, and was based in London; he seems to have been active between 1820 and 1850. The present piece is precisely dated 1 July 1830; another wax by Cave, also in the V&A, is a bust of George IV dated 8 October 1830. He also executed a wax of William IV on a sofa (private collection, London); a version of this was reproduced in Parian porcelain.

Materials & Making
Wax portaits had become popular during the18th century in Britain, but some artists continued the tradition in this material during the early 19th century, especially before the invention of photography. They were often modelled from the life; a mould could be made from this initial model, from which further copies could be cast. The waxes were small and portable, and the nature of the material meant that they were extremely naturalistic. Sometimes they were coloured, and extra items added, such as textiles, seed pearls or coloured glass, to increase the life-like appearance of the portrayal.

Physical description

Originally this would have been covered by a glass dome

Place of Origin

London (made)


1830 (dated)


Cave, J. (modeller)

Materials and Techniques

Wax on a gilt-wood base


Height: 16.3 cm with stand, Width: 18.5 cm with stand, Depth: 13.8 cm with stand

Object history note

Modelled in London by J. Cave (active 1820-1850)

Bequeathed by Rupert Gunnis

Descriptive line

Portrait statuette of George IV

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Shawe-Taylor, D. The Georgians London, 1990, p. 82, fig. 50.
cf. Pyke, Bibliographical Dictionary p. 26

Labels and date

British Galleries:
This figure shows George IV as an older, stouter man than the figure in the marble bust displayed nearby. George IV is shown sitting on a heavily draped sofa, a reminder of the vast sums he spent on the redecoration of Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace. The pose is based on a portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830). [27/03/2003]

Production Note

Signed and dated 1830


Sculpture; Portraits; Royalty


Sculpture Collection

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