Field Marshal Prince Blucher after Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1835
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Measurements Overall: 47cm (18.5in) x 38cm (15in)
Watercolour on paper. Full-length portrait of Prince Blucher pointing right after Sir Thomas Lawrence’s painting of 1814 in the Waterloo Chamber, Windsor Castle. Inscribed on old labels reapplied verso, ‘Given to the Nordiska Museum, Stockholm, by / Charles H. Derby / South Kensington Museum.’ and ‘Field Marshal Prince Blucher by Sir T. Lawrence P.R.A. in the Waterloo Chamber, Windsor Castle. Sketch by Wm Derby (b. 1786. d.1847). About 1840.’ Image size: 26cm (10.25in) x 17cm (6.75in). Framed and glazed.
Lawrence’s portrait was painted by royal command when Blucher was attending the Congress of London in 1814. George IV envisaged a gallery of soldiers, sovereigns and diplomats responsible for the overthrow of Napoleon and the re-establishment of the monarchies and states of Europe. Lawrence’s portrait, celebrating the great Prussian Field-Marshal's achievement in leading the Silesian army into Paris in 1814, was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1815 but was still in Lawrence’s studio when he died in 1820. Blucher is shown in Field-Marshal's uniform wearing a miniature of George IV, the Prussian orders of the Black Eagle and the Iron Cross, and the Austrian orders of Maria Theresa, St George of Russia and the Black Eagle. In the background an Uhlan mounts a charger. George IV’s vision was made reality with the completion of some 28 portraits and the covering of a courtyard to create the Waterloo Chamber at Windsor Castle during the reign of his brother William IV (1830-37).
Lawrence’s portrait was published as a print in 1839, and according to the Royal Collection was first recorded in situ by Joseph Nash (1809-78) in his watercolour of the interior of the Waterloo Chamber in 1844. Derby’s skill in reproducing notable works was widely admired, and the present watercolour probably predates both the engraving and Nash’s watercolour. Derby’s contemporary the sculptor Peter Hollins said of Derby’s work, ’It has been a great advantage to the world of art, when fine original pictures have been inaccessible to the engraver, to have copies made by an artist of the powers possessed by Mr. Derby, who, while he attended with the greatest care to the most minute accessories, caught the spirit and character of each particular master he undertook to imitate. As an artist, he possessed powers of a great range in oil and water-colour painting, as is abundantly attested by his numerous portraits, miniatures, vigorous original subjects of still life, and his exquisite water-colour copies, over which he threw a peculiar charm.’
William Derby (1786–1847) was born in Birmingham, where he was taught drawing by Joseph Barber. In 1808 he moved to London, where he began his career by making the reduced drawings for a set of engravings illustrating the paintings in the Marquess of Stafford's collection, published in four volumes in 1818. He afterwards worked as portrait and miniature painter, occasionally making watercolour copies of notable pictures, until 1825, when he succeeded William Hilton, R.A., in making the drawings for Lodge's Portraits of Illustrious Personages of Great Britain, completed in 1834. This involved copying paintings in collections throughout the country, and in the course of his work Derby obtained many useful introductions. Among his patrons was the Earl of Derby, whose portrait he painted, and who commissioned him to make watercolours after the portraits of his ancestors, from the reign of Henry VII onwards, which existed in various collections. In 1838 a severe attack of paralysis deprived him of speech and the use of one side of his body, but in a few months he had recovered sufficiently to continue his work, which he did with the assistance of his son, Alfred Thomas Derby.