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SIR DAVID WILKIE (1785-1841)

Abd-ul-Mejid (1823-1861), Sultan of Turkey


RCIN 407268

David Wilkie was one of the most successful painters of the Regency period and was greatly encouraged by the Regent. Born in Fife, trained in Edinburgh, Wilkie settled in London in 1805 and began regularly exhibiting at the Royal Academy small scale scenes of everyday life. At this time Dutch and Flemish old master paintings were hugely popular and expensive, as is demonstrated by the works collected at this time by George IV. Wilkie began his career consciously emulated the low-life scenes of Teniers and Ostade, but by the 1820s he had begun to set his sight rather higher, taking Rubens has his model, in particular the fluid and painterly character of Rubens’s oil sketches. Wilkie’s royal career involved succeeding Raeburn as Limner to the King in Scotland in 1823 and Lawrence as Principal Painter in Ordinary to the King in 1830; he remained in these positions until his death, although Queen Victoria disliked his work. Wilkie painted this portrait in Constantinople in 1840, intending it as a present for Queen Victoria, who, in the event, bought it. The Sulton is shown seated on a red and gold upholstered sofa, facing slightly to the right with his head turned half to the left; wearing dark dress uniform with knee breeches and silk stockings, a cape and a red fez, the Order of Glory about his neck; holding his sword with both hands over his knees.

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