Portrait of Prince William and His Elder Sister, Princess Sophia (Primary Title)

Benjamin West, American, 1738 - 1820 (Artist)

oil on canvas
Framed: 74 1/8 × 98 1/8 in. (188.28 × 249.24 cm)
Unframed: 61 3/8 × 85 1/4 in. (155.89 × 216.54 cm)
Born in Pennsylvania, Benjamin West won the patronage of King George III following the artist’s arrival in London in 1763. Although he remained there until his death in 1820, West mentored three generations of American artists and is considered the “father of American painting.” This portrait of the king’s niece and nephew was commissioned as a gift for his brother Prince William Henry. It commemorates the monarch’s financial intervention on behalf the children, as indicated by the small purse William holds. From the Roman she-wolf, protector of orphans, to the lion relief, a symbol of the king, West narrates the children’s debt to their royal defender. Even their father, represented by the crown and robe, appears to kneel before the king.The visual presentation of patriarchal protection and filial obedience did dual service as a political commentary during the contemporary war for independence. Displayed at the Royal Academy during the heat of colonial conflict, the portrait served to proclaim the king’s just authority at home and abroad.
Colonial; Revolutionary
B. West, 1779
Labels on reverse; one inscribed Children of the Prince William, Duke of Gloucester, Gift of Gift of George III
J. Harwood and Louise B. Cochrane Fund for American Art
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

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