A portrait painted in 1745 by the Scottish artist Allan Ramsay, and the only one to have been painted in Britain, has been found ending one of the biggest mysteries in British Art. 1745, the year the portrait was painted was the same year that 24 year old Charles Edward Stuart, or Bonnie Prince Charlie as he was known, launched the disastrous invasion of England. It was originally thought that there were no portraits of Charles from life ever done in Britain, however this newly discovered painting was done in Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh in late October 1745. It has been almost completely unseen for over 250 years in the collection of the Earls of Wemyss at Gosford House, just outside Edinburgh.
The pastel painted in Paris in 1747 by the French artist Maurice Quentin de La Tour, was not in fact Charles, but his brother Henry
Art historian Dr Bendor Grosvenor, who made the discovery had previously made a shock discovery in 2008 that The Scottish National Portrait Gallery’s iconic portrait of Charles, a pastel painted in Paris in 1747 by the French artist Maurice Quentin de La Tour, was not in fact Charles, but his brother Henry. It was this La Tour portrait that had been on book covers and shortbread tins across the world for years.
Dr Grosvenor said: “Bonnie Prince Charlie is one of my heroes, and I always felt bad about debunking what used to be his most famous portrait.
“So I’m delighted to have found the best possible replacement – a portrait painted from life on the eve of his invasion of England.”
The trail of clues that led to the find began with the discovery of a letter summoning Ramsay to paint Charles’s portrait at the Palace of Holyrood in October 1745. Later, an old black and white photograph of a painting of Charles which bore the hallmarks of Ramsay’s work was found in the National Portrait Gallery archive in London, along with further records at Gosford revealed the painting had long been identified as a Ramsay.
The attribution has been confirmed by Dr Duncan Thomson, the former Director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and an expert on Ramsay’s work.
Dr Duncan Thomson said: “This portrait brings the Prince back to life in a way I’d never thought imaginable. It’s hard to overstate the importance of finding a portrait of the Prince painted in Scotland, by a Scottish artist.”
1720 – Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart was born. Commonly known in Britain during his lifetime as The Young Pretender, and retrospectivly as Bonnie Prince Charlie.
1745 – Bonnie Prince Charlie, the grandson of the exiled Stuart king, James II landed in Scotland, determined to regain the throne.
1746 – Charles took his Highland army as far south as Derby, but the rebellion ended in defeat at the Battle of Culloden.
1788 – Charles died in Rome aged 67.2014 – Lost Bonnie Prince Charlie portrait found at Gosford House, Scotland.
2014 – Lost Bonnie Prince Charlie portrait found at Gosford House, Scotland.