The Pleasure of Objects: The Ian & Carolina Irving Collection

The Pleasure of Objects: The Ian & Carolina Irving Collection

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 149. A Large English Embroidery Portrait Wall Hanging, Circa 1700.

A Large English Embroidery Portrait Wall Hanging, Circa 1700

Auction Closed

January 30, 06:14 PM GMT


8,000 - 12,000 USD

Lot Details


worked in wools in long and short split stitch, depicting a female figure wearing an ermine-trimmed mantle holding a laurel wreath and an oval half-length portrait of young boy in armour and crowned with a laurel wreath, surrounded by four angels drawing curtains and laying festoons of flowers and fruit ; the landscape background with Pegasus and a falling figure, presumably Bellerophon, adjacent to two standing figures and a hound; with a later linen backing and border.

height 88 1/4 in.; width 63 1/2 in.

224 cm; 161 cm

Kerry Taylor Auctions, 25 May 2005, lot 10

This rare hanging is unusually large for an embroidery panel and of a scale more typical of woven tapestries. Its size is perhaps a reflection of the importance of the subject, as the ermine-lined cloak would indicate a personage of royal stature. It most likely represents Queen Anne (b.1665, reigned 1702-1714), and it resembles a depiction of Anne in a 1694 portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723), two versions of which are in the National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG 325, 5227)[fig.1], in which Anne wears a comparable yellow gown and blue ermine-lined mantel. The portrait she holds would be her son Prince William, Duke of Gloucester (b.1689), the only one of the eighteen children conceived with her husband Prince George of Denmark (1658-1708) to survive infancy. A c.1699 oval half-length portrait of William attributed to William Wolfgang Claret (National Portrait Gallery, NPG 5228)[fig.2] presents the Prince in similar attire of armour with a white cravat and blue sash; sadly he died of encephalitis a year later in 1700.

At the age of seven in 1696 William had been knighted with the Order of the Garter in a ceremony held at St George's Chapel, Windsor, an event perhaps alluded to in this composition by the laurel wreaths and more particularly the bound volume on the table adjacent to the sitter, as the Prince would have received a bound copy of the statutes of the Order, and such a presentation copy was gifted by Queen Elizabeth II to the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia during an official visit in 1957. The background depiction of Bellerophon, the Greek hero who had captured and tamed the winged horse Pegasus and then fatefully attempted to fly him to Mount Olympus, only to be struck down by Zeus for his act of hubris, may be an allegorical reference to the dangers of excessive pride.

A small pair of embroidery portraits of Queen Anne and Prince William, probably from the same workshop, were in the collection of Lord Elphinstone and subsequently passed through Mallett and Alistair Sampson, London, then Cora Ginsburg, New York, and were exhibited at the Winter Antiques Show, New York in 1998 and offered Sotheby's New York, 24-25 October 2019, lot 758 (withdrawn). Labels on the back identify the sitters as Queen Anne and her consort Prince George of Denmark, but the pair is clearly based on the same iconographical sources as those of the present lot with the subjects identically attired.