Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
Frederick, Prince of Wales (1707-51)
Frederick, Prince of Wales (1707-51) was the eldest son of George II (r. 1727-60). He formed an outstanding art collection which included paintings by Rubens and van Dyck, miniatures, drawings, silver and furniture.
This portrait was painted for the Prince's friend, George Bubb Dodington (1691-1762); the artist was paid forty guineas for it in 1736. As is appropriate for a friend's portrait this one shows the Prince in an informal and affable guise, as patron of the arts. An admirer of the poet Alexander Pope, the Prince is shown holding a book inscribed Pope’s Homer, alluding to Pope’s famous recently-published translations of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Cherubs fly above the Prince holding a lyre (the attribute of Poetry) and a snake biting its tail (the attribute of Eternity, the duration of a true poet's fame).
Though his suit is elegant, fashionable and somewhat un-buttoned, the Prince has some more formal attributes: a crown on the table, a riband of the Garter and (rather incongruously) a breast-plate. We are perhaps to remember that this is not just any patron of the arts but a heroic and a royal one.
Amigoni was a Neapolitan painter who had worked in Venice and Bavaria before spending a decade (1730-9) in London. The artist's Venetian experience seems to inform this portrait, with its thickly applied paint, brilliantly fluttering patterns of drapery and light pastel colours reminiscent of the work of Rosalba Carriera (see RCINs 400647-50). The allegorical business has a particular softness and delicacy, the way in which the figures blend into the background being an effect learned from pastels drawn on to grey paper.