After the picture of c.1650 in Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon.
This intimate and slightly erotic depiction of a woman going to bed is locked away in its frame, behind a stipple engraving of Queen Victoria. Hiding a painting in a locked frame was a 19th century idea, to protect paintings from dirt and damage. Interestingly, during the Great Stink in 1858 locked frames were added to many older Dutch paintings in Buckingham Palace in order to protect them from the atmosphere with its overwhelming smell. This beautifully carved frame is adorned by the Imperial State Crown without the top Maltese Cross, it is likely that this was simply too difficult to carve. The bottom edge of the frame bears St. George and the Dragon, which also adorned the heraldic reverse of the golden sovereign from 1817 to 1825, when this design was abandoned in favour of the more conventional Royal Arms. In 1871 the design with St. George was revived with Queen Victoria on the front and has been present on sovereigns of all the monarchs since. The sides and corners of the frame are decorated with floral insignia of the Rose, Thistle and Shamrock used to symbolise the sovereignty of Queen Victoria as Royal Monarch over the United Kingdom.
The engraving of Queen Victoria is inscribed:
To His Royal Highness Prince Albert,
This Print is by special Command humbly dedicated,
By Her Royal Highness’ most obedient & grateful servant Edward Puckle
There is however no evidence to suggest that this lot was part of the Royal Collection. What is known is that Queen Victoria liked to surprise Prince Albert with intimate and alluring images. In 1843 she secretly commissioned Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-1873) to paint her portrait as a surprise for Prince Albert’s birthday. This painting is far removed from the official royal portraits and depicts the Young Queen with her hair undone leaning seductively against a red cushion. This work is currently in the Royal Collection.