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Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-73)

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, with Sir Robert Peel 1844

Oil on canvas | 149.7 x 98.1 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 404841

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  • Winterhalter was born in the Black Forest where he was encouraged to draw at school. In 1818 he went to Freiburg to study under Karl Ludwig Schüler and then moved to Munich in 1823, where he attended the Academy and studied under Josef Stieler, a fashionable portrait painter. Winterhalter was first brought to the attention of Queen Victoria by the Queen of the Belgians and subsequently painted numerous portraits at the English court from 1842 till his death.

    The portraits of the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel are based on their depiction in Winterhalter's painting of the reception of King Louis-Philippe (RCIN 401378), but here they are shown wearing trousers instead of knee-breeches.

    The Duke of Wellington, Prime Minister 1828-30 and Foreign Secretary 1834-5, served as a Cabinet Minister in Sir Robert Peel's second Cabinet. When he died in 1852 Queen Victoria wrote: 'his loss…is irreparable! He was the pride and the bon genie, as it were, of this country…the GREATEST man this country ever produced…the staunchest supporter the Crown ever had…to us a true, kind friend and most valuable adviser'.

    Sir Robert Peel was Chief Secretary for Ireland 1812-18; Home Secretary 1822-7 and 1828-30; and Prime Minister 1834-5 and 1841-6. Peel built up a fine collection of pictures at his house in Whitehall Gardens and in Drayton Manor. At Drayton he had a gallery of portraits of his contemporaries, to which Queen Victoria and Prince Albert contributed their portraits by Winterhalter. It was Peel who brought the estate of Osborne to their attention and started the negotiations which eventually led to its purchase. He also suggested that Queen Victoria should assume the title of Empress of India. Prince Albert greatly admired Peel and regularly sought his advice. Queen Victoria, however, at first found Peel 'such a cold, odd man' but in 1845 she wrote that he was 'a man of unbounded loyalty, courage, patriotism, and high-mindedness, and his conduct towards me has been chivalrous, almost. At his death in 1850 she wrote that Prince Albert 'has felt, and feels, Sir Robert's loss dreadfully. He feels he has lost a second father'.

    Signed: F Winterhalter. Inscribed on the back as copied by Winterhalter from his picture of the reception of King Louis-Philippe.
    Provenance

    Painted for Queen Victoria

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on canvas

    Measurements

    149.7 x 98.1 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external)

    182.5 x 131.5 x 14.5 cm (frame, external)

  • Category
    Object type(s)
  • Alternative title(s)

    Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1796-1852), with Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850)