The Draughtsman Prince

George III represented the culmination of the ideal of the gentleman-architect. The Royal Collection at Windsor Castle preserves roughly 170 architectural drawings, either wholly in his own hand or made jointly with his tutors. These range from basic exercises, produced in the late 1750s when the prince was still a teenager, to the polished, sophisticated proposals of an expert amateur, some made as late as 1777, when the king was almost forty years old.

The drawings contain few virtuoso performances or extraordinarily imaginative designs. On the contrary, they are valuable precisely for their ordinary and sometimes pedestrian character. A beginner’s first steps in the art would have normally been recycled or discarded. Few prospective architects had the luxury of practising on large clean sheets of fine paper, which were then preserved as evidence of youthful attainments. The corpus is one of the most complete sets of records that we have of architectural tuition in the period.

This selection demonstrates the extent to which the careful command of compass and rule was seen as the foundation of architectural education. The drawings are the product of manual and instrumental work, of a kind considered appropriate – indeed essential – for a future monarch. In this respect, they represent the extraordinary success of Renaissance architects and theorists in promoting the idea of design as a socially and intellectually noble pursuit of both mind and hand.

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