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The Hon Mrs George Keppel by Ellis William Roberts (1860-1930)

Measures sight size: 75 cm x 61 cm

Alice Keppel- The favourite mistress of HRH King Edward VII, and the great grandmother of HRH the Duchess of Cornwall (formerly Camilla Parker Bowles) and now the wife of HRH the Prince of Wales Provenance- Formerly the property of The Hon Christopher Lennox-Boyd, the renowned collector, dealer and author, who amassed the finest and largest collection of artwork in private hands, selling over 7,000 from his collection of over 50,000 mezzotints to the British museum in 2010.. This pastel painting was bought by The Hon Christopher lennox-boyd in the 1950’s because he considered that the subject bore a striking resemblance to his girlfriend, however, when they acrimoniously parted a short time later, he placed the painting face down on an attic room floor in his warehouse, where it lay undisturbed and forgotten for fifty years, only coming to light when the warehouse was cleared in 2007.

At some time in the Edwardian era a photograph was taken of the picture by the illustrated London news which is included above in the images, the illustrated London news was a society magazine which started its publication in 1842, and the Bridgeman art library, have a black and white photograph of this picture , stating their source of the image as the illustrated London news, and is described as “English school”. The Getty images library also have a copy of this photograph, giving the same source as the illustrated London news, but describe the picture as by an unknown English artist.

The artist is in fact the renowned society portrait painter Ellis William Roberts, (1860-1930) and is signed at the top right hand corner of the painting.

Roberts had painted many society people, and had also painted all of Queen Victoria’s children, of which of course the Prince of Wales who later became HRH King Edward VII, was one. Roberts would have therefore been known to him, and it is entirely possible, indeed probable in our view, that this painting was commissioned by him and had hung in one of the royal homes until his death, whereupon it may have been unceremoniously discarded by Queen Alexandra, as were many reminders of his favourite mistress. It is also possible that the painting was given as a gift to Alice Keppel, by the king, and had found its way onto the market after her death in 1947, or that of her husband, the Hon George Keppel a few months later.

HRH the Prince of Wales asked if we would sell the portrait to him in 2007, and we prevaricated, as we were undecided whether to sell or not. A further letter from the prince arrived some time later asking if we had made a decision on whether to sell or not, and again we were undecided. We then informed HRH the Prince of Wales that we may consider selling the picture provided that there was no publicity, and HRH replied, stating that no one in his office would mention from whom the picture had been acquired. We informed the palace that we were sending the pastel painting for light cleaning and that we would engage with them upon the picture’s return. Sir Michael Peat who was HRH the Prince of Wale’s principle private secretary then sent us a letter thanking us for the reply and apologizing for being “such a nuisance”. The picture was away for nearly a year because of the illness of the restorer, and upon its return we decided to keep the picture until we were able to research it’s history, which proved to be very difficult, as the Caird library in London, who have all copies of the illustrated London news ,were only just starting to put the illustrated London news online , and we needed to see when the picture had appeared in this magazine, and of course the context of its appearance, one of which we have managed to do to date, so there is still research that needs to be done, but our belief is that HRH King Edward VII commissioned this portrait, and what happened after that is a matter of speculation. Within a book titled 'The last Victorian King - King Edward VII' a painting with the exact title 'The Hon Mrs George Keppel by Ellis Roberts' is catalogued, a photo of the page can be seen above with the description highlighted, as can the original label verso to the pastel portrait which reads identically. The illustration shown in the book is actually a pencil drawing and it is our belief that as the above pastel portrait was lost for so many years, and certainly being of superiority in its style and colours it is in fact the correct portrait to which the book refers. All copies of the correspondence from HRH the Prince of Wales will be provided upon sale.

Ellis William Roberts:

Ellis William Roberts was born in Burslem, Staffordshire on 27 October 1860, second son of Thomas Roberts a pottery manager. He studied at Wedgwood Institute, Burslem, Minton Memorial Art School, the Royal College of Art from 1882 to 1883 and Academie Julian, Paris from 1887 to 1888 under Bouguereau and Robert Fleury. It is recorded that he travelled to Italy. Roberts was elected a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in 1893. He worked in pastel and oil and specialized in portraits of London society women. His sitters included: The Hon Mrs George Keppel (Alice, mistress to King Edward VII) Lady Cunard Rt Hon Arthur Balfour Countess of Chesterfield 3rd Earl of Morley Lady Londonderry Countess of Powis Lady Leconfield amongst others. Roberts exhibited 16 portraits at the Royal Academy from 1886 to 1902, from a London address of 6 Williams Street, Lowndes Square, London. He died in Brighton at the Queen’s Hotel on 24th September 1930. Works Represented: Badminton; Arundel; Bowhill; Beningbrough Hall, North Yorkshire; Bisham Abbey, Buckinghamshire; Devon County Council, Exeter; Mount Stewart House, Co. Down; Petworth House, West Sussex; Powis Castle; Potteries Museum & Art Gallery Stoke-on Trent.

The Hon Mrs Alice Keppel by Ellis Roberts - H.R.H The Prince of Wales SOLD

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