Traditional Library

Paintings & Books

 
 

The Countess of Coventry

by Richard Houston after Francis Cotes, ca. 1750-1760

This image is what I would expect if someone said 'This is an 18th century portrait of the Countess of Coventry (nee Maria Gunning)'. Compared to the Liotard painting below, it looks like it comes from a different century


I use it on this site to show what was valued as 'beautiful' in the 18th century. 


However, historian Dr. Hanna Greig, in her book The Beau Monde, suggests that I need to be careful in stating this. She says that beauty and charm were complex ideas and understood somewhat differently than today. 

Photograph used with the permission of the National Portrait Gallery (under academic license.)

 

The Countess of Coventry

by Jean Etienne Liotard ca. 1752

I love this portrait of the Countess of Coventry. It feels so modern and fresh in mood and colour compared to the portrait by Richard Houston shown above.


I find it so romantic. 


Lady Coventry sits forlorn on a sofa with a torn letter (from her lover?) on the floor at her feet. The photograph has unfortunately been trimmed to fit the website and so you cannot see here that on the right, a mirror sits in her work basket, hinting at her vanity.

The portrait is at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA. This photograph is copyright free.

 

Kitty Fisher

By Nathanial Horne, 1765

Kitty Fisher sat for multiple portraits in her short life.


This is my favourite painting of her. I like the colours. I love that I can see what her make-up looks like. I enjoy the visual joke of the kitten and the goldfish. I also like that she looks so confident and assured. This young woman will not allow society to shame her.


This painting is owned by the National Portrait Gallery in London, England and this photograph is used with permission (under academic license.)

 

Maria, Countess of Coventry

By Benjamin Wilson, 1750

This is another print of Lady Coventry that to my eye is a more traditional 18th century image. It is clearly the same woman as in our top image with her pointed chin, long straight nose, and smooth skin. The eyes and plucked eyebrows look the same.

I do wish I could see a painting of this, rather than a print. I'd like to look at her make-up!

I do love the opulence of the jewellery and headpiece in this print. The silk in her skirt almost shimmers!

Print by Benjamin Wilson

 
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References

A partial list of Books & Manuscripts

 

Abdeker or the Art of Preserving Beauty

Translated from an Arabic manuscript or rather from the French of A. Le Camus

Published in 1756 by John Murphy in Dublin, Ireland

A Venetian Affair

by Andrea di Robilant

Published in 2003 by Alfred A. Knopf in the USA

Casanova in England

by Horace Bleackley

Published in 1907 in Notes and Queries Series 10, Volume 8, page 443-444

George Selwyn and his Contemporaries

by John Heneage Jesse

Published in 1882 by Bickers & Son, London, England

Horace Walpole, Selected Letters

Edited and Introduced by Stephen Clarke

Revised Edition published in 2017 by Everyman's Library, Alfred A. Knopf, USA

In Bed with the Georgians

by Mike Rendell

Published in 2016 by Pen and Sword Books Ltd in Yorkshire, England

The Autobiography and Correspondence of Mary Granville, Mrs Delany

by Mary Delaney, edited by Augusta Hall,

Published in 2011 by Cambridge University Press

The Beau Monde

by Hannah Greig

Published in 2013 by Oxford University Press, England

The Letters of Philip Dormer Stanhope Earl of Chesterfield:

Edited with Notes by Lord Mahon

Published in 1845 by by Richard Bentley, London, England

 

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