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Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830)

Frederick, Duke of York (1763-1827) 1816

Oil on canvas | 275.7 x 180.2 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 404935

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Lawrence was the most fashionable and also the greatest portraitist of his generation. He was made Principal Painter to George III in 1792 after Reynolds’s death, and received occasional commissions; however it was only after 1814 that George IV began to employ him in earnest. This portrait was commissioned by George IV at a cost of 400 guineas and was exhibited at the Royal Acdemy in 1816. It seems to have been intended for what subsequently became the Waterloo Chamber and celebrates the Duke of York's achievement as an energetic and reforming Commander-in-Chief of the British Army during the Napoleonic Wars. The Duke is shown in Field-Marshal's uniform with the star of the Garter and the collars of the Garter and Bath, holding across his body the mantle of the Garter with his Marshal's baton in his left hand. The Waterloo Chamber is a great hall on the public route at Windsor Castle displaying portraits of those soldiers, sovereigns and diplomats responsible for the overthrow of Napoleon and the re-establishment of the monarchies and states of Europe thereafter. The concept began in 1814 when George IV used the opportunity of the Treaty of London to commission Lawrence to paint distinguished visitors. The group of portraits grew during the next decade as Lawrence continued to obtain portrait sittings at the various congresses following the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 and, in some cases, by making special journeys. Most of the twenty eight portraits were delivered after his death on 7 January 1830. By this time work was already begun of the space of the Waterloo Chamber created by covering a courtyard at Windsor Castle with a huge sky-lit vault; the room was completed during the reign of William IV (1830-7). The first illustration of the interior is provided by Joseph Nash (1809-78) in 1844 (RCIN 919785) and shows the arrangement which survives to this day: full-length portraits of warriors hang high, over the two end balconies and around the walls; at ground level full-length portraits of monarchs alternate with half-lengths of diplomats and statesmen.