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This work is currently on view in our display A Brush With Fashion: 500 Years of Male Portraiture until 20th May. 

We are grateful to Jacqui Ansell, Senior Lecturer Christie’s Education, for her commentary on men’s fashion which has been incorporated into this catalogue note. 

This self-assured portrait shows the young King George III when Prince of Wales. George would have been around 13 when this portrait was painted, although he appears much older due to his elegant attire and confident pose.

George is shown wearing a plum-coloured jacket and golden waistcoat, both richly embroidered with silver thread. These expensive, shimmering embellishments were made by the hands of highly skilled craftspeople and remind the viewer of George’s superior social position as the heir to an empire. Other aspects of his outfit signify his royal status, including the red velvet fur-lined robes, worn only by peers of the realm. The white fur lining is ermine (the winter coat...

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This work is currently on view in our display A Brush With Fashion: 500 Years of Male Portraiture until 20th May. 

We are grateful to Jacqui Ansell, Senior Lecturer Christie’s Education, for her commentary on men’s fashion which has been incorporated into this catalogue note. 

This self-assured portrait shows the young King George III when Prince of Wales. George would have been around 13 when this portrait was painted, although he appears much older due to his elegant attire and confident pose.

George is shown wearing a plum-coloured jacket and golden waistcoat, both richly embroidered with silver thread. These expensive, shimmering embellishments were made by the hands of highly skilled craftspeople and remind the viewer of George’s superior social position as the heir to an empire. Other aspects of his outfit signify his royal status, including the red velvet fur-lined robes, worn only by peers of the realm. The white fur lining is ermine (the winter coat of the stoat) which was both rare and expensive but is worn here in abundance. It was said that an ermine would rather die than have its pure-white fur soiled, which led to its association with royalty – moral purity being the underlying message.

George’s seriousness of purpose is further emphasised through the inclusion of the star of the Order of the Garter on his chest and the blue garter sash worn over his left shoulder. The Order of the Garter was one of the most distinguished chivalric orders in Europe and the Prince of Wales and monarch were always granted membership - the monarch as the head of the order accompanied by the Prince of Wales and an additional 24 Knights Companion. The garter star is in the shape of a sunburst, centred with a red cross on white background – the cross of St George. The blue garter belt encircles the central cross and bears the motto of the Order ‘honi soit qui mal y pense’ (‘shamed be whoever thinks ill of it’). The sash and star were introduced at the court of King Charles I when the wearing of cloaks would often hide the traditional George and dragon pendant. The star and sash were more versatile; the star could be worn on cloaks and the sash could be worn with armour. 
As the first British monarch from the house of Hannover to be born in England and speak fluent English, George endeared himself to the British people and became a popular king. The present work is one of the earliest recorded portraits of George as Prince of Wales. It was painted in around 1751, the year George became heir apparent following the unexpected death of his father, Frederick, Prince of Wales.

As the next in line to the throne, George’s likeness was in high demand and portraits such as this were circulated widely in print and painted form. The present portrait type, which exists in several versions, each with slight compositional differences, was evidently popular and was reproduced in mezzotint in 1751 and again in 1754; surviving impressions can be found in the collection at the National Portrait Gallery, London.[1] 
The artist of this work, David Lüders, was born in Germany and trained in Hamburg and then Paris. In 1737, whilst still in Germany, Lüders painted an impressive full-length portrait of Duke Karl I of Brunswick and Wolfenbüttel which shows the artists predilection for colour, pattern, and visually rich compositions. Following his training, Lüders travelled to Italy and then England in around 1748 where he remained until 1755 when he travelled to Moscow. His best-known works from his English period are the likenesses of Prince George, which he painted in varying sizes. A slightly larger variant of the present work, showing George with his right-hand gesturing towards a crown on a table, was previously in Marienberg Castle in Germany and is now in a private collection. Another work by Lüders depicting the Perry family and dated 1752 is in the collection at Penshurst.

George ascended to the throne as King George III in 1760 and his reign was one of triumphs and pitfalls. The king lived through some of the most significant events in the country’s history: the Seven Years’ War, American independence, the Napoleonic Wars and the abolition of the slave trade. He was known as a keen patron of the arts who gave large grants to the Royal Academy from his personal funds and purchased significant works by Raphael and Michelangelo for the Royal Collection. His later life was plagued by mental illness and in 1811 a regency was established under his eldest son, the Prince of Wales, who later became king on George’s death in 1820.

[1] [NPG D10802] and [NPG D7993].

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500 Years of British Art