This scene of the boar hunt of Ferdinand IV at Persano, some fifty miles from Naples, includes both Neapolitan and British sitters. Ferdinand IV, mounted on his brown horse, is the central figure in the painting. Descended from the Spanish Bourbons, he was King of the two Sicilies, comprising Sicily, Naples, the entire southern half of the Italian peninsula and titular control of Malta.
Boar hunting was one of Ferdinand IV’s greatest passions, but the depiction of the hunt in this scene is innacurate. The four dogs, and slain boar and fox in the foreground are merely tokens. In reality forty or fifty boars were slaughtered a day, while up to 2000 peasants and soldiers and hundreds of dogs were used to circle a wood to drive the boar out towards the fourteen hunters in their green and gold uniforms.
Assisting at this ‘symbolic’ hunt are members of Ferdinand IV’s family, loyal Neapolitan subjects (including the 'lazzaroni') or peasants in local costume in the lower right corner and the boys in the tree, and members of the nobility). Also featured are the Queen of Sardinia (the young woman in white in the standing group on the right hand side) and British sitters such as Prince Augustus, Duke of Sussex (wearing the star and garter) and Sir William Hamilton (British Ambassador to Naples from 1764 to 1800 in the mauve coat) both standing in front of the left hand cart or spectators. Between these two, the figure decorated with pre-eminent orders may be Sir John Acton, the powerful Prime Minister of Naples of British descent. Above them in this cart sits Emma Lady Hamilton, who had married Hamilton in 1791 and was later to become Nelson’s mistress. She is wearing a red cap, which has been described as Phrygian but is more likely to be based on those worn by the local lazzaroni, such as the one worn by the boy in the tree. Directly behind Lady Hamilton sits Queen Maria Carolina of Austria, consort of Ferdinand IV, with her lady-in-waiting, the Duchess of Cassano. The two daughters of the royal couple, Maria Luisa and Maria Carolina are also accompanying the suite.
The German painter Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein came from a family of painters. He met Goethe in Rome in 1786, where he painted the famous portrait of the poet seated in the Roman Campagna (now in the Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt-am-Main). In 1787 he went with Goethe to Naples, where he was appointed director of the Academy of Fine Arts two years later. There he also met Sir William Hamilton, whose collections of Greek vases he engraved. Following the occupation of Naples by the French Tischbein returned to Germany, working at Kassel, Hamburg and finally Eutin where he died.
Ferdinand I, King of the Two SiciliesMarie Adélaïde Clotilde Xavière de FranceAugustus Frederick, Prince, Duke of SussexHamilton, Sir WilliamHamilton, Emma, Lady HamiltonActon, Sir John Francis Edward, 6th BaronetMaria CarolinaGiulia Carafa, Duchessa di CassanoMaria Luisa of the Two SiciliesMaria Teresa Carolina Giuseppina of Naples and Sicily
Collection of landowner and racehorse breeder (Albert Edward) Harry Mayer Archibald Primrose, 6th Earl of Rosebery and 2nd Earl of Midlothian (1882-1974); by whom presented to the Office of Works in 1932, in memory of Rosebery's father, for use in the British Embassy, Rome
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