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George III, King of the United Kingdom (1738-1820)

A ruined Corinthian temple in a landscape c. 1758-60

RCIN 980206

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Drawing was an activity that interested George III from an early age. One of his most influential and long-standing art tutors was the Suffolk-born artist Joshua Kirby (1716 – 74) who served as his ‘Designer in Perspective’ until 1765. Forty-five black and white chalk drawings made by George III – under Kirby’s tutelage – are preserved in the Royal Library. In many cases, the drawings combine examples of real buildings (often copied from printed sources) with invented landscapes. These drawings were the results of Kirby’s training in the portrayal of three-dimensional forms on a flat surface.

Here, the temple of Baal Sharmin at Palmyra has been copied directly from an engraving in Robert Wood’s published volume The Ruins of Palmyra, illustrated below. A copy of Wood’s volume, issued in 1753, was in the prince’s library. This drawing demonstrates the Prince’s talent for detailed observation and artistic invention by transplanting the ancient Syrian temple into a typically English imaginary landscape, with winding river and sailing ship.

Robert Wood (1717 – 71), Ruins of Palmyra, 1753, plate XXXI ©