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Patrons and collectors of art

Sir William Ross (1794-1860)

Prince Albert (1819-1861) Signed and dated 1839

Watercolour on ivory laid on card | 9.6 x 7.6 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 420268

The Art Union recorded in November 1839 that 'MR. W.  C. ROSS A.R.A. has been for some time at Brussels painting, for the Queen of England, portraits of her Majesty the Queen of Belgium and her two children. After presenting the pictures at Windsor, he received a sitting from Prince Albert' (Art Union, November 1839, I, p. 171). In fact, sittings for this miniature had commenced in October 1839 during the visit from Coburg of Prince Albert and Prince Ernest to England which lasted until 14 November. The couple's engagement took place on 15 October 1839; when Albert next returned it would be for his marriage to Queen Victoria in February 1840.

The Queen was entranced by Prince Albert's appearance: 'Albert really is quite charming, and so excessively handsome, such beautiful blue eyes, an exquisite nose, and such a pretty mouth, with delicate moustachios, and slight but very slight whiskers' (11 October 1839). She took the keenest interest in the progress of Ross's miniature, reporting: 'I went to see Ross begin Albert's picture, which I am very anxious about, and stayed in the room for ¾ of an hour' (29 October 1839). She watched Ross at work again a couple of days later: 'Went and stayed with dearest Albert while he was sitting for his picture, which will be like, I hope … At 2 I lunched with dearest Albert and Ma. We then went and looked at Ross's picture of Albert, which will be very like. I walked in the Gallery with Lehzen; and we twice looked in at Albert, sitting' (31 October 1839).

Further sittings took place on 4 and 5 November. On the latter occasion 'Both dearest Albert and Ernest … came to my room and I accompanied them to where Albert was to sit to Ross, and I stayed half an hour in the room and we had great fun indeed. Ernest brought a brush and some stuff with which he made Albert brush his whiskers in order that they might lie smoother' (5 November 1839). Although the format of the miniature is not that of a cabinet-miniature, it stood, like Ross's miniature of Queen Victoria's half-sister Princess Feodora (420416), on her writing table: 'The original of dearest Albert by Ross returned last night, and is now and always standing before me. It is quite speaking, and is my delight – the dear angelic, beautiful eyes looking at me so dearly. It was much admired in the drawing-room last night' (7 January 1840). It does not appear to have been housed with the rest of the miniature collection in the Royal Library, Windsor Castle, from 1870 onwards and never acquired the uniform style of Hatfield frame which characterises the remainder of the collection of miniatures.

Signed and dated on the reverse in ink: London / 1839 / Painted by W.  C. Ross A.R.A. / Miniature Painter to / The Queen.