ANDREA SOLDI (Italian, c.1703-1771)
Portrait of James Francis Edward Stuart (1688-1766)
The Old Pretender of Scotland, called James III & VIII
bust-length in a cuirass and red cloak
Oil on Canvas
signed 'Aw. Soldi / Pinxit Ao. / 1755' lower left
Measuring 23 inches by 19 inches (30 inches by 26 inches framed)
In a period giltwood frame with early 20thc Christie's stencil to the reverse
This exceptionally important work, by one of the most famous foreign portraitists working in eighteenth-century England, shows a strikingly humble and 'human' image of the exiled Stuart King, Prince James Francis Edward Stuart, son of James II of England and VII of Scotland. Known as "King James III" to his followers and "The Old Pretender" to his opponents, James Stuart lived in exile in France and Italy as claimant to the thrones of Scotland and England from 1701 to his death in 1766. He launched several unsuccessful rebellions, the final being led by his son Bonnie Prince Charlie (Charles Edward Louis Philip Casimir Stuart, 'The Young Pretender') which ended in defeat on Culloden Moor in 1746 - this being the last battle ever fought on British soil and the end of the Jacobite rebellions.
The present protrait bears remarkable resemblance to a pencil profile taken of James Francis Edward Stuart, by Francesco Ponzone circa 1741. According to the King's private secretary, this pencil profile was "a good likeness of James III" and one of the last images taken from life. Unlike most propaganda Stuart portraits and engravings that were distributed in England and Scotland amongst Jacobite supporters, the Ponzone profile accurately depicts an aging King. The Ponzone pencil drawing was engraved in 1747 and would have been accessible to Soldi in Scotand in the 1750s. The present work is also comparable to Cosmo Alexander's portrait of James III circa 1752 of which an images exists in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (previously thought to have been a portrait of George Keith, Earl Marischal and now identified as James III). It is highly possibly that Soldi would have based the present work on Alexander's 1752 portrait of James Francis Edward Stuart, as the two artists were colleagues and both working in Edinburgh in the mid-1750s.
Andrea Soldi (c1703-1771)
The only remaining source for this painter's early years is George Vertue, who in 1738 stated he was "about thirty-five or rather more", had been born in Florence and had come to England in about 1736 on the advice of British merchants belonging to the Levant Company, who had commissioned their portraits from him during his travels in the Middle East. From 1738 to 1744 he won much success in London's art market and among Italophile noblemen back from their Grand Tour, being preferred to both English portrait practice (fluctuating between Rococo and Kneller-like styles) and to other Italian portraitists in England at the time. Beginning "above thirty portraits" from April to August 1738 alone (according to Vertue), Soldi's only serious rival was van Loo (in London 1737–42). Particular patrons included the 2nd Duke of Manchester, 3rd Duke of Manchester, 3rd duke of Beaufort and 4th Viscount Fauconberg. Soldi lived a lavish lifestyle, was imprisoned for debt in 1744, and died in London in 1771, Joshua Reynolds paying for his funeral.
Major works by Soldi rarely come to the art market - the majority of his paintings are held in museums - yet several which have remained in private hands have recently been sold commanding prices in the seven-figure range. A work which came to the market at Sotheby's NY within the past decade was bought through the National Art Fund by the Tate Britain.
Andrea Soldi (Italian, 1703-1771) Portrait of James Francis Edward Stuart, 1755
John Ingamells "Andrea Soldi: A Checklist of his Work" Connoisseur 1974.
H.W. Radford (London) 1927.
With L.A. Dupuy (London) 1932.
Christie's (London) sale of Old Master Pictures, March 11 1932, lot 7 "James Francis Edward Stuart"
Gunnar Asgeir Sadolin (Copenhagen) 1955 as "The Old Pretender of Scotland"
Private Collection, Toronto Canada.
On 16 April, 1746 the Jacobite army fought its last battle in the hopes of restoring Scotland's exiled 'King Over the Water' back to the throne. On behalf of his father, Bonnie Prince Charlie led 7000 Jacobite troops onto Culloden Moor near Inverness, Scotland. The man they fought and died for - their Stuart King - was known to them as James III & VIII. He was known to their enemies as 'The Old Pretender'. Only son and heir of the Stuart King James II & VII, Prince James Francis Edward Stuart had lived almost his entire existence in exile. He was born in the year 1688 at St James's Palace, and even at birth was immediately assailed by rumours that he was an imposter child, smuggled into the Royal birthing bed inside a warming pan. Within months, in the midst of the Glorious Revolution, he was smuggled to France by the Queen - his mother - who disguised herself as a laundress and escaped England with her infant son, the Prince of Wales. Prince James launched an unsuccessful Jacobite rebellion in 1715 called 'The Fifteen' before fleeing to Italy under the support of the Jacobite court in Rome. He remained in Italy for the duration of his life. His son Charles 'The Young Pretender' rallied Jacobite support in Scotland once again, and in 1745 led the Jacobite army to numerous victories against the English army in Scotland. This rebellion culminated at the Battle of Culloden - the last battle ever fought on British soil and the end of Scotland's dream to restore the Stuart Monarchy. Pictured here we have perhaps the most profoundly human of all known images of James III - in 1755 the Italian artist Andrea Soldi (1703-1771) captured the image of a defeated king, without the usual pomp and circumstance afforded to a Royal portrait. Of all paintings of The King Over the Water, this most closely resembles Ponzone's pencil sketch of James III which his private secretary deemed "a good likeness" of the Stuart King.
Baraset House thanks Dr Edward Corp for his assistance in cataloguing this work.