In his early career, the Swiss-Russian-British artist Nicholas Chevalier (1828-1902) painted many fine landscapes of Australia and New Zealand. At the end of his visit, he returned to Britain with the Duke of Edinburgh on board the Royal Navy warship HMS Galatea.
Traditionally, the oldest son of the British monarch and heir to the throne assumes the title of Prince of Wales. The next in line is normally entitled the Duke of York, but in 1866 Queen Victoria departed from that tradition when her second son Prince Alfred was entitled the Duke of Edinburgh. After his death in 1900, the title remained vacant until it was bestowed on Philip Mountbatten when he married Princess Elizabeth, now Queen Elizabeth II, in 1947.
Clearly, Chevalier and the Duke had become friends, and the artist was soon commissioned by Queen Victoria to paint official records of a series of royal events, culminating in the Duke’s wedding in 1874.
One of the earliest of these is ‘Thanksgiving Day’: The Procession to St Paul’s Cathedral, 27 February 1872, which Chevalier painted shortly after this event. Not to be confused with US Thanksgiving, this was a one-off state thanksgiving for the recovery from severe illness of the Prince of Wales. The Queen and Prince attended Saint Paul’s Cathedral (the obvious dome in the distance) in the midst of the city of London to give public thanks to God. Approaching the arch is the carriage containing the royal party.
In the summer of the following year, 1873, Chevalier was commissioned to record the state visit of the Shah of Persia (Iran). The first modern Persian monarch to visit Europe, he had previously fought Britain unsuccessfully after seizing Herāt in Afghanistan in 1856. Chevalier’s watercolour of the Reception of Naser al-Din Shah Qajar by Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle, 20 June 1873 (1874) shows the meeting of this former enemy of Britain with its Queen, who made him a Knight of the Order of the Garter. The Shah was assassinated in Tehran, Iran, on 1 May 1896.
Following that reception, the Shah was the Queen’s guest at The Review in Windsor Great Park in Honour of the Shah of Persia, 24 June 1873 (1877). She can be seen in the royal carriage in the centre.
The following year, Chevalier attended the wedding of the Duke of Edinburgh, for what may have been his last major royal commission.
Prince Alfred married the Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna in Saint Petersburg, Russia, as painted in Chevalier’s The Marriage of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, 23 January 1874 (1874-75). Queen Victoria didn’t attend in person, but was represented by the Prince of Wales and his wife, who was the sister of Tsarevna Maria Feodorovna.
To accommodate the Orthodox religion of the bride and the Protestant religion of the groom, the couple underwent two marriage ceremonies, of which this is the first and Orthodox. This was performed by the Metropolitans of St Petersburg, Moscow, and Kiev in the Imperial Chapel, following which the party proceeded to the Alexander Hall, where the Dean of Westminster made them man and wife in the eyes of the Church of England. The couple went on to have six children.
During the late 1870s, Chevalier’s art fell from favour, and the royal commissions appear to have dried up. He returned to painting some of the scenes from his overseas travels.
He painted this watercolour of Crossing Taramakau River in 1876, exactly ten years after the artist, his wife Caroline and their guide Mr Scott forded this tributary of the river. This was on the last stage of their journey from Christchurch to Hokitika, on the north-west of South Island, New Zealand.
Race to the Market, Tahiti, painted in 1880, shows a scene which Chevalier most probably sketched in 1869, when he visited the island in the company of the Duke of Edinburgh.
Then in about 1884, Chevalier returned to his favourite view across Cook Strait, New Zealand, the stretch of water separating North from South Island. This is a composite in oils, made from his watercolours painted at the time, and has lost none of the atmosphere.
Chevalier grew unwell in his later years, and seems to have painted little during the period after he had completed that.
In 1892, though, he seems to have visited the island of Capri off the Bay of Naples in the Mediterranean, where he painted this View of the Faraglioni, Capri (1892). This highly detailed watercolour was painted from the Marina Piccola on the south coast, looking to the south-east to the rock stacks of the Faraglione in the distance.
Nicholas Chevalier, who documented lands far distant from Europe, and major events during the reign of Queen Victoria, died in London on 15 March 1902. I’m sure though you could still come across him on a foggy day on Cook Strait, if you look hard enough.
I’m very grateful to Tony, for drawing my attention to Chevalier’s art.