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Highmore may have painted this small equestrian portrait of George II as a preliminary design for a life-size portrait that remained unexecuted. Several celebrated life-size equestrian portraits, notably those of Anthony Van Dyck and Titian, influence the composition. Although the King wears a fanciful suit of ‘antique’ armour, the portrait may allude specifically to his actual role at the battle of Dettingen in 1743, when he led British and Hanoverian troops to victory against the French. Cosmo, 3rd Duke of Gordon, one of the king’s staunchest allies, probably commissioned the picture.

August 2004