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Thomas Sully (1783-1872)
Queen Victoria
1838
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Queen of England, but not yet crowned, the portrait shows the young Alexandria Victoria (1819-1901), dressed in royal coronation regalia: a white dress, a gold and fur-banded red velvet robe and, on her head, the George IV diadem. The Coronation crown is barely visible, half-hidden in the background to her left and shadowed by a deep red drape. Queen Victoria's head and shoulders are turned as she looks back.

Rather than wearing her gloves, she is holding them, perhaps to suggest a level of informality and approachability. Her large eyes, rosy cheeks and slightly open mouth, make her appear sensuous and childlike at the same time. Giving the impression of both innocence and emotion, it seems that the painter wants to show Victoria’s passing from princess to Queen, from childhood to maturity. It also seems that he wants to show her as an affectionate and approachable personality.

Acclaimed as a masterpiece, this portrait became one of the best known images of the Queen in early Victorian England and shows her very differently from the paintings of the older Queen which we perhaps are more familiar with today.

What do we know of Queen Victoria, her reputation and her reign? Does this portrait seem an accurate portrayal of her?
If you were to make a portrait of Queen Victoria based on what you know and think of her, how would you choose to portray her and which objects would you want to include?

The artist Thomas Sully (1783-1872) was born in England but taken to America by his parents where he became an American citizen, settling in Philadelphia. He was a prolific painter, creating over 2,000 portraits, and was well known in America for his refined but sensuous portraits of women.

This painting is a replica of the full-length portrait commissioned by the Anglophile 'Society of the Sons of St. George' in Philadelphia. The work took great liberties with the conventions of state portraiture. The pose is unusual for a royal portrait and is thought to have been influenced by Van Dyck's painting The Earl of Pembroke and his Family (circa 1635, Wilton House, Salisbury).

Thomas Sully (1783-1872)  Queen Victoria   1838
Materials and technique: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 142.5 x 112.5 cm
Wallace Collection (P564)
Pose and Expression
Status and Dress
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