We're dead chuffed to have Jo Manning, our best mate and author of My Lady Scandalous, as a guest blogger.
This presentation is an outgrowth of the research I undertook on the London art scene when I was writing My Lady Scandalous, the biography of Grace Dalrymple Elliott, a famous courtesan (Simon and Schuster, 2005). I focused on three portraitists: Thomas Gainsborough, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and George Romney. There were points of congruence amongst all of them, but also some points of divergence, which made them fascinating to me. Their relationships with the women whom I believed were their favorite sitters was/is also fascinating and worthy, I think, of a dissertation. This is just scratching the surface.
Frick Collection portrait by Thomas Gainsborough, circa 1782, when Grace was newly pregnant with the child she claimed was the daughter of the Prince of Wales
Grace Elliott was painted twice by Gainsborough (who was a great landscape artist as well as a portraitist), and I have seen sketches for a possible third portrait in the archives of the National Portrait Gallery. This wonderful portrait-bust graces (pun intended!) the cover of my book, and I believe it shows what a beauty she really was, contrary to Gainsborough’s other – and perhaps more famous – portrait of her. A full-length portrait executed in what critics describe as in the style of Van Dyck, it shows her tall, beautiful figure to great advantage in a splendid gold silk gown but her profile is positively haggish, making her look more like Margaret Hamilton (the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz) rather than Princess Diana of Wales, whom I believe she greatly resembled.
2 hours ago