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Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-73)

Queen Victoria with Prince Arthur Signed and dated 1850

Oil on canvas | 59.5 x 75.1 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 405963

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  • Osborne House provided the royal couple with the private family home they had sought for some time. The setting for this intimate portrait of the Queen with her third son, Prince Arthur, who was only a few months old, was the Upper Terrace, designed by Prince Albert and Ludwig Gruner to take advantage of the views over the Solent. Although sittings are not mentioned in the Queen's Journal, it was probably painted between the family's arrival at Osborne on 18 July 1850 and the Prince's birthday in August. At around this time Queen Victoria wrote, 'Little Arthur is a magnificent baby & begins to sit up very nicely." (Journal, 22 July, 1850). Several years later in a revealing letter to her husband, she wrote of Prince Arthur, 'This Child is dear, dearer than any of the others put together, thus after you he is the dearest and most precious object to me on Earth' (McClintock 1945, p.25-6).

    Queen Victoria's Journal and accounts reveal her strong interest in fashion, although her personal style was generally simple and she was cautious of novelties. Her day dress in this painting is formed of transparent muslin, with a flounced skirt. It would have been worn with multiple petticoats to produce the fashionably wide silhouette (the use of crinolines not yet having become widespread). The dress fabric has been warp-printed with bouquets of flowers, a technique in which the threads are printed before being woven and which produces the blurred appearance that was particularly in vogue at this date. Queen Victoria wears her hair draped over the ears and fastened in a knot at the nape of the neck. Her muslin and ribbon cap is worn far back on the head and has long blue streamers which hang around the shoulders.

    The sizeable vase prominently displayed in the background, its sides decorated with four sphinxes, was designed by Gruner in 1849 and is formed from several pieces of cast cement. Usually the vase contained flowering plants (as seen in a watercolour by Leitch of 1850, RCIN 919852), but Winterhalter has filled it for artistic effect with a large 'Agave Americana' which grew nearby, providing a contrast with the soft textures of the costume and flowers in the foreground. Queen Victoria wrote of this painting that it was 'perhaps one of Winterhalter's most charming pictures' (Journal, 26 August, 1850). It was placed in the Queen's Sitting Room at Osborne, a room with a balcony overlooking the terrace shown in the picture.

    Text adapted from Victoria and Albert: Art & Love, London, 2010
    Provenance

    Given to Prince Albert by Queen Victoria, on his birthday, 26th August 1850 [Victoria & Albert: Art & Love, London, 2010, pg 460]

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on canvas

    Measurements

    59.5 x 75.1 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external)

    84.2 x 96.0 x 6.0 cm (frame, external)

  • Alternative title(s)

    Queen Victoria (1819-1901) with Prince Arthur, later Duke of Connaught (1850-1942)