Giacomo Amiconi

William, Duke of Cumberland

1735

Not on display

Artist
Giacomo Amiconi 1682–1752
Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Frame: 2459 × 1540 × 59 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to Tate 2019
Reference
T15456

Summary

This is one of two grand full-length society portraits by Amiconi (also known as Jacopo Amigoni) which, though not definitely conceived as a pair, have a long history of being displayed together. Both were commissioned by Frederick, Prince of Wales (1707–1751), with whose patronage the artist was particularly associated. The other shows Frederick, Prince of Wales himself (Tate T15455), and was commissioned by the sitter in 1735 as a gift for Charles, 2nd Duke of Dorset, who was his close political ally. This painting is a portrait of the Prince of Wales’s younger brother, William, Duke of Cumberland (1721–1765). Like his brother, William is shown standing in the robes of the Order of the Garter, against a lavish curtain, with Corinthian columns and a view to ships beyond. The latter presumably reflects his early interest in the navy, before his subsequent career as an army officer and role in the defeat of the Jacobite rising of 1745.

The portrait of Frederick, Prince of Wales is mentioned in the household account books of the Prince and Princess of Wales as costing £63. It was one of three portraits of the Prince commissioned by him from Amiconi as gifts for personal friends. Another full-length portrait, showing him in court dress, was intended for the Hon. Mrs Vane, his mistress; while the third portrait, a three-quarter-length, was a gift for George Bubb Dodington, later Lord Melcombe (Royal Collection, London). The portrait of Cumberland is not mentioned in the accounts but could have been commissioned at the same time, perhaps even by Dorset to create a pair to the portrait of the Prince.

The Prince of Wales was an enthusiastic and dedicated patron of the arts and formed an outstanding art collection; Amiconi was one of his favoured artists. A Neapolitan, but who had an international career, Amiconi worked in Venice and the court in Munich before arriving in England in 1729, where he spent the following decade. His new international, fashionable elegance found much favour, both as a decorative artist for various aristocratic houses (see Amiconi’s Mercury About to Slay Argus 1730–2 [Tate T01299]), and as a portraitist, especially at court. Caroline of Ansbach, consort of George II, was also his patron, as was the Duke of Dorset, the recipient of this portrait of the Prince.

Further reading
John Woodward, ‘Amigoni as a Portrait Painter in England’, Burlington Magazine, vol.99, January 1957, pp.21–3.
Kimerly Rorschach, ‘Frederick, Prince of Wales (1707–1751) as a Collector and Patron’, Walpole Society, vol.LV, 1989–90, p.51.
Annalisa Scarpa Sonino, Jacopo Amigoni, Soncino 1994, pp.32–3.

Tabitha Barber
May 2018, updated April 2019

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