July 8, 2008
New royal portraits hang in Capitol
Five new royal portraits adorn the General Court and the Hall of the House of Burgesses of the Capitol in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area. The full-length life-size paintings complement the return of the interiors to their appearance at the time of the American Revolution, based on historical records and customary practice of the time.
The sheer size of the portraits cannot fail to impress guests as they enter the Hall of Burgesses and gaze up at the visages of King George II and his Queen Caroline facing each other on the West and East walls, and King George III and his Queen Charlotte hung on the North wall. The portraits were hung originally in response to official directive and their continued presence noted in a 1777 journal entry. The current portrait installation mirrors historical records.
A full-scale portrait of Queen Anne graces the West wall of the General Court. Anne was crowned Queen of England in April 1702 and an official portrait was ordered by the Virginia colony that year. The portrait, along with a carving of the Queen’s royal coat of arms arrived by the time the colonial government moved into the uncompleted Capitol in 1704.
“The impact of the portraits is dramatic,” said Lynne Dakin Hastings, Colonial Williamsburg’s curator of historic interiors. “When entering the General Court or the Hall of Burgesses, there is absolutely no doubt that considerable power and influence rests in the authority of the Crown and its representatives.”
The newly-installed portraits are high-quality reproductions on canvas of official royal portraits originally painted in the 18th century. Three of the original portraits are property of the National Portrait Gallery in London and were reproduced with permission. The original Queen Anne portrait is oil on canvas, painted by Michael Dahl in 1705. King George II and Queen Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach were painted in oil on canvas by Charles Jervas in 1727.
Two of the paintings were reproduced from portraits in The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s collections. The 18th-century originals were produced by the studio of Allan Ramsay in London, circa 1770. The originals are displayed in the ballroom of the Governor’s Palace in the Historic Area.
The Capitol served as the seat of government for the Virginia Colony from 1699 to 1776 and as the first capitol for the independent Commonwealth of Virginia from 1776 to 1780 when Gov. Thomas Jefferson moved the government to Richmond. The current building was reconstructed on the original foundations in the 1930s and is used to demonstrate the Virginia populace’s transformation from royal subjects to citizens of an independent commonwealth during the Revolutionary period. It is open to ticketed guests throughout the year.
Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Within the restored and reconstructed buildings, historic interpreters, attired as colonial men and women from slaves to shopkeepers to soldiers, relate stories of colonial Virginia society and culture – stories of our journey to become Americans – while historic trades people research, demonstrate and preserve the 18th-century world of work and industry. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution for its guests, it also invites them to interact with history. “Revolutionary City®,” a dramatic live street theater presentation, is a 2008 Rand McNally Best-of-the-Road™ Editor’s Pick. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at www.history.org.