A Unique Late 17thC Naïve Reverse Glass Picture of King William III c.1695-1700

Origin: English
Period: William III
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1695-1700
Width: 10”
Height: 13.25” (in frame)

The very rare reverse glass and foil painting showing King William III depicted standing full length in coronation robes in an interior with his crown and orb laid on a richly ornate fabric laid table before a window and fluted pillar, the work executed freely in the naïve manner and being wonderfully stylised and the whole in a carved pine frame with traces of gilding and polychrome decoration.

The picture is in good order considering its fragility and considerable age. One can see some wear to the foils and thinning to the paint in places. It doesn’t appear to be signed but we have not inspected it out of the frame. There are small losses to the frame.

Born into the House of Orange-Nassau, William won the English, Scottish and Irish Crowns following the Glorious Revolution, during which his uncle and father-in-law, James II, was deposed. In England, Scotland and Ireland William ruled jointly with his wife, Mary II, until her death on 28 December 1694. As a Protestant, William participated in a number of wars against the Catholic Louis XIV of France, and many Protestants heralded him as a champion of their faith. It was partly due to this that he was able to take the crown of England, since many were intensely fearful of Catholicism and the papacy. William's reign marked the beginning of the transition from the Stuart's personal control of government to the Parliamentary rule of the House of Hanover. During his reign, the Bill of Rights of 1689 settled the question of succession to the Crown. After the death of either William or Mary, the other spouse would continue to reign. Next in the line of succession was Mary II's sister, the Princess Anne. William was absent from the realm for extended periods during his war with France during his joint rule with Mary. Whilst he was away fighting Mary governed the realm, acting on his advice. When she died of smallpox in 1694, William ruled alone and deeply mourned his wife's death. Although he converted to Anglicanism his popularity plummeted during his reign as a sole Sovereign. Nevertheless his reign established the Protestant succession; saw the Act of Settlement of 1701 and the resistance of French domination in Europe. In 1702, William died of pneumonia, a complication from a fall whilst riding at Hampton Court in 1702.

This depiction is possibly loosely based on a Anglo-Dutch School, circa 1700 painting of the period or more likely Sir Godfrey Knellers works of the King and Queen Mary, both showing the crown sat to a table and with a window to the background. It is very unusual to see a reverse glass picture of this age painted in this informal style.

The process of reverse glass painting originated in sixteenth-century Germany, initially as a means for reproducing prints and other well-known religious images for display in upper-class homes. By the eighteenth century, reverse-glass paintings were produced and distributed on a wider scale.

An absolute delight, and a work of high rarity, both of stellar age yet still utterly contemporary.