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The Departure from Harwich of H.R.H. Princess Caroline Matilda

Attributed to:
Wilkins, Robert (b.c 1740, d.c 1790)
previously attributed to Dominic Serres (b.1722, d.1793)
previously attributed to Thomas Allen (British, d.1772)
Date:
1766-1767
dated to event shown
Place of production:
London, England, United Kingdom
Medium:
oil on canvas
Type of object:
paintings
Accession number:
2194

Commentary

Robert Wilkins exhibited a painting of the departure of Princess Caroline Matilda from Harwich at the Free Society of Artist's exhibition in 1767. It may be this work. It most probably depicts the departure of the sister of George III, Princess Caroline Matilda, for her new life as the Queen of Denmark, consort to King Christian VII.

Caroline married Christian by proxy on 1 October 1766, and sailed from Harwich on the 3 October, aboard the yacht 'Mary'. 'Mary' was a type of yacht called a ketch, with two masts, as in the central boat, which appears to fly the Danish flag as well as the British ensign.The painting shows the yacht leaving the harbour at Harwich, the town in the background. The choppy sea which lends drama and movement to the scene is similar to other marine paintings by Wilkins, according to Sarah Monks. The painting was originally thought to show a different event, the yacht 'Augusta' setting off to fetch Princess Sophia Charlotte in 1761. However, the number of boats and the flags on the ships are not consistent with this episode.

Wilkins was a jobbing London artist. He displayed marine paintings, still-lives, portraits and mythological paintings at the Society of Artists. In 1765, Wilkins was considered for the prize for marine painting run by the London Society of the Arts. He was a protégé of one of the judges, Jared Leigh, an attorney and amateur marine painter. During the 1760s, London's Society of the Arts sought to raise the status of marine painting by offering an annual prize for the 'best original' in this genre of painting. The Society wanted to encourage intellectual and aesthetic compositions, rather than the usual pieces celebrating victories painted for naval personnel. The Society's initiative reflected Britain's growing supremacy as a naval power, and the use of marine painting to celebrate this new found status. The competition was not a success, and ended after four years.

This painting may have been Wilkin's attempt to combine a battle-type composition with an important historic event, more commonly associated with the superior genre of history painting. It is however very similar in appearance to other paintings of ships leaving Harwich on royal business such as Dominic Serre's painting of the arrival of the Princess Sophia Charlotte of 1763 shown at the Free Society. The composition is also reminiscent (though in reverse) to Plate XXII, 'A Yacht in a Light Breeze with a View of Harwich. The Queen Charlotte with her Present Gracious Majesty on Board. In the background is the Landguard Fort on the north shore', after Dominic Serres, from the Serres' book 'Liber Nauticus' (1805-1806).

This is one of three marine paintings hanging in the East Entrance Lobby that came from Ferdinand de Rothschild's yacht 'Rona'.

Phillippa Plock, 2011

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
571 x 762
535 x 750 - sight
Signature & date:
not signed or dated
Inscriptions:
H. M. Yacht "Augusta" / leaving Harwick to fetch / the Princess Sophia Charlotte / 1761 / by D. Serres R. A.
Inscription
on verso

95
Inscription
on verso
Labels:
THOS. AGNEW & SONS. / MANCHESTER LIVERPOOL / 14 EXCHANGE ST. / EXCHANGE ART GALLERIES / DALE STREET / LONDON / OLD BOND GALLERIES
Printed label
on verso

History

Provenance:
Purchased by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (b.1839, d.1898) from Agnew's 20 November 1896 for £40.0.0, stock no. 7852, as 'Departure of Yacht Augusta', attrib. to Dominic Serres; inherited by his sister Alice de Rothschild (b.1847, d.1922); inherited by her great-nephew James de Rothschild (b.1878, d.1957); bequeathed to Waddesdon The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust) in 1957.
Collection:
Waddesdon (National Trust)
Bequest of James de Rothschild, 1957

Bibliography

Bibliography

Ellis Waterhouse, Anthony Blunt; Paintings: The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor; Fribourg; Office du Livre, The National Trust; 1967; pp. 112-113, cat. no. 45, ill.

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