Sir Francis Chantrey, Attributed to
(Jordanthorpe 1781 – 1841 London)
Portrait bust of King George IV (1762 – 1830)
Height: 52 cm / 20½ in; 71.7cm / 28¼ in. incl. socle
Presumed to be one of the unsigned and undated busts made for the King in 1822;
Collection of Ian Dawson Grant (1925-1998), first Secretary of the Victorian Society;
Bequeathed by the above to a private collection, UK
This striking bust is closely related to the famous portrait of the King by Chantrey from the early 1820s, when the English sculptor’s reputation was at its zenith. Like the more ubiquitous other version, the present bust portrays the King in an heroic manner, his head turned to sinister, a partly bared chest, long manly neck and hair carved intricately in luxurious curls. Both versions are reminiscent of Sir Thomas Lawrence’s famous painted portrait of George IV from the same period, where the King is styled as a confident patrician ruler, with a haughtily turned gaze and flowing curls of hair.
The present composition is a more informal study than the other type, with the classical drapery reduced to a small piece of garment on the left shoulder, a common feature in other portraits by Chantrey. Whilst there are also slight differences in the rendering of the hair, the similarity of the facial features and expression, as well as the quality of the carving itself, evident in the abundant all’ antica curls and drill-work, are all indicative of Chantrey’s authorship. Consequently, this bust was probably a commission from the King after 1821 (following Chantrey’s life drawings of 1821), which either preceded the official bust or was a private, more intimate version made specially for the King.