Bonnie Prince Henry?

Bonnie Prince Henry?

Bonnie Prince Henry?

A portrait thought to be of Bonnie Prince Charlie, purchased by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery back in 1994 for £22,000, is in actual fact ‘probably his brother’, Prince Henry, the museum has conceded.

After a two-year debate with London art dealer, Bendor Grosvenor, the National Galleries of Scotland have back down from its initial stance that the painting, by French master Maurice-Quentin La Tour, categorically was of the Young Pretender. It comes after Dr. Edward Corp of the University of Toulouse in France, an expert on Jacobite portraiture, changed his opinion who sat for the painting. Originally the Galleries based their argument on the view of expert Dr. Corp, but in an article in the latest edition of The British Art Journal he said, “The weight of evidence, perhaps regrettably, supports Bendor Grosvenor’s argument that the pastel in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery shows Prince Henry rather than Prince Charles.”

He went on to say, “Whether the portrait does or does not show Prince Charles really does matter.

“It is not merely the catalogue of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery which needs to be corrected.

“The impression which an entire nation has derived of this important historical figure should also be changed.

“The portrait is now reproduced in all biographies of the prince, and has been selected to illustrate the article about him in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.”

The basis for the main rejection that the portrait was of Prince Henry, rather than his elder brother, was the fact the man was depicted as wearing armuor, and as Henry was a cardinal this seemed to rule him out, as a man of the church would not have been painted in military clothing. However, it has been discovered that during the time the portrait was made, Prince Henry was leading a naval expedition in support of his brother and had not yet been made a cardinal, making it more than plausible that he could have posed in armour.

A spokesperson for the National Galleries has said, “In the light of this development, we have re-assessed our own position and, on balance, accept that it is more likely that our pastel depicts Prince Henry Benedict, and not his elder brother.

“It is not uncommon that such re-attributions are made, as research continues to fill in gaps in our knowledge, and it is always exciting to uncover new information about the works in our care.

“None of these debates detract from the greatness of the portrait.

“As an image it still projects the glamour of the Stuart cause, it is simply that we must readjust to seeing Henry, always rather in the shadow of his brother, in this role, rather than Charles.”

A explanation of the controversy surrounding the painting will be put up beside the portrait when it goes back on show in two years time following the muesums revamp.


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