Sunday, December 30, 2012

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

The Music Party
Philippe Mercier, 1733
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

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.

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