Women in Music and Art in the Georgian Era

Needless to say in the 18th century women were regarded as being of lower status than their male counterparts, this was especially noticeable in music. How many well-known female composers of the 18th century have you heard of – not many, if any for a guess! Many women were however expected to study music and to be accomplished at playing an instrument or singing, merely as a form of entertainment for their family and friends. This went hand in hand with being the perfect hostess.

Adolphe, Joseph Anton; Caroline D'Arcy (d.1778), 4th Marchioness of Lothian; National Galleries of Scotland; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/caroline-darcy-d-1778-4th-marchioness-of-lothian-209742
Adolphe, Joseph Anton; Caroline D’Arcy (d.1778), 4th Marchioness of Lothian; National Galleries of Scotland

In this post we thought we would take a look at how art captured women playing a musical instrument, whether these women were actually able to play theses instruments we have no idea, maybe they were simply used as props in the paintings.  One of the most popular instruments for a woman to become accomplished at playing was the harpsichord and so we begin with Anastasia Robinson, mistress of the 3rd Earl of Peterborough followed by A Girl at a Harpsichord 1782 attributed to Mather Brown.

Anastasia Robinson c.1727 via Wikimedia
Anastasia Robinson c.1727 via Wikimedia
A Girl at a Harpsichord by Mather Brown (attributed to), 1782 (c) Glasgow Museums; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
A Girl at a Harpsichord by Mather Brown (attributed to), 1782
(c) Glasgow Museums; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The harp was also immensely popular as we can see here in the painting by Joshua Reynolds, who captured  the Countess of Eglinton playing it, then we have  A Young Lady Playing the Harp  by James Northcote.

The Countess of Eglinton, 1777 by Reynolds, Sir Joshua (1723-92) Private Collection © Agnew's, London English, out of copyright
The Countess of Eglinton, 1777 by Reynolds, Sir Joshua (1723-92)
Private Collection © Agnew’s, London
English, out of copyright
A Young Lady Playing the Harp by James Northcote, exhibited 1814 (c) Tate; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
A Young Lady Playing the Harp by James Northcote, exhibited 1814
(c) Tate; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Lady Frances Seymour Conway (1751–1820), Countess of Lincoln by William Hoare (c) The University of Nottingham; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Lady Frances Seymour Conway (1751–1820), Countess of Lincoln by William Hoare
(c) The University of Nottingham; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Sarah Curran (1782–1808), Playing the Harp by William Beechey (c) Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Sarah Curran (1782–1808), Playing the Harp by William Beechey
(c) Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The guitar was also a popular instrument for women to play as we can see in these next paintings.

(c) The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
A young Woman playing the Guitar with a Songbird on her Hand by Louis-Léopold Boilly
(c) The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Artist-Painting-a-Portrait-of-a-Musician
Artist Painting a Portrait of a Musician, Marguerite Gerard, Before 1803 courtesy of the State Hermitage Museum

And finally, an all female quartet.

The Sense of Hearing, Philippe Mercier.
The Sense of Hearing, Philippe Mercier. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

But the post would not be complete without Gillray’s take on an old woman playing the harpsichord now would it!

lwlpr07752
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
Advertisements

6 thoughts on “Women in Music and Art in the Georgian Era

  1. Andrew Ashfield

    William Savage – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia | | | | | |

    |

    | | | | William Savage – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia | |

    |

    |

    Jane Savage (1752/3–1824) Contents: I. Biography II. Surviving Works, New Editions, and Recordings III. Sources I. Biography Jane Savage was an English musician and composer, the daughter of the prominent London musician William Sav | | | Jane Savage (1752/3–1824) Contents: I. Biography II. Surviving Works, New Editions, and Recordings III… | |

    |

    see attached “a very amiable and accomplished woman with a fortune of £19,000, dependent only on her own will. She was also considered to be a beautiful woman.” Can’t think why women like her 🙂

    Like

  2. jdh2690

    A good thing I didn’t live during the Georgian era for I failed miserably at music on the piano (after years of lessons insisted on by my mother) and my voice could break eardrums. 🙂 I would’ve been “on the shelf” forever…an “old maid.” Thanks for your interesting posts, Ella.

    Like

    1. All Things Georgian

      Probably just as well that it’s not a pre-requisite today, thank goodness society has moved on 🙂 Delighted that you enjoyed our posts Ella and thank you for taking the time to comment.

      Like

  3. Pingback: What I'm reading: Vol. 68. - Diamonds in the Library

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s