A portrait of the Field Marshall Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, by Robert Thorburn is on sale with Bonhams at Knightsbridge on 21st November (estimate £3000 – 4000). Angela Burdett-Coutts, an avid collector of portrait miniatures, allegedly commissioned this piece by Thorburn. At the age of 32 she proposed to the Duke depicted in this image, having fallen deeply in love with this legendary military hero.
Forty-five years her senior, Wellesley gently refused her advances with her best interests at heart. He stated in a letter to her that he could still act as her ‘Friend, Guardian, Protector’, offering a hand of friendship to soothe the affections he felt were misdirected to a man of his age.
Jennifer Tonkin, Specialist in the Portrait Miniatures department, said, “We’re delighted to be able to include this rare image of Arthur Wellesley that derives from a very important group portrait by Thorburn of staggering proportions.
The unrequited love story behind the commissioning of lot 127 seems to highlight the Duke’s fragility in this reduced composition and it is possible that potential bidders will be as responsive to the link with Angela Burdett-Coutts as they are to Thorburn’s masterly technique.”
This miniature of the Duke sits alongside other notable lots in the auction, such as Richard Cosway’s depiction of the Muse Thalia rumored to be modeled for by Lady Emma Hamilton (estimate £3000 – 5000). Thorburn’s work is a masterful image with an endearing story and this miniature portrait is set to add color to a fascinating sale. The entire auction catalogue of miniatures can be found here.