This is the first in a sequence of circular miniatures by Sir William Ross of the children of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert painted between 1845 and 1857 when each child was about five years old. Ross died before he could paint the youngest of the children, Princess Beatrice, and her miniature was painted in the same format to complete the set by Annie Dixon in 1861 (420344; Royal Collection). In commissioning Ross, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert may have had in mind the advice of the Dowager Duchess of Saxe-Gotha and Altenburg (stepmother to Prince Albert’s mother) contained in a letter dated 25 December 1843: ‘You should have a portrait of each of your children painted every year. That would make a very interesting gallery’. The accounts make clear that the miniatures were paid for by Prince Albert and given as an ongoing series of presents to the Queen.
Smaller copies of each of Ross’s miniatures from the set, attributable to Guglielmo Faija, were also given by Prince Albert to the Queen at regular intervals and attached to a pearl-encrusted enamel bracelet which she had received for her birthday in 1845 (4797; Royal Collection), and porcelain copies by Carl Schmidt of Bamberg were set into a bonheur-du-jour by Holland & Sons dated 1871 (41237; Royal Collection). A similar concept was later achieved life-size with Franz Xaver Winterhalter’s small circular oil portraits of the royal children, painted at different dates between 1849 and 1859 and framed as roundels. The Audience Room at Windsor Castle, which Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were to make the centre of their display of enamel miniatures, was also the location of the prototype for sets of oil portraits of royal children, namely Thomas Gainsborough’s oval portraits of the family of George III.
Signed on the reverse in grey wash: Painted by / W.C. Ross R.[A.] / Miniature [Painter to The Queen].
ProvenanceProbably commissioned by Prince Albert as a gift for Queen Victoria in 1845
Sir William Ross (1794-1860) (artist)
- Physical properties