This work depicts the only surviving son of King James VII and II, James Stuart, who was just a year old when his parents were exiled by William of Orange to St Germain-en-Laye, in north-central France. Alexis-Simon Belle’s portrait shows Stuart as a young man, standing in a tent, wearing a breast plate and resting one arm on a helmet. This primary version of the painting was copied several times and became the standard image of Stuart. It is thought to have once been part the collection of Mary of Modena (the sitter’s mother and Queen consort of King James). Mary reputedly gave this and several other paintings to Winifred Trentham, Lady Strickland (the former governess of the sitter) who lived at Sizergh Castle in Cumbria. A companion portrait by Belle, depicting the sitter’s sister, Princess Louisa Maria (c.1710) remains at Sizergh today.
Alexis-Simon Belle was born in Paris; the son of portrait painter Jean Belle. He trained with his father and then with François de Troy, a painter at the exiled court of James VII and II at St Germain-en-Laye. After the death of the exiled King, he continued to work for his son, James Stuart. In 1700 he won the Prix de Rome but remained in France to continue with Jacobite commissions. In 1703 he was elected a member of the Académie Royale de Peinture et Sculpture. Demand for portraits of Stuart was so great that by 1706 he was running his own atelier. In 1714, he joined the new Jacobite court in Bar-le-Duc, north-eastern France. He also completed commissions for the French court and examples of his work are in the collection at Versailles.
James Francis Edward Stuart (“The Old Pretender”) (1688-1766) Jacobite claimant to the thrones of England, Scotland, and Ireland
Oil on canvas
height: 136.00 cm, width: 107.00 cm
Presented by Lord Rosebery, February 1956
Probably collection of Mary of Modena; by whom reputedly given to Winifred Trentham, Lady Strickland (1645-1725); thence by descent at Sizergh, Cumbria [through bequest to her grandson]; sold through Christie's, London, on 18 July 1896 (Lot 9), as by Hyacinthe Rigaud; bought by 'Vokins' [probably fine art dealers J. & W. Vokins] for £493-10-0; collection of Lord Rosebery; by whom presented to the Scottish Office in 1956
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