This pair of portraits relate to prototypes by Meytens which were commissioned in 1725 by James Stuart (1688-1766), the Old Pretender, and his wife, Maria Clementina (1702-1735), following the birth of Prince Henry, Duke of York, in March of that year. The whereabouts of the original Meytens prototypes is unknown, although the compositions are known through the copies that the Old Pretender commissioned in 1727-1728 from E. Gill, an English artist resident in Rome, as well as from later copies by Antonio David, Louis-Gabriel Blanchet and Domenico Dupra (See E. Corp, The King over the Water - Portraits of Stuarts in Exile after 1689, Edinburgh, 2001, pp. 63-65).
The original Meytens portraits were intended as mutual presents between the Old Pretender and his wife, each to be hung in the other's apartment at the Palazzo Muti, Rome, where the Stuart court was in exile. In the autumn of 1725, a disagreement between James and Maria Clementina over his appointment of a protestant, James Murray, Earl of Dunbar as Governor to the Prince of Wales led to the couple's separation. Maria Clementina retired to a convent and her husband left for Bologna. James required copies of the Meytens portraits, not only for himself in Bologna but also to reassure his friends and supporters of the stability of the Jacobite cause. The Old Pretender commissioned Gill to produce eighteen copies of which he is known to have executed twelve (one pair for James, the remainder to be given away as presents). Several of these copies have survived, including the portrait of James now in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (PG 1836), notable because the colour of James's Thistle ribbon is maroon instead of green.
We are grateful for the assistance of Edward Corp in the cataloguing of this lot.