Jean-Baptiste van Loo (Aix-en-Provence 1684 - Aix-en-Provence 1745)
Portrait of Princess Amelia (1711-1786), Daughter of George II
oil on canvas held in a British Rococo carved and gilded frame
125 x 97 cm (49¼ x 38¼ in)
The Pelham Family;
by descent to the previous owners
O. Millar, Tudor, Stuart and Early Georgian Pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen, 1963, Vol. I, p.179
Princess Amelia is presented to us in a three-quarter length portrait format, standing in a pose that conveys confidence, yet at the same time with a posture that is filled with the graceful demeanour expected of a princess. She gazes levelly with us, whilst her right hand gathers the heavy folds of her luxurious blue, embroidered dress, and her left hand gracefully extends out, pointing in the direction of a plump red velvet cushion, drawing our eye to the coronet behind her, a reminder of her royalty. Jean-Baptiste van Loo deftly conveys the opulent apparel of this princess, with particular attention paid to the spotting on her ermine lined cloak, and the patterning of her lace ruffles and of her heavy silk dress.
George Vertue mentions Princess Amelia as amongst the first of van Loo’s royal patrons (Notebooks, Vol. III, p. 84) following his move to England in 1737. A version of the present portrait exists in the Royal Collection and was probably painted in early 1738, which would mean that the princess was twenty-seven at the time of the sitting.
Princess Amelia had a passion for hunting and music, and had an assertive character which did not appeal to all. It is recorded that when in her forties she shockingly attended chapel at Hampton Court 'in riding clothes with a dog under her arm'. Her somewhat provocative character is partly conveyed in the ever so slightly coquettish smile and alert expression of the princess in Portrait of Princess Amelia (1711-1786), Daughter of George II.
It was also during his time in England that van Loo executed the Portrait of Sir Robert Walpole, now in the Hermitage, and part of the substantial and prestigious collection belonging to Sir Robert Walpole acquired by Empress Catherine the Great in 1779. Walpole was a close friend of Princess Amelia, and part of her circle of witty and well-read friends. What is clear in both Portrait of Princess Amelia (1711-1786), Daughter of George II and the Portrait of Sir Robert Walpole is van Loo’s ability to convey the personality of the sitter, whilst not shying away from depicting a striking and faithful likeness.
Van Loo was taught by his father Louis-Abraham van Loo, and at an early age had already executed several pictures for the decoration of the church and public buildings in Aix en Provence. He was sent to Rome by his patron, the prince of Carignan, where he studied under Benedetto Luti. Here he executed numerous religious works including the Scourging of Christ for the Jean-Baptiste van Loo, church of S. Maria in Monticelli. He moved to Paris, where he was elected a member of the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in 1731 and appointed professor of painting in 1735. He executed various altarpieces and restored the works of Francesco Primaticcio at Fontainebleau. In 1737 he went to England, where he painted the portrait of Colley Cibber, which drew much praised attention. It was during this period that he also painted the present work, and the aforementioned portrait of Sir Robert Walpole, as well as the prince and princess of Wales. Ill health forced van Loo to retire to Paris in 1742, and shortly afterwards to Aix-en-Provenance, where he died on 19 December 1745.