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Zoomable Image of Portrait miniature of Queen Mary II (1662-1694) wearing robes of state, pearl necklace and drop-pearl earrings, her hair worn curled and decorated with pearls

Portrait miniature of Queen Mary II (1662-1694) wearing robes of state, pearl necklace and drop-pearl earrings, her hair worn curled and decorated with pearls

Christian Richter (1678-1732)

Portrait miniature of Queen Mary II (1662-1694) wearing robes of state, pearl necklace and drop-pearl earrings, her hair worn curled and decorated with pearls

Christian Richter (1678-1732)

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Price:

£2,800

Materials:

Watercolour on vellum

Dimensions:

Oval, 2.5 in (63 mm) high

Frame:

Gilt-metal frame with pierced spiral surmount, glazed with bevelled glass

Singular portrait miniatures of Mary without her husband William are rare, but this may have been painted for a Stuart supporter in the same vein as extant double portraits which survive in the Royal Collection...

This portrait miniature of Mary II derives from a full-length State Portrait by Godfrey Kneller, commissioned by William III and Mary II in 1690, in the Royal Collection [RCIN 405674]. Kneller’s portrait of the queen was widely copied and circulated, and a head and shoulders variant was engraved by both Peter Vanderbank and John Smith in the mid-1690s.[1] The popularity of Mary’s image continued long after her death with mezzotints being produced by John Faber Junior in the 1730s [Royal Collection RCIN 603241].

The Swedish artist Christian Richter was only sixteen years old at the time of Mary II’s premature death and did not arrive in England until 1704. Richter, however, known for his replica portraits in miniature after Sir Godfrey Kneller, Samuel Cooper and Sir Anthony van Dyck, undoubtedly painted this miniature posthumously, several years after Mary’s death in 1694.[2] Singular portrait miniatures of Mary without her husband William are rare, but this may have been painted for a Stuart supporter in the same vein as extant double portraits which survive in the Royal Collection, as well as an example in the Mauritshuis, The Hague. [3]

Mary was the eldest child of James II and his first wife Anne Hyde. Both of her parents were converts to Roman Catholicism, although Mary was brought up as a protestant and was strictly educated by the bishop of Winchester, the bishop of London and the archdeacon of Exeter. Mary’s mother died when she was nine and much of her upbringing was left to a governess, Lady Frances Villiers. She was taught drawing from about the age of ten by Richard Gibson, known as Dwarf Gibson at court, a successful miniature painter who for a time was ‘picturemaker’, limner to the King, before being replaced by Nicholas Dixon. Richard Gibson and Mary remained close throughout their lives and Gibson and his wife stayed with Mary in the Netherlands for her wedding.

In 1677 she married her cousin William of Orange. Although her marriage to William had been arranged when she was eight years old, she cried for two days at the formal announcement, disliking his hooked nose, his blackened teeth and the fact that he was five inches shorter than her.[4] William was indifferent to his new wife and within two years he had taken a mistress, Elizabeth Villiers. Over the next two years Mary miscarried twice in 1678 and 1679 and did not conceive again. In the Netherlands Mary led a relatively solitary life, filling her time with needlework, religious devotion and card games.

In the latter half of the 1680s protestant noblemen in England became concerned with James II’s increasing devotion to Catholicism. He tried to convert Mary by sending her Catholic literature, including a printed conversation of her mother’s last conversation. Mary became troubled by the birth of the Prince of Wales in 1688, a Catholic heir to the English throne, and supposed that the child was suppositious. She quickly agreed with her husband that the only way to protect England, by restoring Protestantism, was to invade.

Mary arrived in England on 12th February 1689 and was crowned joint monarch with her husband at Westminster Abbey on 11th April. During William’s absences, including his visit to Ireland which was still being ruled by James II, Mary ruled the country with nine principal ministers of state. Although her husband did not consider her capable of overseeing the country on her own, she proved herself intelligent and able to mould her advisors as she saw necessary.

Mary’s political allegiances lay with the Tories, whereas William preferred the Whigs. After her premature death at the age of thirty-two of smallpox, she was the first monarch whose coffin was accompanied by both houses of parliament on its journey to Westminster Abbey. Mary was described by Whig leader John Somers as ‘the best woman in the world’.[5]

During her fatal illness, William risked his own health by remaining at her side. Although their marriage was not romantic, William was said to have been distraught over the death of his wife. When William died several years later, having been thrown from his horse, Mary’s wedding ring and a lock of her hair were found under his clothes, worn close to his heart.

Images of Mary throughout her short reign and life remained important even after her death. A wax effigy was put on display at Westminster Abbey so that her image would live on to all those visiting her tomb. Although Mary had stated before her death that she wanted an inexpensive funeral, the total cost came to £100,000.

Richter was born into a family of artists in Stockholm, Sweden in 1678, the son of Hans Davidson Richter, assessor of the Goldsmith’s corporation there, and brother of landscape painter Johann Richter and the medallist Bengst Richter. Richter quickly found his feet, learning initially the goldsmith craft followed by medal engraving under Arvid Karlsteen. By 1700 Richter is believed to have been studying under Elias Brenner, the leading Swedish miniaturist of the age. Richter soon proceeded to Berlin then Dresden, seeking patronage by utilising contacts from previous acquaintances. Arriving in London in 1704, he quickly established himself as a miniaturist, cleverly seizing the opportunity to replicate the work of contemporaries such as Hans Hysing and Michael Dahl, who would have been eager to expand their own reputation. We can gather through Vertue’s notebooks that Richter and Dahl developed an emphatic bond- most likely due to their shared native land, and the latter; “…encouraged him & promoted him all he cou’d by which means he became really an excellent Master…really better than any of his contemporaries”

Soon after 1715 however, Richter developed a terrible illness which left him with facial disfiguration, and he began to be increasingly withdrawn. No longer feeling capable to paint from life, Richter took to concentrating on replicas of portraits, including portraits of Oliver Cromwell after Samuel Cooper, versions of which are in the Wallace Collection [M85] and the Royal Collection [RCIN 420072].



[1] Engravings in the National Portrait Gallery, London: NPG D32780; NPG D32779.

[2] Christian Richter after Godfrey Kneller, portrait of Caroline of Ansbach in the Royal Collection [RCIN 420653]; Richter after Samuel Cooper, portrait of Oliver Cromwell in the Wallace Collection [M85]; Richter after Anthony Van Dyck, Self-Portrait, sold at Kunsthaus Lempertz, Cologne, 13 November 2015.

[3] This has been attributed to Peter Hoadley, who worked in the early eighteenth century.

[4] ODNB online.

[5] W. Cobbett, Cobbett’s Parliamentary History of England, vol. V (London, 1809), p.632.

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