This sensitive portrait of the young James Francis Edward Stuart, later known as the Old Pretender, is based on a portrait by Nicolas de Largilliére painted whilst James was living at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Paris. The head-type derives from the portrait by Largilliére painted in 1692, which shows James, aged four, wearing an elaborate helmet decorated with feathers and wearing the garter sash [private collection]. The scholar Edward Corp suggests the head-type of the 1692 portrait was based on a large family portrait painted by Largilliére in 1691, which although now lost is known through an engraving by Pieter Louis Van Schuppen.[1] The 1692 portrait, which unlike the earlier family group image shows James wearing the garter sash, was engraved by Gérard Edelinck and dispersed overseas in England to maintain support for the Stuart cause. This image of James would have remained the most up-to date likeness of the young prince until Largilliére painted him again in 1694 at the age of...

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This sensitive portrait of the young James Francis Edward Stuart, later known as the Old Pretender, is based on a portrait by Nicolas de Largilliére painted whilst James was living at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Paris.

The head-type derives from the portrait by Largilliére painted in 1692, which shows James, aged four, wearing an elaborate helmet decorated with feathers and wearing the garter sash [private collection]. The scholar Edward Corp suggests the head-type of the 1692 portrait was based on a large family portrait painted by Largilliére in 1691, which although now lost is known through an engraving by Pieter Louis Van Schuppen.[1] The 1692 portrait, which unlike the earlier family group image shows James wearing the garter sash, was engraved by Gérard Edelinck and dispersed overseas in England to maintain support for the Stuart cause. This image of James would have remained the most up-to date likeness of the young prince until Largilliére painted him again in 1694 at the age of six, and again the following year when he is shown beside his sister Princess Louise-Marie [National Portrait Gallery, London].

It is interesting to note that the artist of the present work decided not to follow the exact composition as painted by Largilliére, and instead replaced the blue sash with a more elaborate ermine-trimmed blue drape - a well-established symbol of royalty. This is the only recorded example of this compositional variation.

In light of King James II’s adopted Catholicism and then the birth of a Catholic heir, James Francis Edward Stuart, Protestant noblemen in England encouraged William III of Orange and his wife Mary to invade the country and seize the English throne. News that William of Orange had landed on the coast of Devon in 1688 soon reached James II who fled to France with his family, where he was welcomed by the French king Louis XIV. Louis XIV lent the Stuarts Chateau-Vieux de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, just west of Paris, as a temporary residence, and the family ended up residing there for twenty-five years.

[1] E. Corp, The King over the Water (Edinburgh, 2001), p.37.

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500 Years of British Art