Portraits by Unknown Artists
King Kamehameha II of Hawaii
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.
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.
- Artist Unknown
Not only are there paintings by unknown artists, there are mosaics and beautifully woven and embroidered pieces of cloth. This article showcases more works by artists whose names have sadly been lost for all time.