IMAGE number
Princess Victoire of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, 1839 (oil on canvas)
Landseer, Edwin (1802-73) / English
Royal Collection Trust
oil on canvas
1839 (C19th)
44.4x35.6 cms
Princess Victoire (1822-57), ‘much-beloved Vecto’, was Queen Victoria’s first cousin, the daughter of her mother’s elder brother, Duke Ferdinand of Saxe-Gotha (1785-1851). It is difficult to categorise this portrait of the Princess: Lord Melbourne called it ‘very odd idea’; Landseer described it as a ‘sketch’ in the inscription on the canvas. Being a single figure it shouldn’t really qualify as a conversation piece, except that its informal ‘snapshot’ character and affectionate comedy fit the genre so well. Sir George Hayter records seeing Landseer sketching the Princess on 29th August 1839 — is it possible that the work was executed without the sitter’s knowing? On the 10 September 1839 Baroness Lehzen bought Queen Victoria ‘a lovely sketch in oils Landseer has done of Victoire’s back, as a surprise for me; it is so like, - such a treasure — just the figure of that Angel’. Landseer’s idea begins from the premise that it is possible to recognise a person and tell a surprising amount about them from behind. From her grace of posture, hair and nape of neck we can see that the sitter here is beautiful; we can imagine her to be endowed with sensibility from her abstracted absorption with the beauty of the fountains and formal garden, presumably at Windsor, seen from a terrace. The humour of the image derives from the rhyme made by the shape of the Princess’s curls and the ears of the spaniel next to her. There is also an art-historical twist: for the figure, complete with dress and hair-design, is an exact quotation from Vermeer’s Music Lesson (Royal Collection), a painting then hanging in Windsor and attributed to Frans van Mieris. Landseer has seized upon the most striking oddity of Vermeer’s painting — the fact that the principal female figure turns her back to us - and has made it even odder.
Photo credit
Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2021 / Bridgeman Images
princess / garden / woman / young / british / portrait / royal / royalty / female / girl / standing / fountain / fountains / sketch / victorian / German / back view / back / similarity / park / victoire / terrace / balustrade / dog / pet / domestic animal / view / grounds / estate / white / summer / summertime / dress / gown / ringlets / hairstyle / coiffure / ears / floppy ears / spaniel / mimic / mimicking / owner / similar / resemblance / rear / rear view / unusual / cousin / homage / baroque / vermeer / music lesson / pose / Painting / Mzpainting
Dimension [pixels] Dimension in 300dpi [mm] File size [MB]
Large 4590 × 5659 px 389 × 479 mm 42 MB
Medium 831 × 1024 px 70 × 87 mm 1 MB
Small 487 × 600 px 41 × 51 mm 0 MB
Out of copyright

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