Prince George and Prince Edward Augustus, Sons of Frederick…

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Prince George and Prince Edward Augustus, Sons of Frederick…
Prince George and Prince Edward Augustus, Sons of Frederick…
Prince George and Prince Edward Augustus, Sons of Frederick…
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
title=Credit line
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Prince George and Prince Edward Augustus, Sons of Frederick, Prince of Wales, with their Tutor Dr Francis Ayscough
1748-49 (undated)
Oil on canvas
Metric: 63.5 x 76.5 cm
Imperial: 25 x 30 1/8 in.
Accession Number
Wilson Online Reference
Dr Francis Ayscough is shown with his two royal charges, Princes George and Edward Augustus. The tutor's austere figure, clothed in black doctoral robes, contrasts with the lively handling of the young princes. Ayscough is framed by two classical niche statues on the wall behind, while the princes sit before a dramatic setting comprising a heavy drapery, loosely hanging next to two massive solomonic columns, and restrained by a cord. Prince Edward, who is awkwardly sprawled on the sofa, leans against his brother, whose upright posture suggests the discipline of an older boy and respect for his teacher. The royal lineage of the princes is symbolised by the three enjoined feathers, a heraldic device of their father, Frederick, which are embossed on the cover of the portfolio propped against the globe. The globe itself may refer not only to its educational purpose but also to the dominating and civilising forces of English rule.
London 1934 (208); Manchester City Art Gallery, British Art, 1934 (3); Sassoon 1938, Old London (8); Pictures from Hampshire Houses, 1955 (76): Yale Center for British Art, The Conversation Piece, 1980 (56); Southampton Art Gallery, Pictures from Hampshire Houses, 1955 (76); London, Cardiff and New Haven, 1982-83 (11); YCBA and Kensington Palace, London, Enlightened Princesses: Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte, and the Shaping of the modern World, 2017 (23.15)
Lady Thomas; with Agnew and Sons, 1928; Sir George Edward Leon, 2nd Bart (1875-1947), Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, June 1928; his executors, 1953; Mrs Thomas Parrington by 1955; Marlborough Fine Art Ltd, from whom purchased by Paul Mellon in 1965
No signature; not inscribed
[1] Agnew's label
[2] Southamptn A.G. on loan. Mrs Thomas Parrington, artist & title
[3] R.A. 1934 'Dr Ayscough' etc.
[4] Marlborough Art Gallery label: inv. no. L2964
[5] Marlborough Art Gallery label: NOL 4921
[6] Small label on stretcher: 2409
[7] Small label on frame: 2779
This painting depicts Francis Ayscough (1700-1763), courtier and Church of England clergyman, Prince George, later George III (1738-1820), King of Great Britain and Ireland, and Elector of Hanover, and Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of York and Albany (1739-1767). Dr Francis Ayscough was Dean of Bristol and Preceptor (tutor) to the future king and his brother. He had earlier acted as Clerk of the Closet to the princes' father, Frederick, Prince of Wales.
Related Prints
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 and other impressions
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Related Works by Other Artists
[1] George Knapton, The Family of Frederick, Prince of Wales, 1751, Royal Collection
[2] Pompeo Batoni (1708-1787), Portrait of Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of York and Albany, 1764, Royal Collection and other versions
Critical commentary
Either a worked up study for or a reduced version of P24 in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London. Like P24 it must have been painted before 22 June 1749, when Prince George was appointed to the Order of the Garter. The naturalism of the figures and the lively impasto recall the conversation pieces of Hogarth. Note the witty device of placing Ayscough between and on a level with the two background sculptures, presumably intended to represent the princes' parents, Prince Frederick and Princess Augusta. Brian Allen has noted that the present work is iconographically the most complex of Wilson's surviving portraits and commented on the contrast between the sumptuous regal setting and the austere figure of Ayscough, representing the world of learning favoured by Frederick, Prince of Wales, whose feathers appear on the portfolio leaning against the globe. The princes themselves provide an informal contrast to such academic rigour.
Previous Cat/Ref Nos
Object ID: 1149
Register no 2064
Commemorative Catalogue 1934, p. 29, cat. 95; WGC, pp. 20, 62, 153, pl. 6a; O. Millar, Later Georgian Pictures in the Royal Collection, London, 1964; J. Kerslake, National Portrait Gallery: Early Georgian Portraits, 1977 (40); C. M. Gordon, British Paintings Hogarth to Turner, 1981, p. 76; Solkin 1982, pp. 151-52; Cormack 1985, pp. 250 & 251; L. Colley, Crown Pictorial, Art and the British Monarchy, 1990, p. 32, no. 58; E.G. D'Oench, The Conversation Piece: Arthur Devis and his contemporaries, YCBA, 1980, p. 72; J. Marschner et al., eds, Enlightened Princesses: Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte, and the Shaping of the modern World, 1987, pp. 396-97
Link to WG Constable Archive Record
More Information
Dr Francis Ayscough had tutored Wilson's early patron, George Lyttelton at Oxford (1726-28) and married his sister, Anne. The picture is said to have been painted in Kensington Palace.
Good condition. The canvas was relined in 1965 and the faces retouched in 1993. There is a pentiment of a full-length figure to the left of the sofa.
Kate Lowry has noted: Four-member stretcher dates from present glue relining; Square mortice joints with provision for keying out. All keys present but not taped in position. Simple weave canvas, single piece, strong cusping down right hand edge and to a lesser extent along lower edge. Original turnovers removed at the time of relining but enough remains to show that the canvas was commercially-primed with a pale grey ground. Like the ground on Caernarvon Castle [P12A] from the same period, it has many tiny protrusions throughout. Background quite thinly painted whilst the figures are more solidly rendered. It does appear to be a highly finished painting rather than just a sketch. In normal light it is possible to see that Dr Ayscough has been moved further to the left. The artist originally painted him more centrally and gesturing toward the princes; Wilson then repainted the tutor further to the right and placed a sculpture in a niche over the first figure. This is slightly more visible in IR light. In IR light the tails of the first figure's gown are clearly seen alongside the sofa leg and what may have been his feet just to the right of the present figure's foot. There are also some changes in the architectural setting above the princes; red pentimenti are visible in normal light and in IR light two large circular shapes possibly belonging to a balustrade. There are signs of a red curtain draped from the top edge to the right of the first positioning of the tutor's figure; there is also a slight change to Edward's hair and something small and round under the sofa below George has been painted out. The IR image also shows something that looks like a column down the right hand edge of the painting. The foot of the present figure of Dr Ayscough is not very convincing. In raking light George's collar and kerchief seem to have been reworked. If this is the modello for the large National Portrait Gallery version [P24] it is difficult to understand why Wilson still struggled with the composition having made significant changes to this trial version. Perhaps the section of the large version bearing the two princes was the first to be painted, as it has been stretched separately and forms just one piece stitched into the larger whole; he may then have developed the idea in the small version to include Dr Ayscough and finally put the whole together in the large version. An X-ray image would be helpful. XRF examination showed the normal palette of earth colours, vermilion and Prussian blue. Possibly the dark green curtain executed in Prussian blue mixed with a yellow lake. Under UV light a thick layer of natural resin varnish is visible over whole work with two minor damages retouched one in the turn of George's coat and the other in the curtain above his head; two further filled and retouched losses at lower edge. There is a surface drip damage to the varnish about 4 ½ ins from the left hand edge.
Illustrations of the Work
Beaumont Fletcher, Richard Wilson, R.A., 1908, p. 24