Meissonier, Jean Louis Ernest; An Artist Showing his Work; The Wallace Collection

A chance discovery or a red herring: is this another portrait of Grace Dalrymple Elliott?

The earliest known portrait of the infamous eighteenth-century courtesan, Grace Dalrymple Elliott is a miniature painted by Richard Cosway around the time of her marriage to Dr (later Sir) John Eliot. It can be viewed on the cover of our biography of Grace, An Infamous Mistress.

Incidentally, Cosway lived on Berkeley Row where Grace was seen in a bagnio with the worthless Viscount Valentia, an indiscretion which led to a Criminal Conversation trial and her divorce; Cosway was called to the trial as a witness and testified to the disreputability of Mrs Jane Price’s house.

An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Infamous-Mistress-Celebrated-Dalrymple-Elliott/dp/1473844835

Then there are the two well-known portraits of Grace by Thomas Gainsborough, both now held in museums in New York. The full-length of Mrs Elliott was commissioned by her lover the 4th Earl (later 1st Marquess) of Cholmondeley and hung in his mansion in Piccadilly, and remained there even after their romance was over and Grace was in Paris, in the arms of the Duke of Orléans. Reputedly, the young Prince of Wales stood in front of this portrait and expressed his wish to meet the original; Cholmondeley was despatched to Paris to bring Grace home and she enjoyed a few short weeks as the Prince’s paramour and gained a permanent reminder and claim to the royal purse in the form of their daughter, born nine months later, Georgiana Seymour. We have examined this portrait, now in the Met Museum, in more detail in a previous blog post.

Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough
Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough (Metropolitan Museum of Art).

While her star burned brightly as Prinny’s courtesan (she replaced Perdita aka the actress and courtesan Mary Darby Robinson in the prince’s affections), Gainsborough was commissioned to paint a head and shoulders portrait of Grace. Although by the time it was finished, the prince had long since abandoned its subject, it is a stunning portrait and one that gained an instant fame when it was first exhibited. Grace, it was thought, exuded a much too ‘knowing’ look.

Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough

These are all the confirmed portraits of Grace. There is a chalk drawing by Hoppner which is traditionally thought to be of Grace, and the jury is out on this one with us. It could possibly be her (we’ve discussed this drawing before too, here).

Unidentified lady, thought to be Grace Dalrymple Elliott by John Hoppner, British Museum.
An unidentified lady thought to be Grace Dalrymple Elliott by John Hoppner, British Museum.

But Grace was a noted beauty and, for many years, a fixture in the society gossip columns. We can’t believe that there were no other portraits of her. We know of none painted while she was resident in France, and the Duke of Orléans would surely have commissioned a portrait or at least a miniature of his stunning mistress. It was with some excitement then, that we noticed a pastel portrait supposed to be of Grace had been added on to The Getty site. The provenance for the sitter being Grace comes from a 1906 edition of The Connoisseur, in which the portrait is reproduced as a colour plate; it is this image which is on The Getty website. The publication gives no other evidence for claiming the sitter is Grace. However, we can’t see Grace in this portrait (although we’ll grant the nose is a similar shape). Doing a little digging we found that there are several versions of this portrait. Many have passed through various auction houses over the years, as a portrait of an unknown woman, one is held in Riga Castle and one in the Royal Collection where it is traditionally claimed to be a likeness of one of the daughters of George III. So, we’ll leave this one with you, for your response. Do you think it is Grace, or not?

Pastel portrait claimed by The Connoisseur (1906) to be of Grace Dalrymple Elliott, but we doubt the provenance of this. Read why on our blog.
Pastel portrait reproduced from The Connoisseur (1906) and claimed to be of Grace Dalrymple Elliott.

 

Left, the pastel portrait reputed to be of Grace Dalrymple Elliott and right, for comparison, a cropped image from the full-length portrait of Grace by Thomas Gainsborough.
Left, the pastel portrait reputed to be of Grace Dalrymple Elliott and right, for comparison, a cropped image from the full-length portrait of Grace by Thomas Gainsborough.

