Princess Charlotte & Prince Leopold at Covent Garden
Hand-coloured engravingpublished 8 April 1818
About the work
Place: British Embassy, UK representation to the EU & UK delegation to NATO
This engraving depicts Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold, seated in their box at Covent Garden Theatre. Leopold holds a libretto, containing the text of the performance, while Charlotte is turned to face him and wears a paisley shawl draped over one shoulder and a wreath of roses on her head. The couple is depicted on a particular occasion: watching ‘Henry VIII’ performed for the benefit of the Theatrical Fund on Saturday 29 June 1817. The cast included actress Sarah Siddons (1755-1831) as Queen Katherine. Although the original portrait by George Dawe, on which this print is based, was commissioned by Charlotte, the engraving was not issued until 6 April 1818, after the Princess's death.
On 22 May 1818, an advertisement in the ‘Morning Post’ for the engraving after Dawe’s full-length portrait of Charlotte in Russian costume also advertised:
‘…a highly-finished Chalk Engraving of their Royal Highnesses the Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold, in their Box at the Theatre, engraved from the original Painting by George Dawe, Esq. R.A. by W. T. Fry. Prints, 1l. 1s. – Proofs, 2l. 2s. Highly finished in watercolours and mounted, 5l. 5s.’
About the artist
History and portrait painter George Dawe was born in London, the son of mezzotinter Philip Dawe. His younger brothers, Henry Edward and James Philip, and sister, Mary Margaret, all became artists. Having been instructed in the art of engraving by his father, George turned to painting. In 1819 he went to Russia, where he painted some four hundred portraits of the chiefs of the Russian army, who (with the help of the Russian winter) had vanquished Napoleon, for the Emperor. Dawe became an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1809 and a Royal Academician in 1814. He did not live to enjoy the considerable sum he earned as a result of his time in Russia; dying only six weeks after his return to England in 1829. He was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral.
Nothing is known of the early life of William Thomas Fry. He was one of the first engravers to experiment with steel plates and encouraged dialogue on improving plate design. His stipple portrait of the Reverend William Naylor was one of the first engravings published using decarbonized steel plates designed by engraver Charles Warren. Fry also contributed to Rudolph Ackermann’s ‘Forget-me-not’ (1825), the first annual to use steel plates. He exhibited at the Society of Artists on Suffolk Street (1824-30) and produced eleven plates for the ‘National Gallery of Pictures of Great Masters’ (1836). Most of his works are portraits in stipple, but he also made aquatint and lithographic prints. He died, apparently unmarried, in London, aged c.54.