National Portrait Gallery identifies sitter as Henry Benedict Stuart
Research by art dealer prompted the reclassification
By Gareth Harris. Web only
Published online: 21 November 2012
A London-based dealer says that his research into Henry Benedict Stuart (1725-1807), the brother of Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) and Jacobite heir to the English throne, has prompted the National Portrait Gallery in London to re-identify a work in its collection as Henry; the painting was previously entitled Portrait of an Unknown Cardinal.
Bendor Grosvenor, who works for the Philip Mould dealership, says on his blog Art History News: “I’m delighted to report that the [gallery] has finally agreed to re-identify its portrait [as] Prince Henry Benedict Stuart, Cardinal York (or Henry IX as he is known to Jacobites).” The gallery’s online database lists the painting under “circle of Anton Raphael Mengs”, around 1750.
Grosvenor initially detailed his findings in a 2008 article for the British Art Journal, describing how a related painting showing Cardinal York was catalogued as Portrait of a Cardinal and attributed to the studio of Louis Gabriel Blanchet. This work was sold at Christie’s London in 1955 to Father Cronin, the principal of St Mary’s University College in Strawberry Hill in London.
Grosvenor demonstrated that the figure in the Strawberry Hill image was the same individual depicted in Blanchet’s 1748 full-length portrait of Cardinal York. The Strawberry Hill piece led Grosvenor to question the identity of another Jacobite portrait in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
“This portrait, a fine pastel by Maurice Quentin de La Tour, was being displayed as Henry’s brother, Charles, and had appeared on countless posters, tea towels and book covers,” Grosvenor says. The Scottish National Portrait Gallery has since re-identified the work.
Lucy Peltz, the curator of 18th-century portraits at the London gallery, said in a statement: “The similarities between [the Scottish National Portrait Gallery pastel] and [the National Portrait Gallery painting] are striking and the precedent for artists relying on existing portraits rather than sittings from life for portraits of the Jacobite princes provides strong evidence for this identification.” She confirmed that the gallery had revised its identification to Henry Benedict Maria Clement Stuart, Cardinal York, acknowledging that an article by Edward Corp of the University of Toulouse in 2009 had also helped sway the decision.
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