Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
This famous image originated in 1821, the year of the coronation of George IV (1762-1830); with Sir Thomas Lawrence's full-length portraits in oils it established the King's 'official' likeness throughout his ten-year reign. It epitomises Chantrey's ability to idealise without losing a resemblance. The King appears both lofty and amiable, cloaked as an ancient field-marshal but wearing one of his own curled brown wigs. In Chantrey's opinion the King 'had a very fine throat without the great dewlaps which he gives himself by tying up his neckcloth so tightly'.
Fifteen other marble versions of the bust are known, of which two are also in the Royal Collection, one is dated 1828 and the other, 1837; the first of these is probably the one shown in Nash's view of the Grand Corridor. Miniature replicas were made in bronze and silver-gilt by Rundell, Bridge & Rundell. The medallist Alfred Stothard copied it for his standard profile relief of the King. Engravings of the bust were published by S.W. Reynolds in 1823, and Chantrey was portrayed in the act of carving it in Andrew Robertson's miniature dated 1831. The plaster model is in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Chantrey's ledger records an order for two marble busts from the King, both of which were received at Carlton House in April 1822. One of these was presented to Lady Conyngham and remains in the possession of her descendants. The other was immediately sent for exhibition at the Royal Academy but is no longer in the Royal Collection. The present bust was commissioned by the King in 1825 as a gift to his brother Frederick, Duke of York, but it was not ready until after the Duke's death in January 1827. It was given instead to his one-time secretary, Lieutenant-General Sir Herbert Taylor (1775-1839), who subsequently served William IV and Queen Victoria in the same capacity.
Catalogue entry from Royal Treasures, A Golden Jubilee Celebration, London 2002