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Princess Elizabeth, Landgravine of Hesse-Homburg (1770-1840)

Flower piece with bird's nest dated 14 Nov 1792

Watercolour and bodycolour on vellum | 71.0 x 51.0 cm (sight) (sight) | RCIN 452491

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  • A watercolour showing a still life of flowers in full bloom. The flowers, including lillies and hollyhocks, are shown in a bulbous vase, with a bird's nest resting on the table to the left.
    Inscribed: Eliza fecit Nov 14th 1792 

    Of all the royal children Princess Elizabeth was the most prolific and certainly the most accomplished; her decorative schemes for Frogmore were bold and extensive. She decorated the Cross Gallery at Frogmore House in the mid 1790s with an ambitious mural scheme comprising painted flower-garlands in swags, in the style of Mary Moser, and panels of paper cut-outs, in the making of which she may have been tutored by Mrs Delany. Princess Elizabeth also decorated two other rooms at Frogmore in the chinoiserie manner, and although her schemes no longer exist they were illustrated by Pyne. Her evident ambition and capability are clear from a contemporary diary description by Mrs Harcourt, the wife of General - afterwards 3rd Earl - Harcourt, equerry to the King: ‘Princess Elizth again is quite different from her two Elder Sisters. She has great good humour - quick feelings - a great deal of genius - an Imagination full of fire - much resolution - much presence of mind - the same surprising Memory which runs thro’ the family - . . . She has a turn for conversation & a peculiarity of Ideas which is just entitled to be called wit. She writes as she speaks - often full of humorous conceits’. In a diary entry of February 1797 Farington notes that ‘the Princess Elizabeth has the most influence with the King & Queen. She has the best understanding of any of the Princesses’.

    This accomplished work is a copy of a still life by the flower painter Margaret Meen, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum (Museum number 520-1874), but which may once have belonged to Queen Charlotte. The accounts for the royal nursery include a payment, on 23 March 1792, to ‘M. Meen’ for Drawings (£22 12s), which may have included that painting. Meen, who exhibited her work at the Royal Academy between 1775 and 1785, founded and illustrated a periodical in 1790, which in the event only ran to two issues, entitled Exotic Plants from the Royal Gardens at Kew. In Queen Charlotte’s diary entry for 8 December 1789 she noted: ‘I drew with Miss Mean from 10 till one’. In 1822 Princess Elizabeth wrote affectionately to Margaret Meen from her married home in Germany.

    Catalogue entry adapted from George III & Queen Charlotte: Patronage, Collecting and Court Taste, London, 2004

    Painted for Queen Charlotte; retained in the Collection after her death (at Buckingham Palace in 1866)

  • Medium and techniques

    Watercolour and bodycolour on vellum


    71.0 x 51.0 cm (sight) (sight)

    87.5 x 67.5 cm (frame, external)