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.
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
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