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A group surrounds a harpsichord playing instruments

Many members of the royal family were talented musicians

Louis-François Roubiliac (1702-62)

George Frederick Handel, (1685-1759) 1739

RCIN 35255

Queen's Presence Chamber, Windsor Castle

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By the time Handel sat for this portrait, he had enjoyed considerable success in London. He had composed more than 40 operas in Italian and the great series of oratorios in English on Old Testament themes was already well under way. He had provided the music for George II’s coronation in 1727 and at the time he was sitting for this bust he was at work on the funeral anthem for Queen Caroline.

The bust was given to George III by John Christopher Smith the younger, the son of Handel’s manager and principal copyist, and one of the composer’s favourite pupils. He inherited many of Handel’s possessions that had been left to his father. Smith the younger was later appointed music teacher to Princess Augusta, widow of Frederick, Prince of Wales. He presented this bust, a harpsichord, and Handel’s ‘Musick Books’ (the composer’s manuscripts) to George III c.1772–4. The latter were presented to the British Library by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1957