The Art of Portraiture

Portraits are often considered to have little value if one does not know the sitter or the artist. In the previous chapter we looked at a photographic portrait of Edward VII. This chapter concerns another portrait but in this case a hand drawn portrait. The portrait is of two young people. I would guess their ages at 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 years. One positioned slightly forward of the other with the arm of the older child protectively across the breast of the younger. The portrait is unsigned and undated, no watermark or any other identifying marks can be found. From the age and browning of the paper I would suggest first half of the 19th century.

Even though this is a stunningly beautiful work – it has sustained some damage. So why keep it?

Here, I am going to suggest that this piece, even though unsigned, is by a very important artist and that this portrait is of two very well known people. This of course is all conjecture. But. What if.

The positioning of the two young people is very reminiscent of a family portrait done in watercolour of the children of Count Wladislaw and Countess Elsbieta Krasinski. This watercolour was painted by #FranzXaverWinterhalter (Winterhalter was a very renowned portrait painter). But these are not those children. I think that these two young people are Vicky and Bertie. Queen Victoria’s two oldest children. That would date this work to 1843/44 – within my estimate for the age of the paper.

The quality of the work is evident. The subtle shading, the minimal use of colour, the white outlining of the children’s bodies only adds to the focus on the faces of the two sitters. And two very finely done faces they are.

I apologise for the speculating but every once in a while I like to think ‘what if’.

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