The relationship between the Prince Regent and the artist Richard Cosway, his ‘Pictor Primarius Serenissimi Walliae Principas’ (Principle Painter to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales) had both a practical and personal side Cosway’s first portrait of George dates to 1780, when the Prince was eighteen. This was followed by portraits of his beloved mistress and morganatic wife, Mrs. Fitzherbert and others in the Prince’s immediate and intimate circle. The art-loving Prince soon began to depend on the eccentric and flamboyant artist to portray himself and those around him.. Despite the twenty-year age gap between the two men, a close relationship blossomed, with Cosway trusted to produce intimate portraits of the prince.

This portrait of George as Prince Regent dates to circa 1800, his hairstyle, worn close to his head. This is similar to the hairstyle sported in the ‘Maria Fitzherbert Jewel’, which was one of a pair commissioned from Cosway and exchanged between the couple.[1] The...

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The relationship between the Prince Regent and the artist Richard Cosway, his ‘Pictor Primarius Serenissimi Walliae Principas’ (Principle Painter to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales) had both a practical and personal side Cosway’s first portrait of George dates to 1780, when the Prince was eighteen. This was followed by portraits of his beloved mistress and morganatic wife, Mrs. Fitzherbert and others in the Prince’s immediate and intimate circle. The art-loving Prince soon began to depend on the eccentric and flamboyant artist to portray himself and those around him.. Despite the twenty-year age gap between the two men, a close relationship blossomed, with Cosway trusted to produce intimate portraits of the prince.

This portrait of George as Prince Regent dates to circa 1800, his hairstyle, worn close to his head. This is similar to the hairstyle sported in the ‘Maria Fitzherbert Jewel’, which was one of a pair commissioned from Cosway and exchanged between the couple.[1] The prince was buried with the pair to this jewel, portraying Maria, which was around his neck when he was interred.

Alongside portrait miniatures, Cosway also provided portrait drawings. These had become fashionable during the late eighteenth century for many miniaturists, including John Smart (who also used preparatory drawings in his studio) and Henry Edridge. The size and texture of the paper allowed miniaturists to be more expansive in composition and technique. By the same token, their patrons appreciated the freedom of expression which brought them closer to the ‘genius’ of the artist. ‘The Cosway Inventory of 1820: Listing Unpaid Commissions and the Contents of 20 Stratford Place, Oxford Street, London’ was published in full in a Walpole Society article in 2004 and shows a number of these drawings included in the lists, including portraits of the prince for his friends.[2] The present work was given to the Countess of Mornington, whom the prince would have known well. Her husband, William Wellesley-Pole, 3rd Earl of Mornington, was the elder brother of the Duke of Wellington. Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington became the principal executor of George IV, having been a key figure in both military and political spheres throughout his reign.

This present work, in which the prince sports armour, portrays him as ‘defender of the nation’. This portrait reflects the fact that the prince would one day be king. By 1811, when his father George III was unable to rule due to mental illness, George became Prince Regent. His whole life was engineered towards his eventual role as king and in 1820, upon the death of his father, he became George IV.

[1] Sold Christie’s, London, 6 July 2017, lot 14 (for £341,000)

[2] S. Lloyd, The Volume of the Walpole Society, Vol. 66 (2004), pp. 163-217

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500 Years of British Art