In this mezzotint engraving after a whole-length portrait by Thomas Gainsborough, King George III wears the Windsor uniform (designed by the king himself for the use of family and friends) and the ribbon and star of the Order of the Garter, with the Garter itself around his knee. The Garter is the emblem of the Order and bears the motto ‘Honi soit qui mal y pense’ (‘shame upon him who thinks evil upon it’).
Thomas Gainsborough exhibited his portrait of George III and a companion portrait of Queen Charlotte at the Royal Academy in 1781. The artist’s nephew, Gainsborough Dupont, engraved this mezzotint after the king’s portrait and published it on 6 June 1790, publishing a second edition on 30 December the same year. The lettering on this example, which would have given the precise date of publication, no longer survives.
One of the founders of the 18th-century British landscape school, Thomas Gainsborough was also the creator of the so-called ‘fancy picture’, depicting rustic figures - usually children - posed in rural settings. Born in Suffolk, he studied in London from about 1739 to 1748 under the French painter and engraver Hubert Gravelot and the British painter Francis Hayman at the St Martin’s Lane Academy. Gainsborough returned to Suffolk in 1748, where he worked as a landscape and portrait painter until 1759, before moving to Bath. There he quickly developed into a much sought-after society painter. In 1774, he moved to London where he exhibited his work in his studio. He died in London in 1788.
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