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Dr Francis Ayscough with the Prince of Wales and Edward Augustus, Duke of York and Albany
National Portrait Gallery, London
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Dr Francis Ayscough with the Prince of Wales and Edward Augustus, Duke of York and Albany
c.1748-49
Oil on canvas
207 x 257.8 cm
81 1/2 x 101 1/2 in.
NPG 1165 & 1165A
P24
The group portrait depicts the sons of Frederick Prince of Wales during a lesson with their tutor, Dr Francis Ayscough. Dressed in clerical costume, Ayscough rests his right hand on a closed book and in his left holds a paper. To the right of George, a large volume with the Prince of Wales's feathers on the binding rests against a globe. Above and behind the princes are the bases of solomonistic columns on a high pedestal.
Bangor 1925: Dr Ayscough (1) & the Princes (6); London 1925: Dr Ayscough (35) & the Princes (36); London, National Portrait Gallery, 1976, Faces as Art
Apparently commissioned by Francis Ayscough and thence by descent to his great grand-daughter, Marianna Augusta, Lady Hamilton; bequeathed to the National Gallery, London but sold by the beneficiaries under the will of Sir James Cockburn, 6th Baronet; Christie, Manson & Woods, 25 June 1900 (18), bt Agnew's; presented by Thomas Agnew & Sons Ltd to the National Portrait Gallery, 1900
Unsigned; no inscription
Francis Ayscough (17001763), courtier and Church of England clergyman; Prince George, later King George III (17381820), King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Elector of Hanover; Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of York and Albany (17391767). Dr Francis Ayscough was Dean of Bristol and Preceptor (tutor) to the future King George III and his brother, Prince Edward Augustus. He had earlier acted as Clerk of the Closet to the Princes' father, Frederick, Prince of Wales.
E5 John Faber the Younger after Wilson, His Royal Highness George Prince of Wales, The British Museum and other impressions
E5B Andrew Miller after Wilson, His Royal Highness George Prince of Wales, The British Museum
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[1] George Knapton, The Family of Frederick, Prince of Wales, 1751, Royal Collection
[2] Pompeo Girolamo Batoni (1708-1787), Portrait of Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of York and Albany, 1764, Royal Collection and other versions
The existence of a small version of the composition (probably a modello) and X-radiographs showing that the strips of canvas along the top and bottom portions of the painting are of the same type and originally of a piece, are adequate proof that it was intended by the artist as an integral work. The solomonic columns above the princes are probably intended as symbols of wisdom, either that imparted by Ayscough or of the princely Court.
Edwards 1808; WGC, p. 153, pls 5a & 5b; J. Kerslake Early Georgian Portraits, 1977, p. 9; Connoisseur, September 1977, p. 71; Sale cat., The Lyttelton Papers, Sotheby's London, 12 December 1978 p. 101 (cat. 79); J. Cornforth, 'A New Direction at Beningbrough', Country Life, CLXV, June 7 1979, pp. 1856-7, repr.; A. Ribeiro, The Gallery of Fashion, 2000, p. 116; J. Ingamells, Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, 2004, p. 191; D. Saywell & J. Simon, eds., Complete Illustrated Catalogue, National Portrait Gallery, London, 2004, p. 711
This a unique portrait group by Wilson. It must have been painted before 22 June 1749, when Prince George was appointed to the Order of the Garter, or his installation on 12 July 1750. Dr Francis Ayscough (1700-1763 ) had tutored Wilson's early patron, George Lyttelton at Oxford (1726-8) and married his sister, Ann.
The frame is modern but period in style. Kate Lowry has noted: The painting was divided in 1915 at the request of the ational Portrait Gallery by the restorer F. Haines. The reason for the division was the perceived lack of quality of Dr Ayscough's head and the assumption that his figure was a later addition by another hand. The top right portion of the background is a modern reconstruction based on a photograph of the painting before it was divided and the original section discarded.The impasto has been flattened by relining; there are many discoloured retouchings and small losses at the upper left. The left background is worn and fold marks are visible in an area including York's head. It was reunited and restored in 1976 by Alan Cummings and Cathy Hassall. The section showing Princes George and Edward had been cut down by about 585 mm in height at the time of the division of the painting and the 1976 restoration replaced this section with a modern insert based on an earlier photo of the whole painting. The X-radiograph made at the time of the 1976 restoration showed that that work was made up of distinctly separate pieces of canvas with different weave counts and thread thicknesses. The cusping along the margins of the pieces of canvas, bearing the seated princes and the head of Dr Ayscough, shows that they were both stretched and painted separately before being incorporated in the final work. The ground on these pieces of canvas contains more lead white than the ground on the extensions. These paintings were then joined by another 'L' shaped piece of canvas forming the lower half of Dr Ayscough and the sofa to the left of the princes and extended top and bottom with further pieces of canvas to produce the present composition. All the pieces of canvas are plain weave but vary in weave count from 11-14 warps and 14-16 wefts. The section bearing the seated princes consists of nine pieces of canvas, all fine plain weave, but of six different grades. At some point the boys' heads were divided and thin strips of canvas inserted to increase the distance between them. The figure of Dr Ayscough consists of six pieces of canvas. The X-ray image of the section of canvas below the head shows the sitter's hand in the same position as in the small painting of the same composition at the Yale Center for British Art, holding a scroll, rather than resting on a book on the table as in the finished composition. The X-ray and close surface examination confirmed that the painting had been composed and extended by Wilson himself, the paint covering all the joins being continuous and original. Pentimenti revealed by the X-ray include the repositioning of Dr Ayscough's right hand and left foot, the repositioning of Prince George's hand and the repositioning of Prince Edward's leg. Dr Ayscough's head was also considerably reworked. The ground is cream-coloured and visible throughout wherever the paint is thin and worn. The ground under the the seated princes differs from the ground elsewhere in that it contains undispersed particles of lead white.