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.’
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.
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