THE RIOT, THE IRON DUKE & THE DAMAGED LADY
WILKIE, Sir David (1785–1841), painter of genre, historical subjects, and portraits. Autograph letter signed to William Sequier, 1 side of an 8vo bifolium, Kensington, October 17th 1831, marked Private at the top, regarding the repair of a portrait “Almost an hour after you left me, a note came from the Duke of Wellington, requesting me to see if the Picture of Lady Lyndhurst could be repaired. If you would have the goodness to see it and tell me if the fracture in the canvass can be stopt up completely I shall then state to the Duke that I could with a very little work restore the paint so as scarcely to be perceived. I observed that the damage is fortunately very little upon the flesh tint”.
Wilkie’s portrait of Lady Lyndhurst (regarded as one of his finest) was purchased by the Duke of Wellington in 1831 for his home at Apsley House in London. On the 12th October a hostile crowd assembled outside Wellington’s house in protest over the Duke’s opposition to the Reform Act. Breaking into a riot, protesters began throwing stones through his windows, one of which narrowly missed the Duke as he wrote at his table and another tore a strip out of the Lady Lyndhurst portrait hanging behind him. Wellington afterwards erected iron shutters over his windows in Apsley House earning him the epithet the “Iron Duke”.
Wilkie’s correspondent William Sequier (1772-1843) was born in London, the eldest son of the picture dealer and copyist, David Seguier, whose family was to trade in picture dealing and restoration over three generations. William learned how to clean pictures and became an influential advisor on art, acting for various notable private clients including the Duke of Wellington. Sequier held the positions of Superintendent of the British Institution from its foundation in 1805; restorer for the Prince Regent (by 1818); repairer of the King's Pictures from 1820 and Keeper of the Royal Picture Galleries; and first Keeper of the new National Gallery in 1824 (which position he held until his death).