the museum network
Portraits & Portraiture
HomeView PortraitsThemes<empty>Timeline<empty>Children's Activities!
All PortraitsThe Bowes MuseumCompton VerneyThe Holburne MuseumWaddesdon Manor The Wallace Collection

Johann Zoffany (1733-1810)
Queen Charlotte
View Holburne Museum of Art Portraits

Princess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz married King George III of England two weeks before his coronation in 1761. Sharing similar interests, they both became fervent patrons of the arts and sciences and had many close associations with the leading artists and entrepreneurs of the day. The Queen, herself a competent painter of watercolours, supported a number of women artists and continuously encouraged her own daughters' creative talents.

The 22-year-old Queen Charlotte is seated next to a table. Her body and face are slightly turned, but she is looking straight at us. With a kind expression and one arm resting on the table, the pose seems more informal than you would perhaps expect of a Royal portrait.

Looking closely, her clothes and accessories may both hint at her status and give us clues to her interests and passions. She is wearing a tightly fitting blue dress, richly decorated with delicate lace and pearls. A blue ribbon-necklet is tied in a bow around her neck and a lace fichu partly covers up her neckline. Wearing only one of her elbow-length gloves, she reveals an impressive bracelet: four bands of pearls hold a painted miniature portrait of her husband King George III, perhaps given to her as a token of his affection. On her other wrist, a raised shape under the glove suggests that she may be wearing another bracelet.

She is wearing two roses on her bodice. As well as being decorative and symbols of love, they offer clues to her personality and interests. Queen Charlotte had a great passion for plants and her continuous support of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, caused her to become known as the 'Queen of Botany'. The exotic Strelitzia Reginae, or Queen's Bird of Paradise, is named in her honour.

In comparison with contemporary portraits commissioned by the aristocracy and royal courts of Europe, Johann Zoffany's portrait of Charlotte seems both informal and intimate. Painted in minute detail and with masterly skill, it is representative of his unceremonial style. Zoffany specialised in conversation pieces, inspired by 17th-century Dutch domestic portraiture depicting everyday situations, and during his time painted numerous portraits describing the daily life of the Royal family.
Johann Zoffany (1733-1810)  Queen Charlotte   1766
Materials and technique: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 35.5 x 90.2 cm
Holburne Museum: A359
Setting and Symbolism
Colour and Technique
View in Timeline
View Large/Printable Image