Skip to 0 minutes and 10 seconds This is a portrait of Prince Charles Edward Stewart, an oil on canvas, which shows his head and his upper torso. It’s what we would call a half-length. It’s a very small image. It’s 12 by 10 inches, and I’m giving you the dimensions in inches rather than centimetres, because this was a standard size in the 18th century, sometimes called a cabinet picture. So what does it show? It shows Prince Charles Edward Stuart looking out at the external viewer in court dress. Notice he’s got a wig, and he’s wearing the Order of the Garter in terms of the sash and the star. And in front of him is this ermine and velvet cloak. And these are fabrics of royalty.
Skip to 1 minute and 5 seconds This is a wonderful, wonderful portrait, in part because of the story of its identification. So often we think of Jacobite material culture as being something that is consigned to history by now. We know the outcome. It’s a lost cause. That may be the case, but this portrait was identified as recently as 2014 by an art historian. And so what we can say about Jacobite material culture is that as objects continue to be discovered, it gives the cause a liveliness that it must have had in the 18th century. And it’s painted by a Scottish artist called Allan Ramsay. And Allan Ramsay has a practise in London and in Edinburgh.
Skip to 1 minute and 57 seconds He’s one of the leading artists of the 18th century and certainly one of the leading Scottish artists of the 18th century. And we know that when Charles is here in Edinburgh during the ‘45, Ramsay is summoned to Holyrood Palace to paint a portrait. So we have this wonderful paper trail. We have this letter that says, come to Holyrood and take a portrait of Prince Charles. This is the only verified portrait of Prince Charles Edward Stuart painted in Scotland during the ‘45 uprising. And it’s noteworthy that he’s shown in court dress. So he’s not shown in tartan on this occasion.
Skip to 2 minutes and 43 seconds And we think that the diminutive dimensions of the portrait are deliberate so that this would be an image that would be endlessly reproduced. And, in fact, it’s thought that it was painted for engraving. And it’s this image of the prince that we see often on material cultures or on objects of material culture. But more usually, his court dress has been slightly amended so that he’s wearing different versions of the tartan.
Portrait of a Prince
What is it?
This oil on canvas portrait is known as the ‘lost painting’ of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, as it was only identified as recently as 2014.
Who painted it?
It was painted by the prominent Scottish-born, London-based portrait-painter, Allan Ramsay (1713- 1784) who was summoned to Holyroodhouse by a letter: ‘Sir, you’re desired to come to the palace of Holyroodhouse as soon as possible in order to take his Royal Highness’s picture so I expect you’ll wait no further call.’ Imagine receiving such a commission.
What is important about it?
In contrast to the many eyewitness accounts of the prince dressed in tartan, including that of Andrew Henderson, cited in the previous step, Charles is shown here wearing European court dress and a wig. In other words, he is immortalised on canvas as a cosmopolitan Prince – a member of the European social and political élite.
He is shown wearing the star of the Order of the Garter – not the Scottish Order of the Thistle. The order of the Garter is dedicated to St George, the patron saint of England.
This painting was clearly intended to appeal to his English and European supporters as the Prince and his army headed south towards London.
In this short video Viccy Coltman explores the painting in more detail.