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Thomas Sandby (1721-98)

The Dutch House, Kew c.1771-2

Pencil, pen and ink and watercolour | 36.1 x 69.0 cm (sheet of paper) | RCIN 914712

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  • A watercolour showing Kew Palace from the North-East; from the centre to the right a long avenue through which the river and Syon House are seen. In the left foreground are five royal children, playing with a go-cart and accompanied by a lady; in centre, three horses. The Dutch House - which survives today as Kew Palace - was a subsidiary royal residence immediately next to the White House. This view is from the paddock to the north-east; the tree-lined riverside walk runs across the centre of the composition. The red brick house had been built in 1631 by Samuel Fortrey, a merchant. In 1728 the property was leased to George II’s wife, Queen Caroline. George III - who occasionally used the house in the 1750s - inherited the lease in 1760 and finally purchased the house and grounds in 1781. With increasing numbers in the royal nursery it provided supplementary accommodation, particularly for younger members of the royal family. In May 1771 the two eldest boys - the Prince of Wales and Prince Frederick, aged respectively 9 and 8 - were promoted from the royal nursery to be put in the charge of governors. While in London they occupied the new north wing at Buckingham House and when at Richmond they were based in the Dutch House, which was soon transformed into a ‘miniature academy’ and became known as the Princes House. In this watercolour the Prince of Wales, identifiable by his Garter sash, is seated in the carriage at left. The other children in the group are presumably his younger brothers: Princes Frederick (born 1763), William (born 1765), Edward (born 1767) and (in reins) Ernest (born 1771). Early in 1773 the Duchess of Northumberland described how, when in London, the three elder Princes and the three young Princesses ‘all go once a day round the Garden at the Queens House’. Their routine was evidently similar when they were in the country. The house was close to the site of the Castellated Palace. When building work commenced on that project in 1801, the White House was demolished and its contents - including the Zoffany family group and paintings by Canaletto, Sebastiano Ricci and Zuccarelli - were transferred (temporarily, it was thought) to the Dutch House. Following the recurrence of the King’s illness in 1804, in the absence of any other suitable residence the Dutch House was used as his convalescent home. It became gradually clear that the Castellated Palace would never be completed, and that the royal family’s use of the Dutch House would continue. While the increasingly blind and sick King moved back to Windsor (after a final visit to Kew in January 1806), the Queen divided her time between Buckingham House, Windsor and the Dutch House. There, on 11 July 1818, she witnessed the marriages of two of her sons: the Duke of Clarence (later William IV) to Princess Adelaide, and the Duke of Kent to the Dowager Princess of Leiningen; and four months later, on 17 November she died in her bedroom at Kew. Although the Prince Regent ordered the demolition of the ‘Old Red House . . . in wch the Queen died’, as being ‘unworthy of Repair’, the order was not carried out. Michelangelo Rooker’s engraving after this watercolour, published in 1776, is inscribed P. Sandby delin. As with so much of the work of the Sandby brothers, it is likely to have been a collaborative effort, with the architecture and landscape setting by Thomas and the figures by Paul. The watercolour does not appear to have been a royal commission for it was purchased by the Prince of Wales in 1804. Unusually for the watercolours in the Prince’s collection, it was already housed in a ‘burnished gold frame’ at the time of acquisition and remained framed until it was transferred from St James’s Palace to the Windsor Print Room in December 1940. The original frame has not survived. Catalogue entry adapted from George III & Queen Charlotte: Patronage, Collecting and Court Taste, London, 2004
    Provenance

    Colnaghi; from whom purchased by the Prince of Wales (later George IV), 26 June 1804 (7 gns.; RA GEO/27267)

  • Medium and techniques

    Pencil, pen and ink and watercolour

    Measurements

    36.1 x 69.0 cm (sheet of paper)