Nicolas de Largilliere

Prince James Francis Edward Stuart, 1688 - 1766. Son of James VII and II (1691)

About this artwork

The birth of Prince James Francis Edward, son of King James VII and II and his second wife Mary of Modena, was highly controversial, as it was assumed that the king and queen could not produce healthy children. The birth of a male heir to the Catholic King of Britain increased the growing opposition of Protestants, who had wanted to see the king’s oldest daughter Mary, a Protestant, ascend the throne. They claimed that the real prince had died at birth and had been substituted. The 1688 Revolution subsequently saw Mary and her husband, the Protestant William of Orange, claim the British throne, forcing the Stuarts to flee to France. In this context, this portrait of the luxuriantly draped child should be seen as part of the counter-propaganda of the exiled Stuart family.

Nicolas de Largilliere

Nicolas de Largilliere

Born in Paris, Nicolas de Largillière trained as an artist in Antwerp, where he showed a great admiration for the Flemish Masters. At the age of eighteen he moved to England, where he was apprenticed to Peter Lely at Windsor. His talent attracted the attention of King Charles II, but due to growing hostility towards Catholics, Largillière returned to Paris after four years. There, his lively and colourful style of painting made him a very successful portraitist. On his accession, King James VII and II apparently recalled Largillière to Britain and, although the latter refused the post of keeper of the royal collections, he did paint portraits of the king and queen. He returned to Paris in 1686, where he later painted several portraits of the exiled young Prince of Wales.