Sunday, December 5, 2010

Painting of the Day, “The Music Party,” Philippe Mercier, 1733

The Music Party
Philippe Mercier, 1733
The Royal Collection
Philippe Mercier, painter and librarian to the Prince of Wales from 1728-1738, often sketched and painted scenes of daily life at the royal residences. This scene of a music party from 1733 shows a typical day in the life of the Royal Family of the Eighteenth Century. Here, we see Frederick, The Prince of Wales playing the cello. He is accompanied by his sister, Princess Anne, playing the harpsichord. Anne had been taught by Handel himself and by all accounts was just as skilled a player as he instructor. Also with them are Princess Caroline on the lute and Princess Amelia who reads aloud from a book of Milton’s poetry.

This painting was criticized for a number of reasons. First of all, Frederick’s love of playing the cello was considered unseemly and not appropriate for a man of his station. Similarly, the princesses are attired in costumes which were considered common and not the stuff of royalty. Still, Mercier argued that he depicted the scene as it actually happened.

One of three versions of this same scene, the other two, painted after this one, show the sitters in a more opulent outdoor setting and in costumes which were generally considered to be more fitting to their royal dignity.

1 comment:

SherR said...

Prince Frederick was a remarkable person; he detested the 'stuffiness' of his parents and made choices based on thought rather than snobbery. So - his choice to play the cello would have been one he made out of artistic sense, without concern for 'what the neighbours think'.

Frederick was also a friend of the poet Alexander Pope, who was considered a 'person non gratia' by the Hanoverian rulers at the time. But Pope was England's uncrowned Poet Leaureate and Frederick appreciated his talent.

Pope always kept a pet dog; he called each one 'Bounce' in memory of his first beloved dog (by that name). He gave one of the pups of one Bounce to Frederick with the inscription on the collar
"I am his highness' dog at Kew
"Tell me sir, who's do are you?"