Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Lady Elizabeth Hamilton, Countess of Derby (1753-1797), after Sir Joshua Reynolds P.R.A. (1723-1792) 

James Northcote RA (1746–1831)

Portrait of Lady Elizabeth Hamilton, Countess of Derby (1753-1797), after Sir Joshua Reynolds P.R.A. (1723-1792), James Northcote RA
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Watercolour on paper
18th Century
Oval, 9 in. (22.8 cm.) high
 
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James Northcote was one of the most prolific portrait painters of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

The present work derives from the original full-length by Reynolds painted c.1777 for Edward, 12th Earl of Derby, where Elizabeth is seen leaning on a statue of Winter by Etienne Maurice Falconet. The daughter of James Hamilton, 6th Duke of Hamilton, Elizabeth married Edward Smith-Stanley, 12th Earl of Derby in 1774 and the couple had three children although were far from content. A few years later Elizabeth fell in love with John Frederick Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset and in 1778 Elizabeth left Edward and her children and moved in with Sackville causing quite a scandal for the age. It was as a result of this treachery that Edward supposedly burnt the portrait by Reynolds of his wife and thus the image is now only known from an engraving in the British Museum by William Dickinson.

The present work would have been painted towards the end of Northcote’s apprenticeship with Reynolds which terminated in May 1776 and before the full-length would have been completed (sittings are recorded in Reynolds’ account books as late as 27th January 1777).
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