Frederick II - Modest appearance

The distinguished and renowned historian Sir Christopher Clark about Charles Amédée van Loos Portrait of King Frederick II of Prussia. Take a look and let us surprise you!

The French painter Charles Amédée van Loo was summoned to the court at Berlin in 1748. In the following years he carried out numerous decorative commissions for the palaces of Frederick II. Following a period of leave in Paris that began in 1758, he returned to Berlin in 1763 and remained there until 1769. Van Loo painted two portraits of the King during this second Berlin period. One representative full-figure portrait, which has been in the royal collection in London since 1816, and the present, more intimate, work concentrating on the royal sitter’s features. The carved stone oak leaf frame is one of van Loo's characteristic motifs.

„Gratitude to his people is the greatest virtue a Monarch can possess.”

Frederick the Great is depicted here aged 54. By the end of the Seven Years’War, Prussia had risen to become the 5th great power in Europe and the King could look back with confidence and pride on an impressive life’s work. This is the message conveyed in the London work. The present work depicts the King in a simple plain uniform devoid of all representative decorations apart from the Prussian Order. He appears slightly melancholy, with pursed lips, eyes gazing out into the distance, and slightly receding grey hair. The work is not meant to depict a sovereign, but a private man, and its first owner is thought to have been the King’s brother, Prince Henry of Prussia.

In 1768 Daniel Chodowiecki made an etching, which is an inverted reproduction of our picture. It is not known who caused this print after Van Loo's royal portrait, but it is known that "the portrait of the king, similar and well executed, was sold in significant numbers because it was used as a room decoration" (R. Michaelis: Friedrich der Große im Spiegel der Werke des Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki. In: Friedrich und die historische Größe, ed. M. Kaiser and J. Luth, contributions of the 3rd colloquium, 2010).