Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2015
Queen Victoria (1819-1901), when Princess Victoria
This miniature shows Henry Collen at the height of his accomplishment. The delicacy of the painting of the face and hand are offset by the rigour of the background, with scratching out used to define some of the foliage in the trees. Collen’s proximity in style to his teacher, George Hayter, is evident even at this stage of his career, when he was already well established, and in fact the composition is a derivation from Hayter who had chosen to paint the young Princess in a similar pose, standing to the left looking over her left shoulder and reaching for a rose with her right hand, in his oil portrait of Princess Victoria of 1832 – 3 (Belgian Royal Collection; sketch in the British Royal Collection). Collen used this successful format again, with the sitter placed in an extensive landscape looking over her left shoulder, her body in profile to the left, in a miniature of a lady dated 1839 (present location unknown).
In her Journal, Princess Victoria recorded several sittings for Collen at which this likeness must have been taken: ‘At 2 I sat to Mr. Collen for my picture till 3’ (18 March 1835); ‘At ½ past I sat to Mr. Collen till 3’ (28 March 1835); ‘At ½ past 2 I sat to Mr. Collen till ½ past 3’ (14 July 1835). She was sitting for him again in 1837: ‘At ½ p. 4 I sat to Mr. Collen till a little after 5’ (RA QVJ: 10 April 1837). Several versions of this miniature are known and a small lithograph in the National Portrait Gallery, London, shows a variant of the 1835 image, with the same head type, but in reverse with differences in the position of the Queen’s arms and costume. This may have been based on a miniature painted for Princess Victoria’s half-sister, Princess Feodora of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, which she discussed in a letter dated 20 December 1835: ‘I am very happy to hear, that the portrait of my ugly face pleased you, and that you find it like; had it not been for your dear sake, I would not have spent so many tedious hours for Collen. You say, it looks older, and that it certainly does, but then you must consider that it is now a year and 5 months since you have seen me and that must make a difference; then again, you say that my mouth is not quite like; the cause of that is, that I kept my mouth shut to please you, which changes my expression a good deal. I often shut my mouth now as it is thought more becoming’.
Signed and dated bottom left (on the balustrade): H. Collen 1836. (scratched out). A label attached to the reverse is signed, dated and inscribed in ink: Portrait of Her Royal Highness / The Princess Victoria – / painted by Henry Collen / 37 Somerset Street / Portman Square. / London. / 1836.