Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, with his Family, 1884

Another dreadful bore awaits me. The Queen has sent over her new court painter, Herr Sohn, who must produce a family group of the Duke, myself, and our two eldest children! This is an aggravation of sorrow that fell upon me like a shell. I am simply furious: besides hating the long sittings, I dislike still more having my pig-like face reproduced on canvas and handed over to posterity. When I was a nice, lively, thin and fresh young lady, I did not mind it so much, but now! His first sketch of me is monstrous as he was provided by the Queen with the most atrocious photographs that were ever made of me. I was so horrified that I could not conceal it and the poor man does not quite know what he is to think about the whole business.

So wrote the Duchess of Edinburgh in an 1884 letter.  The result of the sitting of which she complained so bitterly is below, a portrait which is the work of Carl Rudolph Sohn (1845-1908), the son of Carl Ferdinand Sohn (1805-1867).  Queen Victoria was familiar with the work of both father and son Sohn and had dispatched the younger Sohn to paint the portrait of Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh (1844-1900) and his family.

The Family of Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh
Carl Sohn, 1884
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Via The Royal Collection Trust
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Alfred was Queen Victoria’s and Prince Albert's fourth child. His Majesty is depicted here with his wife, the admittedly porcine Duchess Marie, and their two children, who were also called Alfred and Marie. The Duke is in the morning dress uniform of a Vice-Admiral and wearing the badges of St Patrick, St Michael and St George, the Star of India and St Vladimir of Russia. Well, aren't we fancy?

As evidenced by the above quote, the Duchess wasn't too thrilled about having her portrait painted.  She was rather sensitive about her looks after giving birth to two sturdy Royal children, it seems.  That, and her twisted tail.

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