Sitter in 1 portrait - Donor of 2 portraits
Artist associated with 2 portraits
Sitter in 1 portrait - Donor of 2 portraits
Artist: by Sir David Wilkie
Medium: oil on canvas
Measurements: height 2642 mm. (104 in.) width 1549 mm. (61 in.)
Acquisition: gift from Adelaide, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, consort of William IV, 1838
Location: Examination Schools
Whole length, standing in front of a state chair, facing viewer, head turned slightly to left, dark hair dressed in close curls, with jewelled band; pearl necklace; high lace collar; blue velvet, gold, and ermine robe over white satin dress with full short sleeves embroidered with gold; rings on each hand, and bracelets on each arm; her right hand holds long white gloves, her left rests on stone carved pedestal on which is the crown; red curtain and architectural background, landscape through opening to left. Ornate frame, surmounted by crown, identical to that surrounding portrait of William IV by Wilkie (OP21), of which this is a companion portrait.
The portrait was given to the University in response to a request made through the Duke of Wellington, following Queen Adelaide's visit to Oxford on 19 Oct 1835. As reported the next day in The Times (20 Oct 1835), the Queen visited the Sheldonian Theatre where she received an address from the Chancellor, and honorary degrees were conferred on four individuals. As recorded elsewhere 'As Chancellor, the Duke did the honours of the place and sharply reprimanded the great dean Gaisford for the inhospitality that caused Her Majesty to put up at the Angel Inn.' ('The Personal Story of the Oxford Chancellorship', p.646)
In November that year, Wellington informed the University 'that the King had been pleased to give his directions that Portraits of himself and Her Majesty should be prepared by Mr. Wilkie R.A. in compliance with the wish expressed by this Board Oct. 29. 1835.' (Hebdomadal Board Minutes, 9 Nov 1835, Oxford University Archives, WP gamma/24/5/p.66)
The King's death in 1837 led to a hiatus in the execution of his directions about the portraits, but in October 1838 Wellington forwarded to the University a letter from Sir Henry Wheatley, [Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures?], referring to ' "a Letter from Sir David Wilkie stating that the Portraits of his late Majesty and the Queen Dowager, painted by order of the late King expressly for the University of Oxford, are now quite ready to be put up, I venture to request your Grace will have the goodness to send me your directions respecting their destination, which I will communicate to Sir David Wilkie, who will then proceed to Oxford with the Pictures, and deliver them Himself to the Person whom your Grace may authorize to receive them." ' (Hebdomadal Board Minutes, 22 Oct 1838, Oxford University Archives, WP gamma/24/5/p.149)
'It was agreed that the Vice Chancellor be requested to reply to His Grace that it will be the desire of the Board to place the pictures in the situation most favourable to them, and at the same time most open to Public Inspection - that in selecting this, something must depend upon the size of the Pictures, and that if Sir David Wilkie will have the goodness to forward them to Oxford, directed to the Chancellor, and to time his own visit here so as to coincide with their arrival, his advice may be of use in deciding that question.' (Hebdomadal Board Minutes, 22 Oct 1838, Oxford University Archives, WP gamma/24/5/p.150)
'The Warden of Wadham, Curator of the Theatre, the Master of University, and the Warden of All Souls were appointed, together with the Vice Chancellor, a Committee to confer with Sir David Wilkie on his expected arrival on Friday next, and determine the situation in which the Portraits of his late Majesty William IV and the Queen Dowager shall be placed.' (Hebdomadal Board Minutes, Monday 5 Nov 1838, Oxford University Archives, WP gamma/24/5/pp.153)
'The Committee appointed to arrange with Sir David Wilkie the situation of the Portraits of His late Majesty King William IV and Her Majesty the Queen Dowager reported/ That the Portraits had been received on Friday last and placed in prominent and favourable situations on either side of the Western window of the Southern division of the Picture Gallery, on the right hand of the door of entrance./ It was agreed, that the Public Orator be requested to draw up an address of thanks on this occasion to Her Majesty Queen Adelaide, to be proposed in Convocation for the University seal.' (Hebdomadal Board Minutes, 12 Nov 1838, Oxford University Archives, WPgamma/24/5/ pp.154)
'The Public Orator laid before the Board the following Letter of Thanks to Her Majesty Queen Adelaide, which was adopted by the Board, and it was agreed that it be proposed to Convocation on Friday next at 2 o' clock to affix to it the University Seal./ To Her Gracious Majesty Adelaide Queen Dowager/ May it please your Majesty/ We the Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford in Convocation assembled, are desirous of expressing to Your Majesty our grateful sense of distinguished honor recently conferred upon us by the presentation of Your Majesty's Portrait, together with that of Your Royal Consort, our late revered Sovereign King William the Fourth./ We shall regard these Portraits, not merely as contributing to adorn the Gallery in which they are placed, but as affording additional proof of that gracious favour and condescension already evinced towards us on the occasion of Your Majesty's visit to our University - an event to which we shall ever look back with feelings of sincere gratitude and loyal devotion....' (Hebdomadal Board Minutes, Monday 19 Nov 1838, Oxford University Archives, WP gamma/24/5/pp.155)
In the absence of any other painting that might be identified as the prime version of this portrait, the possibility remains that the portrait of Queen Adelaide exhibited by Wilkie at the Royal Academy in 1834 (no.134) may be identifiable with the portrait now hanging in the Examination Schools.
Royal Academy, 1834, no.134.
G. Scharf, 'Trustee Sketchbooks', Oxon, II, 1874, p.27 (National Portrait Gallery Archive, London); R. Lane Poole, Catalogue of Portraits in the possession of the University, Colleges, City, and County of Oxford, 3 vols (1912, 1925), I, p.147, no.356; O. Millar, The later Georgian pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen, (1968), p.143, no.1185; R. Ormond, National Portrait Gallery, Early Victorian Portraits, 2 vols (1973), 1, p.6
Annette Peach, ‘OP23 Adelaide, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, consort of William IV (1792-1849)’, Portraits in Oxford, online edn, 2006,
[http://www.odl.ox.ac.uk/oxfordportraits/portrait.php?w=23, accessed 19th May 2013]