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Sir Samuel Luke Fildes (1843-1927)

King Edward VII (1841-1910) Signed and dated? 1902

Oil on canvas | 265.7 x 170.1 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 404553

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  • This is the State portrait of King Edward VII commissioned from the artist Sir Luke Fildes in 1901. Reminiscent of the state portrait of George IV by Sir Thomas Lawrence, the King stands, an imposing figure, raised on a dais, holding the Sceptre in his right hand; the Imperial State Crown and the Orb rest on a table on the left. He wears a royal mantle over Field-Marshal's uniform, with the sash and badge of the Royal Victorian Order and the Garter Star.

    On his accession, Edward VII sought the advice of Sir Edward Poynter as to who should be chosen to paint the State Portrait and followed his recommendation in selecting Luke Fildes. Sittings took place at Fildes’s studio at Melbury Road, where, the artist reported, the King never assumed the posture of the portrait, but sat in an armchair on a dais (LV Fildes, 1968, p160). They were suspended in November when the King went to Sandringham and resumed again early the following March. The sitter suggested alterations to the outstretched arm and also expressed the view that he had been made to look too short, and the painting was returned to the studio from the Royal Academy for changes to be made. Fildes also reported that Queen Alexandra visited his studio to examine the painting. The strong north light in the studio had exacerbated the tendency for the King’s eyelids to droop but Queen Alexandra, on seeing the painting, commented: ‘I like it very much. I think it is very good. I know that expression so well. It is just like him when he begins to feel drowsy.’ The King’s heavy eyelids are almost perceptible in an informal study for this portrait presented to George V by the artist’s son, in 1927 (RCIN 403406).

    It was anticipated that about thirty copies would be made for distribution to embassies and institutions around the world, and that Fildes would superintend the process and pass each one. However, many more copies were ordered than originally anticipated and Fildes recorded that he found this responsibility an ordeal. Copying was done by a team of artists working under the artist’s supervision in one of the galleries at St James’s Palace. Fildes also received a fee from Agnews for the right to engrave the portrait; apparently three times the sum received for painting the portrait itself. In early 1902 it was agreed that replicas should be supplied to Embassies in ‘Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Rome, St Petersburg, Constantinople, Washington, Madrid and to HM Legations at Peking, Berlin, Tokio & Tehran’. From 1903-7 copies were produced by artists including Moussa Ayoub (1873-1955), John Lewis Reilly (active 1857-1906), William Logsdail (1859-1944) and George Sephton (active 1885-1923)

    The Royal Collection holds a posthumous autograph version by Fildes commissioned by Queen Alexandra, 1912 (RCIN 405660), copies by Reilly, 1903-6 (RCIN 401161) and James Malcolm Stewart, 1902-3 (RCIN 402732). A replica, given by George V, is in the National Portrait Gallery (NPG 1691). A replica recorded as by Fildes in St Bartholomew’s Hospital Museum and Archive (SBHX7/45).

    Exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1902.


    Commissioned by King Edward VII

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on canvas


    265.7 x 170.1 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external)

    281.2 x 182.7 cm (inc paint surface turned back)

    311.0 x 215.8 x 19.2 cm (frame, external)

  • Alternative title(s)

    State Portrait of Edward VII (1841-1910)