William III/William of Orange: Portrait (about 1654)

Figure 1.--This is a portrait of 4 year old William III of Orange, Stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland and Overijssel, and King of reat-Britain. The artist was Adriaan Hanneman, a Dutch artist on whom we have little information. It would have been painted about 1654. Notice the cap. This looks likes a male style that girls and women would not normally wear.

The portrait shown here is of William III at 4 years of age. It is likely that this portrait was commissioned to send William's guardian and uncle Frederick William, the Great Elector of Brandenburg. (Brandenburg would become in the Prussia in the 18th century.) William's father, the stadtholder William II died 8 days before his son was born. The office of stadtholder in the Netherlands was not automatically hereditary. The Dutch States General were opposed to the infant Williams's succession and prevented it. The young William, heir of the House of Orange, was in a difficult position. His mother and other relatives thought it advisable to make sure that Frederick William and other relatives did not forget about the young William on whom the future of the House of Orange was dependant. We believe that several other such portraits were made of William at different ags.

William of Orange

William like his wife Mary was a Stuart. His father was William II de Nassau, Prince of Orange. His mother was English Princess Royal Mary Henrietta Stuart, a daughter of Charles I. William and Mary replaced James II in the Glorious Revolution. Their reign meant the end of royal prerogative and efforts to establish royal absolutism. William's primary accomplishment as Statholder and King was to twat efforts by France to dominate Europe. He also profoundly impacted English government. After William and Mary it would be Parliament that would increasingly dominate English Government. Control of Parlialent would be contested by the merchant backed Whigs .


The artist who painted this portrait was Adriaan Hanneman, a Dutch artist on whom we have little information. We do know that he was influenced by Van Dyck and spent some time in England. Hanneman's portrait here shows the substantial influence of the Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck on Dutch portraiture. Hanneman traveled to London in 1626 and from 1632, when Van Dyck also settled in England, moved in the same circles and worked for the same patrons. Hanneman often painted with that elegance and aloofness that are so characteristic of Van Dykís portraits. The two artists used somewhat different paletts. Hanneman tended to prefer more transparent colors and brown ones. Even so, some of Hanneman's portraits have been attributed to Van Dyck by mistake.


The youthful William here is picking an orange from a tree in a decorated flowerpot. These oranges certainly refer to the House of Orange. I doubt if too many orange trees grew in he Netherlands. Perhaps there were a few in greenhouses. he House of Orange of course was named after the province of Orange in souther France which the family once possessed. The thistle, concealed partly under Williamís skirt, surely refers to the the Scottish origins of Wiliam's mother Mary Stuart. The thistle may also be a symbol of wildness and the natural state of childhood. In this it functions as a counterpart of the potted orange tree, that symbolizes the cultivated, fruit-bearing state of nature and well-educated childhood. Art historians maintain that similar metaphors about education were often served to enliven childrenís portraits in this period.


William here wears a bright yellow satin dress. One art historian reports that there are broad leading strings at the shoulders. This seems to be more of a long back flap. The front of the dress apears to be covered by a white pinafore has a plain bib and a pointed waist seam. The pinafore hangs in folds over the skirt and is trimmed with lace. The shoulder collar is entirely made of lace. It closes with strings fitted with acorns. The tubular cuffs have been trimmed with the same lace. The prince wears a slanting black hat over a white bonnet with white and red ribbon bows. There is a red lining to the hat and its band is richly finished with red ribbon bows and ostrich feathers. The hat looks mor like a hat worn by men than women, although we have seen images of Queen Elizabeth wearing a similar cap. Obliquely over his chest is the blue ribbon of the Order of the Garter which had been conferred on him by his uncle King Charles II of England in 1653 when William was about 3 years old.



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Created: August 15, 2003
Last updated: August 15, 2003