His Royal Highness, George, Prince of Wales
96.6 cm x 83.9 cm (38 1/16 in. x 33 1/16 in.)
(Sudbury, United Kingdom, 1727 - 1788, London, United Kingdom)
Medium and Support:
Oil on canvas
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Bequest of Jack G. Taylor, 1991
One of King George III’s favorite painters, Thomas Gainsborough portrayed the king’s eldest son, George, Prince of Wales, on numerous occasions. For this portrait, the prince chose to wear a green coat decorated with gold and silver thread, a lace kerchief, and a blue waistcoat. On his chest is a silver eight-pointed star that signified his status as a knight of the Order of the Garter. The London press criticized the prince, known for his vanity and extravagance, as being a fop whose clothing “disgusted the eye and gave an idea of expense without conveying the least sensation of taste or elegance.” Other printed attacks described the prince’s friends as “flatterers . . . gamesters and debauchees.”
Gainsborough painted his works with confidence and speed, both of which are exemplified in this portrait. The juxtaposition of the carefully rendered face and the loosely painted background shows how the artist varied his brushwork to emphasize the sitter and at the same time show off his virtuosity.