Wednesday, 1 July 2015


4 July – 13 September 2015
Admission £9/£7 | 0131 624 6200

Two exquisite portraits of Bonnie Prince Charlie (1720-88) and his brother Prince Henry Benedict Stuart (1725-1807) will be among the highlights of a major new exhibition which opens at the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh this week.  Jean-Étienne Liotard brings together some 50 portraits by one of the most sophisticated, witty and innovative artists of the eighteenth century.  The two stunning portraits of the Stuart brothers, which were commissioned in Rome by their father James Stuart, ‘The Old Pretender’, have never before been exhibited in Scotland. 

Although now largely unknown in Britain, the artist who painted them, Jean-Étienne Liotard (1702-89), was a much-celebrated figure in the age of Mozart and Casanova. Born in Geneva, he was an adventurous traveller, hugely skilled both as an artist and as a self-publicist, and enjoyed a long and prolific career working in the major cities and courts of Europe.

For the exiled Stuart court in Rome, portraits were politically important - a means of keeping the Jacobite cause alive among its sympathisers.  In 1737James commissioned from Liotardpastel portraits of his sons (now lost), as well as a series of miniatures, which were copied by other artists and sent to European Jacobite groups across Europe.  Among these were the two portraits on show, in which Henry, aged 12, wears the blue riband, and 16-year-old Charles the star and riband of the Order of the Garter. The microscopically detailed portraits are painted in watercolour and gouache on vellum (calf skin), and measure just 7 x 5.5 cm. Like many of Liotard’s works, they have always remained in private hands and so are little known. They have been generously lent to the Liotard exhibition by a private european collection, courtesy of Tomasso Brothers Fine Art Ltd.

Liotard also worked in the courts of Vienna, Paris and London, depicting the families of the Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa, King Louis XV of France and Augusta, Princess of Wales. His court art was mostly of a very particular type; in an age of magnificence, when portraiture was usually public, the artist offered an altogether more intimate and quiet service, creating small works of radical honesty, sometimes stripped of any of the trappings or attributes of state. Among the other highlights of the exhibition will be the artist's mesmerising portraits of the teen-aged George, Prince of Wales (the future King George III) and his young sister Princes Louisa Anne, both made in 1754.

Liotard is most renowned for his work in pastel, a delicate medium in which he achieved astonishing levels of detail. This exhibition of loans from private and public collections around the world – the first major celebration in the UK of Liotard’s work – will also include examples of the artist’s finest drawings, oil paintings, enamels, miniatures and prints, revealing the full range of his remarkable achievement.

Christopher Baker, Director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, commented: ‘Liotard made miraculous, detailed works on a miniature scale, and these refined Jacobite portraits are an especially welcome inclusion to the exhibition. The princes formed part of the artist’s international clientele: he depicted royal, aristocratic and society figures with astonishing veracity and empathy.’

The exhibition is a collaboration with the Royal Academy of Arts in London, where it will be shown 24 October 2015 – 31 January 2016.

It has been co-curated by the independent scholars MaryAnne Stevens and William Hauptman and for the National Galleries of Scotland by Christopher Baker.

A major scholarly catalogue is being published by the Royal Academy of Arts to accompany the exhibition; it features contributions from Christopher Baker, Neil Jeffares, Aileen Ribeiro, William Hauptman, Duncan Bull, Marc Fehlmann and MaryAnne Stevens [£35.00].

In Edinburgh the exhibition has been made possible thanks to the generous support of The Friends of the National Galleries of Scotland.

A rich complementary programme of lectures, films and events has been devised to contextualise the exhibition: see

No comments :

Post a Comment