This is one of several versions of the Queen’s state portrait which were painted specifically for display in British embassies and legations. In addition to this painting (which was originally sent to St Petersburg before being transferred to Moscow), versions were supplied between 1840 and 1900 to embassies in Washington, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Rome, Constantinople and Madrid; and to legations in Peking, Tokyo and Tehran.
The original portrait by Sir George Hayter (the Queen’s favourite painter when she was young) was painted to commemorate her coronation. Sittings for the portrait (now at Holyrood House in Scotland) began at Buckingham Palace in July 1838. At one point during the sittings Victoria is reported to have posed with a hearth brush from the fireplace to serve as a sceptre. Aged just 19 at the time, the young Queen moved one contemporary to write: ‘there was something pathetic... in her extreme youthfulness, her face still had the flush and flower-like look of childhood, from which, small and slim as she was, she might easily be supposed to have not yet emerged... She had so much natural dignity, and such an air of distinction.’
George Hayter was born in London. He entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1808 and later taught drawing and painting to Princess Charlotte, daughter of the Prince Regent. In 1815 he was made Painter of Miniatures and Portraits to Charlotte and her husband, Prince Leopold. In the next year he travelled to Italy with the support of the Duke of Bedford and entered the Accademia di San Luca as its youngest ever member. Although Hayter returned to London in 1818, he moved back to Italy in 1826 and was in Paris from 1828 to 1831. Hayter settled in England in the early 1830s, was appointed Principal Painter-in-Ordinary to Queen Victoria in 1841 and knighted the following year. Despite his successes, he was never admitted to the Royal Academy.
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