 

Sources:

The Connoisseur, volume XVI, 1906

Neil Jeffares, Dictionary of pastellists before 1800

Georgian ‘Bling’

lwlpr19411 Jewellery
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

How many of us can honestly say that we don’t feel good when wearing a beautiful piece of jewellery. The Georgians were no different, the bolder the better in many cases. So we thought we would take a look at the ‘bling’ of the day.

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Archduchess Marie Christine, Duchess of Teschen

There were certain items of jewellery that were designated for certain times of the day. Day wear would consist of a necklace, small understated rings and the most important item which arguably would still be useful today – the chatelaine or chain, known as ‘equipage’ until the 1830’s, as shown below which would be attached to the waist of the dress.

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Courtesy of the British Museum

Today this item seems to have been replaced by the familiar ‘bottomless’ handbag. In the 18th century is would have worn about the waist and would have been used to hold everything you could have possibly needed for the day – scissors, a thimble case, needles, a small purse, seals, a watch, a small booklet to write notes on, a pencil, etc.

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Courtesy of The Cavalcade of History and Fashion

Eighteenth-century gents would display their status by wearing shoe buckles and buttons studded with gems such as these.

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Man’s steel and gilt wire shoe buckles, England, c. 1777–1785 LACMA M.80.92.6a-b.

Evenings required a completely different type of jewellery – diamonds were the order of the day, the bigger and brighter the better, usually set in silver. Diamonds were often mounted in silver, rather than gold, with the aim being to enhance the stone’s colour and would have been an essential part of court life. To be at the height of fashion you would wear Girandole earrings.  These featured  a central bow from which hung three dangling jewels that resembled the chandeliers of the period. For those who chose not to have pierced ears, the Georgian era saw the advent of the clip-on earring.

Girondole earrings

Pink
http://simonteakle.com/georgian-paste-parure-english-circa-1760/

During the French Revolution many women chose to wear a red ribbon as a choker in support of friends and family who had died during the revolution, or as a sign of their own close call with death. For those more affluent then rubies would have been the equivalent, both indicative of the blood shed at executions.

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A slightly later period, but indicative of the red choker.

This item from the British Museum was too fascinating not to include.  The description reads:

Heart shaped pendant locket with a lock of hair, traditionally said to be that of Marie Antoinette, set under glass or rock-crystal with an inscribed card and mounted in a gold filigree setting. A small gold padlock is suspended from the base with a key on a chain attached to the suspension loop. The filigree in the form of tight spiral discs forming ‘spectacles’ shapes, placed within the flat wire rim.

  • Inscription Content

    A lock of hair of MARIE ANTOINETTE, Queen of FRANCE given by her to Lady Abercorn by whom it was given to her sister Lady Julia Lockwood, whose daughter Lady Napier gave it to W.S. 1853

  • Inscription Comment

    The inscription is wrongly transcribed in the catalogue of the Hull Grundy Gift: Lady Abercorn is given as Lady Abercrombie.

For more information about this item use the highlighted link to the British Museum web page.

Georgian bling

Moving on to possibly the most macabre items of jewellery, we take a brief look at mourning rings.  In many wills that we have read it seems commonplace for the deceased to leave enough money for some sort of mourning ring to be purchased as a keepsake, usually bearing the name and date of death of the person, and possibly an image of them, or a motto.

Littleton mourning ring found in Bridgnorth, Shropshire. © Birmingham City Council
Littleton mourning ring found in Bridgnorth, Shropshire. © Birmingham City Council
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England, after AD 1794 A gold mourning ring with eye for Mary Dean Courtesy of British Museum

And finally we take a look at an item of jewellery that seems unlikely ever to return to fashion – Lover’s eye brooches or eye miniatures. It is reputed that they became popular in the late 1780’s when the Prince of Wales decided to send Maria Fitzherbert a token of his love for her. The idea that he should wish to do such a thing was frowned upon, so he commissioned Cosway simply to paint only the eye to preserve anonymity.

