L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Sunday, July 10, 2016

A king and a queen of the Netherlands - state portraits of Willem II and Anna Pavlovna

Queen Anna Pavlovna, by Nicaise de Keyser, 1849.
King Willem II, by Nicolaas Pieneman, 1849.

Willem II (Willem Frederik George Lodewijk; 6 December 1792, The Hague – 17 March 1849, Tilburg), King of the Netherlands, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and Duke of Limburg. He was born the eldest son of the future King Willem I of the Netherlands and Wilhelmine of Prussia. At the time of his birth, European politics were quite unstable; throughout his childhood and youth, tensions between Republican and later Napoléonic France, England, and the Netherlands, and their frequently shifting allegiances, meant that the fortunes of his family - the House of Orange - were often in flux. When he was two, he and his family were forced to flee to England, but he later spent his youth in Berlin at the Prussian court, where he received a military education and served for a time in the Prussian Army. Returning to England, he studied at Oxford - where he reportedly involved himself in the homosexual dalliances that would continue for the rest of his life - before, at the age of nineteen, commencing a very successful career with the British Army as aide-de-camp to the Duke of Wellington; within two years he was promoted major-general. His courage and good nature made him very popular with the British who affectionately nicknamed him "Slender Billy." He returned to the Netherlands in 1813 when his father became sovereign prince, and the next year succeeded to the command of the British forces stationed there. He was wounded at Waterloo - which would greatly endear him to the Dutch - and with the fall of Napoléon, the Netherlands, at the urging of the Congress of Vienna, was proclaimed a kingdom, his father becoming the first king of the current Orange-Nassau dynasty. In 1814, Willem had been briefly engaged to Princess Charlotte of Wales, only child of the Prince Regent, but two years later he made a dynastic and politically advantageous marriage to the Grand Duchess Anna Pavlovna of Russia, youngest sister to Czar Alexander I.

The King at the age of fifty-six, in the year of his death.
The Queen at the age of fifty-four.

Anna Pavlovna of Russia (often transliterated in Western Europe as Anna Paulowna; 18 January 1795, Gatchina — 1 March 1865, The Hague), queen consort of Willem II of the Netherlands. The eighth child and sixth daughter of Paul I of Russia and Empress Maria Feodorovna (born Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg), she was only six years old at the time of her father's murder. She was raised along with her two younger brothers at Tsarskoe Selo and given an excellent education. In 1809, shopping around for a properly dynastic second wife, Napoléon, having first failed to secure her elder sister Ekaterina's hand, asked for hers, but her mother, the Dowager Empress, kept him at bay long enough that he lost interest. Seven years later, she married the Prince of Orange in the chapel of the Winter Palace in St Petersburg. After negotiating the issue of the religious difference, it was agreed that Prince Willem’s children should be raised as Protestants, though his wife would retain her Russian Orthodox faith. The couple remained in Russia for one year, but on their arrival in the Netherlands, the Russian Grand Duchess was shocked at the cultural and class differences she encountered. They had five children together, four of whom lived to adulthood, but the marriage was stormy, much of it due to her unconcealed feelings of superiority and to his infidelities. The family resided in Brussels - what is now Belgium being a part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands at the time - until the Belgian Revolution forced them to leave in 1830. Upset by constitutional changes that weakened the power of the king, her father-in-law abdicated in 1840. The reign of Willem II was able to weather the revolutionary year of 1848, due mainly to the king's sensibly instituting a yet more liberal régime; the new constitution, with only a few amendments, survives to this day. Willem died unexpectedly, though, in the following year, at the age of only fifty-six. His wife, now dowager, not getting along with either her eldest son, now King Willem III, nor her daughter-in-law, retired from court and lived quietly until her death at the age of seventy.

The Inauguration of King Willem II in the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam on 28 November 1840, by Nicolaas Pieneman, circa 1840-1845.
The two state portraits were painted almost a decade after the event, but mostly reflect the dress and setting of the inauguration.


De Keyser also painted the Queen in evening dress; the pose and jewelry are the same as in the state portrait.
(Comparing this image with the fuller composition visible in the engraving below, it's possible that the
painting may have been cut down, but it's much more likely it's only the image that has been cropped.)
  If we are able to trust the claimed date of 1848, this painting would have been completed before the state portrait.


Nicaise de Keyser (26 August 1813, Zandvliet – 17 July 1887, Antwerp), Belgian painter and teacher. Prolific, he is most remembered for his portraits - his clients numbered among them the royal families of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Württemberg - and history paintings. He is considered one of the key figures in the Belgian Romantic-historical school of painting.

Nicolaas Pieneman (1 January 1809, Amersfoort – 30 December 1860, Amsterdam), Dutch painter, lithographer, sculptor, teacher, and art collector. He specialized in portraits and in portrayals of recent history. He was a personal friend of William II of the Netherlands and was frequently commissioned by the king and other members of the royal family, and later painted several portraits of the king's son and successor, Willem III.

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