Richard Cosway, RA (British, 1742-1821) George IV (1762-1830), when Prince of Wales, wearing Cavalier dress, black doublet, white collar, black cloak with gold lining and breast star of the Order of the Garter, the badge of the Order of the Garter on a blue ribbon around his neck

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Lot 66
Richard Cosway, RA
(British, 1742-1821)
George IV (1762-1830), when Prince of Wales, wearing Cavalier dress, black doublet, white collar, black cloak with gold lining and breast star of the Order of the Garter, the badge of the Order of the Garter on a blue ribbon around his neck

Sold for £ 7,800 (US$ 11,034) inc. premium
Richard Cosway, RA (British, 1742-1821)
George IV (1762-1830), when Prince of Wales, wearing Cavalier dress, black doublet, white collar, black cloak with gold lining and breast star of the Order of the Garter, the badge of the Order of the Garter on a blue ribbon around his neck.
Watercolour on paper, signed on the reverse and dated His Royal Highness/ The Prince of Wales/ Richd Cosway/ H.R.H Principal Painter/ Pinxit/ 1792, ormolu frame with carved laurel leaf border.
Oval, 90mm (3 9/16in) high
Provenance: The Collection of Baron Vitta

Footnotes

  • The present lot is one of a number of variants in miniature produced by Cosway based on his full-length drawing circa 1785 of the Prince of Wales in fancy dress, known as 'Prince Florizel'. It was a popular image of the Prince and the Cosway Accounts in the Royal Archives list over thirty copies and variants of this image of the Prince. One example, identical in pose to the present lot, but varying in terms of doublet colour and collar, also signed and dated 1792 is in the National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG5389). A copy, after Cosway, identical in pose and costume to the present lot is in the Royal Collection, see Richard Walker; Miniatures in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen, 1992, ill.p.89, no.178.

    George IV was the eldest son of George III and Queen Charlotte. From 1811 until his accession in 1820, he served as Prince Regent during his father's relapse into insanity.

    George IV is remembered for his extravagant and indulgent lifestyle and numerous love affairs. He spent lavishly on art, clothes, gambling and parties. By 1797 his weight had reached 17 stone, 7 pounds (111 kg) and by 1824 his corset was made for a waist of 50 inches. He was an accomplished, intelligent man and a patron of the arts, commissioning John Nash to build the Royal Pavilion in Brighton and participated hugely to the foundation of the National Gallery and King's College in London.

    Aged twenty-one, he fell in love with a Roman Catholic, Maria Anne Fitzherbert, twice a widow. The couple married in secret at her home in Park Street, Mayfair in 1785 as the 1701 Act of Settlement declared those who married Roman Catholics ineligible to succeed to the Throne. His frivolous spending resulted in colossal debts and his father refused to aid him, forcing him to leave his home, Carlton House and live at Mrs. Fitzherbert's residence. In 1787, the Prince of Wales' allies in the House of Commons proposed a grant, providing him with £161,000 to be used to clear his debts and £60,000 for improvements to Carlton House.

    His debts only mounted again, and his father refused to help him unless he married his cousin, Caroline of Brunswick. The Prince reluctantly agreed and they were wed in 1795. The union was a disaster and resulted in a formal separation just a year later, shortly after the birth of their only child, Princess Charlotte. They remained separated for the rest of their lives. The Prince of Wales remained attached to Mrs. Fitzherbert until he died in 1830, despite several mistresses and periods of estrangement.

    George III died in 1820 and the Prince Regent ascended the throne as George IV. That same year, to huge public outcry, he attempted to annul his marriage to Caroline by accusing her of adultery and placed her on trial at the House of Lords. When she was found innocent, he excluded her from his coronation. She died just days later.

    While George IV spent most of his later reign in seclusion at Windsor Castle, he continued to intervene in politics but his heavy drinking and indulgent lifestyle took its toll on his health by the late 1820s. His gluttony made him the target of ridicule in caricatures of the day and the images are famous now as they were then. He died on the 26th June 1830 at Windsor Castle.

    During the political crisis of the highly controversial Catholic Emancipation, the Duke of Wellington said that George was "the worst man he ever fell in with his whole life, the most selfish, the most false, the most ill-natured, the most entirely without one redeeming quality", but he said later, George was "a magnificent patron of the arts ... the most extraordinary compound of talent, wit, buffoonery, obstinacy, and good feeling—in short a medley of the most opposite qualities, with a great preponderance of good—that I ever saw in any character in my life."
Richard Cosway, RA (British, 1742-1821) George IV (1762-1830), when Prince of Wales, wearing Cavalier dress, black doublet, white collar, black cloak with gold lining and breast star of the Order of the Garter, the badge of the Order of the Garter on a blue ribbon around his neck
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