This book focuses on the artistic patronage of Queen Charlotte of England, whose artistic support has been traditionally overshadowed by that of her husband, King George III. Although Charlotte and her husband jointly patronized artists during the first decade of their marriage, she eventually became a substantial patron in her own right, supporting both the fine and decorative arts. The demands of raising a large family postponed Queen Charlotte's artistic patronage, but even during these early years, she was viewed as an important cultural agent, as artists of both genders sought her approbation. She was particularly drawn to the work of female artists, many of whom worked outside of the dominant cultural institution of the time, the Royal Academy of the Arts. This preference was passed on to several of her children, most notably, the future George IV and Princess Elizabeth, later Landgravine of Hesse-Homburg. In this study, Charlotte's support of these artists, or matronage, is viewed within the context of a network of female sociability or cultural discourse at the English court, whose bonds were often strengthened by artistic gifts.
Homosocial environments, characterized by a professional relationship between a patron and artist of the same sex, were quite popular at the end of the eighteenth century and Charlotte's matronage should be viewed within that context. Other royal women who participated in this pan-European phenomenon include Catherine the Great of Russia, Marie-Antoinette of France, her sister, Maria Carolina of Naples, and the aunts of Louis XVI, Mesdames Sophie, Adelaide and Victoire. These female monarchs and royals commissioned female artists to construct conceptions of noble femininity that united both the private and public roles that these women were expected to fulfill. This study will appeal to scholars in the field of art history, history, gender studies, and material culture.