Sitter in 1 portrait - Donor of 1 portrait
Artist associated with 1 portrait
Sitter in 1 portrait - Donor of 1 portrait
Artist: by Sir Thomas Lawrence
Medium: oil on canvas
Measurements: height 2896 mm. (114 in.) width 2032 mm. (80 in.)
on a tablet on the frame: 'Georgi IIII/ Britanniarum Regis/ Hanc Effigem/ Academiae Oxon/ DD/ Rex Ipse/ 1814' (sic)
Acquisition: gift from George IV, King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and King of Hanover, June 1820
Location: Examination Schools
Whole length, standing slightly to right; the head turned to left; hair tinged with grey; high stock and collar; in full Garter robes: white embrodered silk and crimson velvet tunic, blue velvet mantle lined with white silk, white slashed breeches and stockings, and shoes with rosettes; three collars of the Order of the Garter, the Grand Cross of the Bath, and the Guelphic Order; his right hand rests on papers which lie on a table to left, together with his Garter hat; his left on his hip; red curtain background with pillar and trees to right; ornate gold frame surmounted with crown.
Given to the University by George IV in 1820 in response to a request made after the visit of the Allied Sovereigns to Oxford in 1814. The Duke of Wellington and Field Marshal Prince Blücher were present with the Allies, and the University celebrate the occasion with a banquet in the Radcliffe Camera. Soon afterwards, it was
'Resolved, That the Chancellor be desired in the name of this Board humbly to request H.R.H. the Prince Regent to honour the University with the Gracious Present of his Portrait to be placed in the Picture Gallery in perpetual remembrance of the distinguished honour of H.R.H.'s visit.
Resolved also, That when the Presents intended for their Imperial Royal Majesties, the Emperor of Russia & King of Prussia, shall be transmitted to them from this University, a similar request be preferred in the name of this Board to each of those Sovereigns.' (Hebdomadal Board Minutes, 20 June 1814, Hebdomadal Register 1803-23, Oxford University Archives, WP gamma/24/3, p.349, extra folio)
Six years later, in 1820, 'The Portrait of the King, for which His Majesty... was graciously pleased to sit as a Present for the University, having been received, [the Board] Resolv'd, That the Chancellor be most respectfully desired to lay before His Majesty ... the dutiful and grateful acknowledgements of the University' (Hebdomadal Board Minutes, 15 June 1820, ibid., pp.581-582) The portrait was hung, together with those of the Emperors Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia (OP 22) and Alexander I of Russia (OP 18), in the Sheldonian Theatre, where all three monarchs were conferred with honorary Doctorates in Civil Law in the course of their visit.
On 14 July 1815, Joseph Farington noted in his diary that the Regent had told Lawrence that 'He had promised His portrait (whole length) to Oxford University, & that He was to be represented in His Gown as Doctor of Civil Law.' (The Diary of Joseph Farington ed. K. Garlick, A. Macintyre and K. Cave, 16 vols, 1978-1998, XIII, ed. K. Cave, p.4671) The following September Lawrence saw in Paris Gérard's portraits of the other Allied Sovereigns to be sent to Oxford, and may have conveyed his knowledge of these to the Regent who may then have changed his mind about his earlier decision to be portrayed in academic dress. The portrait is a replica of Lawrence's portrait of the Prince Regent in Garter robes of 1818 (National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin), in which the head is based on the unfinished head and shoulders portrait, c.1814, in the National Portrait Gallery (NPG 123). In later replicas of the portrait, the Prince's Garter hat, which lies on the table beside him, is replaced by a crown.
Lawrence came to Oxford in 1820 to finish and varnish the portrait. He wrote to his nephew, Thomas Bloxham, an undergraduate at Lincoln College, asking him to
'be so good as to act the Man of Business for me. I have taken the liberty to write to the Vice-Chancellor, to learn if it be the wish of the University to receive the Picture at this short notice ... and I have inform'd him you will oblige me by calling for an answer ... to send it to me ... by the Coach tomorrow.
Should the Vice-Chancellor authorize me to send the Picture it will be down on Monday Night; so that the whole of Tuesday may be left for putting it up. Ascertain for me immediately one space left for it between the two other Pictures. The extreme height and width of the Picture and Frame, will be Eleven Feet Nine by Eight Feet Nine.
The placing of a picture in so distinguished a situation and of which the subject is His Majesty is an object of too great solicitude and anxiety to be left entirely to others, and should the answer to the Vice Chancellor be favourable, I shall certainly be in Oxford towards the Evening of Monday, and take up my residence at the first Inn on the left hand, on going over Magdalen Bridge ... ' (transcription by Kenneth Garlick of a letter from Sir Thomas Lawrence to Thomas Bloxham, 26 May 1820, cited in I. Lowe, 'The University Collection of Portraits in the Examination Schools', Oxford Magazine, 18 Oct 1968, p.10) In a subsequent letter, written from the Angel Inn, Oxford, Lawrence requested ' "the loan of steps, on which I may stand to clean and varnish the Picture (which I cannot leave to others)" ', and later wrote to thank Bloxham ' "for having so ably executed my commission." ' (ibid.)
Of the many replicas, copies and variants produced, Garlick included the portrait in the Examination Schools among 'those in which the hand of Lawrence is most evident'. (K. Garlick, Sir Thomas Lawrence : a complete catalogue of the oil paintings, 1989, p.194, no.325d)
The table on which the Prince Regent casually rests his hand is the Table des Grands Capitanes commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte as one of a pair in 1806. The top 'was of Sèvres porcelain painted by L.B. Pavant in a design which featured the framed heads of great generals of antiquity, arranged round the profile of ... Alexander the Great. (S. Parrisien,
An account of the visit of His Royal Highness the Prince Regent and Their Imperial and Royal Majesties The Emperor of Russia and The King of Prussia to the University of Oxford in June MDCCCXIV... (1815); R. Lane Poole, Catalogue of Portraits in the possession of the University, Colleges, City, and County of Oxford, 3 vols (1912, 1925), I, p.145, no.352; O. Millar, The later Georgian Pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen, 2 vols (1969); Ian Lowe, 'The University's Collection of Portraits in the Examination Schools', Oxford Magazine, (1968), p.10; S. Parissien, George IV The Grand Entertainment (2001), pp.278-279; K, Garlick, Sir Thomas Lawrence : a complete catalogue of the oil paintings (1989), p.194, no.325(d); M. Levey, Sir Thomas Lawrence (2005), pp.205, 240
Annette Peach, ‘OP19 George IV, King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and King of Hanover (1762-1830)’, Portraits in Oxford, online edn, 2006,
[http://www.odl.ox.ac.uk/oxfordportraits/portrait.php?w=19, accessed 23rd May 2013]