Lady Lever Picture of the Month – October 2005

Lady Lever Art Gallery picture of the month is Queen Victoria by David Wilkie.

Queen Victoria in Robes of State by Sir David Wilkie 1840

David Wilkie (1785-1841) was the most successful Scottish artist of the first half of the nineteenth century. He achieved almost instant success when he moved to London from Edinburgh in 1805. At the Royal Academy in that year Wilkie exhibited what was regarded as a new type of narrative subject picture showing affectionate views of Scottish rural celebrations and festivities. Often humorous, invariably full of incident and seen at the time as paralleling Dutch seventeenth-century genre scenes by artists like Teniers, his pictures struck a popular chord. Along with the poetry of Robert Burns, and the novels of Walter Scott he satisfied the growing taste for Scottish subjects.

Wilkie, when the portrait was finished, considered it to be “very like her, but no-one can tell how likenesses strike other people.” Victoria in her journal wrote that Lord Melbourne thought it “a bad thing to send these bad pictures of me all over the Continent”. In 1840 the picture was exhibited at the Royal Academy. The critic and novelist William Thackeray writing for Fraser’s Magazine compared Victoria to a ship’s figurehead and thought the robes looked as though carved from oak and that it was a bad likeness.