Monday, February 3, 2014

Painting of the Day: A Miniature of Queen Victoria with Prince Alfred and Princess Helena, 1847

Queen Victoria with Prince Alfred
and Princess Helena
Robert Thorburn, 1847
The Royal Collection

I imagine that part of the fun of being a monarch prior to the Twentieth Century was having the ability to say, “I’d like a family portrait painted, but I’d like you to compose it as a religious scene.” This was not uncommon. For centuries, wealthy and regal patrons of the arts commissioned portraits which incorporated their visages into epic religious scenes, and in some cases, even taking on the roles of Biblical figures. People don’t do that anymore. But, it seemed perfectly logical at the time.

In 1847, Queen Victoria commissioned celebrated miniaturist, Robert Thorburn to create a portrait in the style of Raphael. Victoria was a great fan of Italian Renaissance and Baroque art and actually amassed quite an impressive collection of it. Her wish was that Thorburn would depict her as the Madonna with Princess Helena as the infant Jesus and Prince Alfred as the child John the Baptists. Sounds like fun.

Thorburn painted the scene on a thin sheet of ivory which was mounted on board. The result is quite a stunning little portrait which manages to convey the Biblical composition but still neatly represents the sitters.

Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Via The Royal Collection Trust
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

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