About this artwork

By October 1745, Charles Edward Stuart had succeeded in raising the Scottish clans, defeating the armies of George II, and capturing the city of Edinburgh. Installed in the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Charles was preparing to march to London in the hope of regaining the British throne for his family. At this moment of unprecedented Stuart triumph, Allan Ramsay, was ordered to ‘come to the palace of Holyroodhouse as soon as possible in order to take his Royal Highness’s picture’. The royal command is believed to have led directly to the production of this superbly observed portrait. Charles is portrayed with an air of alert assurance appropriate to his recent successes, and his sumptuous attire and glittering star of the Order of the Garter, confirm his princely status.

Although this portrait has been the subject of recent debate, especially with regard to its authorship and likely date of production, we support the attribution to Allan Ramsay and dating to 1745. These conclusions are founded on substantial stylistic and documentary evidence. Firstly, in its handling of certain features such as the sitter’s eyes and the distinctly warm blush we see on his skin, the portrait is characteristic of Ramsay’s work of this period. It is also known that Ramsay was in Edinburgh at the same time as the prince, while a letter confirms that the artist was summoned to paint his portrait in October 1745. Further documentary evidence shows that the painting has been attributed to Ramsay since at least the early nineteenth century. Finally, the painting was almost certainly the model for an engraving by Sir Robert Strange, which recent research has shown is datable on stylistic and documentary grounds to 1745-6. Alternative attributions to artists such as Cosmo Alexander are not convincing on stylistic grounds.

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  • title:
    Prince Charles Edward Stuart, 1720 - 1788. Eldest Son of Prince James Francis Edward Stuart
  • accession number:
    PG 3762
  • artist:
  • depicted:
  • gallery:
  • object type:
  • materials:
    Oil on canvas
  • date created:
    About 1745
  • measurements:
    26.80 x 21.80 cm (framed: 36.20 x 34.10 x 4.80 cm)
  • credit line:
    Accepted in lieu of Inheritance Tax by H M Government from the Trustees of the Wemyss Heirlooms Trust and allocated to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 2016