Princess Victoria aged Four

Stephen Poyntz Denning1823

Dulwich Picture Gallery

Dulwich Picture Gallery

Stephen Denning started life as a beggar before becoming a painter and eventually Keeper of Dulwich Picture Gallery in 1821, when it was customary for the curator to also be a practicing artist.

This small portrait was probably painted after a chance encounter with the young princess in Kensington Palace Gardens. The sombre black of Victoria's outfit, along with the rose fallen at her feet, set a melancholy mood for a little girl who had lost her father, the Duke of Kent, three years previously. This painting has been hugely popular since the 1890s and was even reproduced on biscuit tins.

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  • Title: Princess Victoria aged Four
  • Date: 1823
  • Physical Dimensions: w227 x h279 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil
  • Work Nationality: British
  • Support: Panel
  • Provenance: Purchased by Dulwich College from Mr Quatrich (£30), 1891.
  • Further Information: Victoria (1819-1901), Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and Empress of India. As a girl, Victoria lived with her mother the Duchess of Kent, in Kensington Palace and was often to be seen walking in Kensington Gardens. It was observed how her remarkably transparent complexion, with 'a tinge of the sweet blush rose upon her cheeks' lent 'a peculiar brilliancy to her clear blue eyes. Whenever she met any strangers in her usual paths she always seemed by the quickness of her glance to enquire who and why they were'. In 1823, at the age of four, she was not inevitably destined to be Queen and was frequently pitied as a fatherless child. Such sympathy may be expressed in this painting, doubtless painted from memory as a result of a chance encounter.
  • Artist: Denning, Stephen Poyntz
  • Acquisition Method: Dulwich College (Purchased by Dulwich College, 1891)