Online gallieres.com
A left eye miniature traditionally identified as the eye of George, Prince of Wales , courtesy of http://www.onlinegalleries.com

Our post would not be complete without including something light hearted from the Lewis Walpole Library, so if  finances were running low due to gambling debts a lady could always sell her jewels!

selling jewels
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole
George IV by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1821. © Royal Collection Trust

‘Happy Birthday’ George IV – born 12th August 1762

NPG D33075; Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz; King George IV when Prince of Wales by Richard Houston, published by Robert Sayer, after Robert Pyle
Queen Charlotte & King George IV when Prince of Wales

Today’s blog is a little different from our usual but we could not allow the birth of  George IV to pass without a little acknowledgement, especially as he was one of Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s lovers and  allegedly father of  her daughter, Georgiana Augusta Frederica Seymour, although Georgiana’s birth was not heralded in quite the same way as her alleged father’s entrance into the world. We thought we would celebrate his birth in the shape of portraits of him over the years, the majority being courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, as tempting as it would be simply to use the vast quantity of caricatures of him we’ve managed to resist temptation … well almost!

George’s birth was proclaimed in the London Evening Post  (August 10, 1762 – August 12, 1762) :

At seven this morning her Majesty was safely delivered of a Prince at the palace of St James, to the great joy of his Majesty and of all his loyal subjects, who consider the birth of this heir to the crown as a pledge of the future felicity of their posterity under the happy auspice of his royal family.

About half an hour after nine this inestimable blessing was made known to the nation by the discharge of the tower guns and at noon there was a great court at St James’s, when the foreign ministers, the great officers of state and all the nobility and other persons of distinction were admitted to pay their compliments to the King upon this mark of the divine favour to his Majesty and to his people.

Her Majesty and the new-born Prince of Wales are in perfect health and nothing can surpass the testimonies of joy and affection expressed by all ranks and degrees of his Majesty’s subjects for this great and desirable event.

It is worth of observation that her Majesty is brought to bed of an heir to the crown on the same day that our most gracious Sovereign’s great grand-father, King George the first, succeeded to the crown of these Kingdoms, by virtue of several acts of parliament for securing the Protestant succession in the illustrious house of Hanover.

The first portrait we offer is that of George was a young child with his younger brother Frederick.

George IV when Prince of Wales, with Frederick, Duke of York when Prince Frederick, c.1770 by Johan Joseph Zoffany.
George IV when Prince of Wales, with Frederick, Duke of York when Prince Frederick, c.1770 by Johan Joseph Zoffany. © Royal Collection Trust

The next shows George in his teenage years whilst he was busy having fun with the ladies of the ton such as Grace Dalrymple Elliott, amongst others!! Grace looks more than 8 years older than him, doesn’t she?

George IV when Prince of Wales by Richard Cosway, watercolour on ivory, circa 1780-1782
by Richard Cosway, watercolour on ivory, circa 1780-1782; National Portrait Gallery
Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough (Metropolitan Museum of Art).
Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough (Metropolitan Museum of Art).
George IV when Prince of Wales, 1782 by Thomas Gainsborough. © Royal Collection Trust
George IV when Prince of Wales, 1782 by Thomas Gainsborough. © Royal Collection Trust

NPG 5389; King George IV by Richard Cosway

Another Cosway portrait in 1792, aged 30

On the 8th April 1795 the Prince married Princess Caroline of Brunswick and somehow, despite unwillingness on his part, the couple managed to conceive a daughter who was born virtually nine months to the day after the couple were married – Princess Charlotte.

The Marriage of George IV when Prince of Wales by Henry Singleton, 1795.
The Marriage of George IV when Prince of Wales by Henry Singleton, 1795. © Royal Collection Trust

The portrait is George IV’s coronation portrait.

George IV by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1821. © Royal Collection Trust
George IV by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1821. © Royal Collection Trust

Well, we said we couldn’t resist a caricature image and this is our favourite, 1795 reflecting upon all his mistresses … is Grace amongst them? You decide!

Thoughts on Matrimony.
Thoughts on Matrimony. © British Museum

Mary Robinson aka Perdita

Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey

Anna Maria Crouch

Maria Fitzherbert

Pretty Milliner

Lady and Child – Grace Dalrymple Elliott, perhaps?