Queen Victoria's Portraits
Coronation And Royal Robes
In a recent number of the Century is a beautiful engraving from the original study of the portrait of Queen Victoria painted by Thomas Sully, and in a foot-note are some remarks upon the circumstances of the painting of the picture. How it happened that Mr. Sully was enabled to paint the Queen, however, is not related, and as this would probably be a matter generally interesting, I will state the facts as I recorded them shortly after their occurrence.Thomas Sully, though an Englishman by birth, had long stood in a commanding position in America as a portrait painter, with constant and remunerative employment. The financial crisis of 1837, however, had caused the withdrawal of so many commissions that he resolved to go to London, hoping to succeed to the position left vacant by the recent death of Sir Thomas Lawrence.
| His many warmly attached friends urged him to this course, and it was the suggestion of Mr. Charles Toppan and of Mr. Joseph Sill, officers of the St. George's Society, that the sum of one thousand dollars should be collected and placed in the treasury of that society for the payment of Mr. Sully for a picture of the young Queen, then recently come to the throne, that decided him to go abroad. The idea was eagerly adopted by the society, the necessary petition to Her Majesty prepared, signed by its officers, and forwarded to our then Minister, Mr. Stevenson, of Virginia. Mr. Sully, accompanied by his daughter, sailed for England in October, and on his arrival in London had the pleasure of hearing that the petition had been favorably received, and that the Queen would sit for him as soon as the cares of State would allow.Unfortunately, circumstances did not permit a beginning to be made until February, and not until May was the study-head finished. This was so greatly admired that Hodgson and Graves, the publishers wished a half-length reproduction of it, to be engraved for them by Wagstaff. For this it was thought necessary to get the permission of the St. George's Society, and before the days of steam, a reply from the other side of the Atlantic was a long time in coming. The Secretary, however, wrote: "Make as many copies as may promote your interests." The half-length was finished in London, but little else came of the visit there, and the full-length picture for the Society was not finished until some months after Mr. Sully's return to Philadelphia. Acting upon the permission given, the artist had begun a second full-length which he proposed to exhibit for his own benefit, but his right to do so was denied by some of the promoters of the scheme, who, finding how greatly the picture was admired, did not wish it to be repeated. Much discussion followed and so much ill feeling resulted that the matter was carried into court, and then was referred to a board of eminent lawyers, who decided that, unless otherwise stipulated, an artist did not part with his right to reproduce a picture, when he sold the first one.|
The ill feeling produced by this conflict was very unfortunate, and to rid himself of the sight of the disputed picture, the artist presented it to the Thistle Society, of Charleston, S. C. The original full-length belongs to the St. George's Society, of Philadelphia, and is a beautiful specimen of the graceful but artificial manner of the portrait painters of the time. The original study of the head of the Queen remains in the family of the artist, and now belongs to his grandson.
Sully's Portrait of Queen Victoria is an article from "The Art Union," Volume 1. by Lambdin, J. R. Publ. February 1, 1884
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|"This Blessed Plot"
This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands, -
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.
William Shakespeare, "King Richard II", Act 2. scene 1.
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