circle of Giorgio Domenico Duprà, Prince James Francis Edward Stuart (1688–1766)

Photo courtesy of Dave Penman (All Rights Reserved)


Country House
Mells Manor
Prince James Francis Edward Stuart (1688–1766)
? 1740s
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 62 cm, Overall width: 47 cm
circle of Giorgio Domenico Duprà (1689-1770)
Catalogue Number


James Francis Edward Stuart (1688–1766) was born on 10 June 1688 at St James’s Palace, London, son of James II and his wife, Mary of Modena. Within a year of his birth, James II, who professed the Roman Catholic faith, was deposed by the protestant William of Orange, who had married his daughter, Princess Mary. James II’s baby son was spirited away to France by his mother. On the death of James II in 1701, his son was recognised by the French and Spanish monarchy, and the Papacy, as King James III of England and VIII of Scotland. In England he was nicknamed the ‘Old Pretender’. After a series of unsuccessful attempts to regain the English throne, the Prince moved to Rome, where he was supported by Pope Clement XI and presented with a residence at Palazzo Muti. In 1719 James married Maria Sobieska, granddaughter of King John III of Poland. They had two sons, Charles Edward and Henry Benedict Stuart. The Prince remained in Rome for the rest of his life, where he held a court in exile. He died at his Palazzo Muti in January 1766 and was buried in the crypt of St Peter’s Basilica, Rome.

During his long life in exile Prince James Francis Edward Stuart was the subject of numerous portraits, especially during the period when he was the figurehead of the Jacobite cause and actively engaged in asserting his position as a potential monarch and military leader. In many of these portraits, like the present one, he is dressed in armour. Around his neck is a green riband to which is attached the badge of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, also known as the Order of St Andrew. The badge depicts St Andrew holding a white cross, in reference to the cross on which he was crucified. It carries on the border the Latin motto, Nemo me impune lacessit (‘No one provokes me with impunity’). The order had particular significance for the prince since it was in 1687 that his father, as king, had proclaimed that he was reviving it ‘to its full glory, lustre and magnificency’.

The physiognomy of the sitter, the facial expression and the type of wig worn resemble closely a portrait of the prince dated to the 1740s, possibly by the Italian artist Giorgio Domenico Duprà (1689–1770), who was employed extensively by the exiled Stuart court (fig. 1). The composition is also reminiscent of a head-and-shoulders portrait of the prince in armour, now in the National Galleries of Scotland (PG 305), dated to after 1748, and attributed previously (but implausibly) to Anton Raphael Mengs (1728–1779). There, the prince wears the badge of the Order of St Andrew, together with the sash and star of the Order of the Garter, although these are worn over a brown velvet suit with gold lacing, rather than armour: he is also facing towards the left rather than the right.

1740s. Oil on canvas, 74.9 × 61 cm. National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG 433).

Figure 1.
Giorgio Domenico Duprà, Prince James Francis Edward Stuart, 1740s. Oil on canvas, 74.9 × 61 cm. National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG 433).

Digital image courtesy of National Portrait Gallery, London (All rights reserved)

by Martin Postle

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