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Princess Elizabeth, Landgravine of Hesse-Homburg, consort of Friedrich VI, Landgrave of Hesse-Homburg (1770-1840)

Decorative Panels, North Wall c.1790

RCIN 408652

Cross Gallery, Frogmore House

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  • For Queen Charlotte and her daughters, Frogmore House was used as a retreat where the family could enjoy their favourite pastimes including the study of plants, drawing, needlework, reading, music and painting. The panels by Princess Elizabeth in the Cross Gallery at Frogmore exemplify this interest in botany and creative pursuits. Princess Elizabeth, the third daughter of George III and Queen Charlotte, was an accomplished amateur artist. Her work included oil paintings, illustrations, silhouettes and all aspects of interior design, evident from these decorative panels.

    The Cross Gallery at Frogmore spans the breadth of the first floor and features six wall panels of painted flower garlands suspended across illusionistic windows, alternating with nine narrower panels of flower arrangements, with paper cut-outs and overdoors in the Etruscan style.

    For the larger floral panels, it is likely that Princess Elizabeth was inspired by the combination of trompe-l'oeil architectural details and floral arrangements seen downstairs at Frogmore in the Mary Moser room, completed by the latter artist for Queen Charlotte in the 1790s. In the panels, Princess Elizabeth combined accurately rendered flowers, of recognisable varieties, with illustionistic windows, to create a dynamic scheme that projects the viewer into the pictorial space.

    The black and brown cut-outs seen in the nine narrower panels represent Princess Elizabeth's interest in cut-out silhouettes. Along with her sister, the Princess Royal, it is possible that Elizabeth was introduced to the technique by Mrs Delany, a close friend of George III and Queen Charlotte who was renowned for her cut-out collages and silhouettes of flowers. After Mrs Delany's death, the Princesses may also have been influenced by James Lind, the family doctor at Windsor, who was a prolific portrait silhouettist. A book of Princess Elizabeth's silhouettes (RCIN 1047678) once owned by Lady Dorothea Banks shows similarities with the cut-outs in the Cross Gallery. The same motifs of cupid reappear in both examples and demonstrate experiments with poses and compositional arrangements.  Although it is not clear whether the two works have a direct working relationship, the book of silhouettes reveals a developmental process in the work of the Princess that might have been similarly applied to the design of the Cross Gallery scheme.

    The diarist Joseph Farington visited Frogmore with the architect James Wyatt in 1797 and noted the panels, writing 'The Princess Elizabeth is decorated [sic] a long narrow room with painted flowers, and subjects of children cut in paper, and finished by Tomkins'. Here, Tomkins refers to Peltro William Tomkins, an engraver who gave drawing lessons to the daughters of George III and Queen Charlotte and was later appointed 'Historical Engraver ' to the Queen in 1793.

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