Portraits by Unknown Artists

King Kamehameha II of Hawaii

This painting of King Kamehameha II of the Kingdom of Hawaii was painted by an unknown artist between 1819 and 1824.
This painting of King Kamehameha II of the Kingdom of Hawaii was painted by an unknown artist between 1819 and 1824. | Source

Who painted this? What is the artist’s name?

While searching for paintings on Wikimedia Commons to use as examples in my art history articles, I discovered that many paintings exist for which the artist is unknown. I don’t mean unknown as in “the artist isn’t famous.” I mean unknown as in “we don’t know who painted the work of art.”

Many of the paintings are quality pieces. Many of the paintings are portraits of a member of a royal family. I have searched extensively to find out why so many paintings by unknown artists are of royals. I have not, unfortunately, found an answer to this puzzling question.

My guess as to why the name of the artist is unknown in so many paintings of royalty is that not all court painters were held in high esteem by the persons desiring the portraits to be painted. The artists were considered to be lower-class citizens, and their names didn’t matter.

In this article, I am showcasing paintings by artists whose names have been lost to time. The subject of each painting is a member of a royal family. We can’t honor the artists, but we can honor their accomplishments.

King Kamehameha II of Hawaii

The Hawaiian Islands was ruled by a king before the island chain became the United States’ 50th state. The Kingdom of Hawaii’s second king, Kamehameha II (1797 – 1824), was the son of King Kamehameha I and the king’s highest ranking consort, Queen Keōpuolani.

Kamehameha II, born Kalaninui kua Liholiho i ke kapu ʻIolani, took the name Kalani Kaleiʻaimoku o Kaiwikapu o Laʻamea i Kauikawekiu Ahilapalapa Kealiʻi Kauinamoku o Kahekili Kalaninui i Mamao ʻIolani i Ka Liholiho when he ascended to the throne in 1819 upon his father’s death. The king didn’t rule by himself, however. Another of King Kamehameha’s wives, Queen Ka’ahumanu, decided that Kamehameha II didn’t have enough experience to rule alone. She announced to the kingdom that she was going to rule jointly with Kamehameha II.

Kamehameha II, known as Liholiho, died in 1824 at the age of 27 while on a visit to London, England. He died of measles, to which Hawaiians had no immunity.

The painting at the beginning of this article was painted by an unknown artist between 1819 and 1824.

Queen Elizabeth I of England

Queen Elizabeth I (1533 - 1603) was Queen of England and Ireland from 1558 until her death at the age of 69 in 1603. Elizabeth I was the daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, his second wife. This painting by an unknown artist was painted in the 1570s.

This painting of Queen Elizabeth I of England was painted by an unknown artist in the 1570s. The work is in the public domain in the United States and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.
This painting of Queen Elizabeth I of England was painted by an unknown artist in the 1570s. The work is in the public domain in the United States and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less. | Source

King James V of Scotland and his Second Wife, Marie de Guise

King James V of Scotland (April 10, 1512 - December 14, 1542) was a nephew of King Henry VIII of England. James V became king on September 9, 1513, upon the death of his father.

The dates are not typographical errors. James V became king when he was 17 months old. Several people ruled on James' behalf until he was declared fit to rule at the age of 12 in 1524, with his mother and a council as advisors.

This painting by an unknown author depicts King James V and his second wife Marie de Guise. The painting was painted in the 16th century. The artist and the current location of the painting are both unknown.

This portrait of King James V of Scotland and his second wife Marie de Guise, published in the US before 1923, is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.
This portrait of King James V of Scotland and his second wife Marie de Guise, published in the US before 1923, is in the public domain because its copyright has expired. | Source

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Comments 2 comments

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 2 years ago

I did not know Hawaii was ruled by kings. Thanks for the history lesson.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 2 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Dianna (teaches12345),

Thanks for reading my article and posting your comment. The history of Hawaii pre-statehood is fascinating. A royal palace exists on US soil, It's in Honolulu on the island of Oahu.

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