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John Simpson (1811-71)

Princess Mary, Landgravine of Hesse-Cassel (1723-1772) Signed and dated 1846

Enamel on copper | 5.4 x 4.5 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 421812

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  • The original miniature on which this enamel is based is recorded in a photograph in the Royal Library, Windsor Castle, pasted into an album of engravings and annotated by Queen Mary with the identification 'Mary, daughter of King George II & wife of Frederick II, Landgrave of Hesse. My great great grandmother' (RCIN 610787). Another version (420244) gives the location of the original as at Gotha and bears the false signature of Ozias Humphry (1742 – 1810); it is the more accessible version which Simpson must have used for his enamel copy. Queen Mary's identification is without doubt correct. Mary of Hesse-Cassel, with her distinctive aquiline features, is depicted wearing the same diamond aigrette in a three-quarter-length portrait by George de Marées (1697 – 1776) of 1752 (Schloss Fasanerie). However, Humphry's authorship of the original is highly doubtful. His working life in London did not begin until 1764, his account books make no reference to Princess Mary, Landgravine of Hesse-Cassel, and he did not set out on his lengthy travels abroad, which in any case did not encompass the German principalities, until 1773, a year after the death of the Landgravine.

    Princess Mary (1723 – 72), fourth daughter of George II and Caroline of Ansbach, married, in 1740, as his first wife, Frederick II, Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, by whom she had three surviving sons.

    John Simpson (1811-after 1871) was trained as a porcelain painter at the Derby porcelain factory before moving to London in 1845. He soon established a practice as a miniature painter specialising in works on enamel, and fulfilled the first of many commissions for Queen Victoria in that year. He is last recorded describing himself at the end of his career as a 'photographic artist' (1871 census return); the date of his death is not known.

    Signed, dated and inscribed in paint on the blue counter-enamel: Amelia Caroline Mary / (Daughter of George II.) / Landgrave of Hesse. / by Simpson / 1846.
    Provenance

    Probably commissioned by Queen Victoria in 1846

  • Medium and techniques

    Enamel on copper

    Measurements

    5.4 x 4.5 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external)

    7.0 x 6.0 cm (frame, external)