Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Sketch of Emma Hamilton (1761-1815) 1780s

George Romney (1734-1802)

Sketch of Emma Hamilton (1761-1815), George Romney
Oil on canvas
18th Century
32 x 26 inches 80 x 65 cm
Private Collection
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This lively sketch of Emma Hart, later Lady Hamilton, is one of the most immediate and accomplished of a large number of studies that the artist made of his most captivating model. Emma Hamilton, then Emma Hart, was famous for her ''postures'' and for the allegorical guises in which Romney portrayed her long before she achieved an equally enduring reputation as the mistress of Lord Nelson.

This sketch appears to be the prime version for two further variants, one in the collection of the Earl Cawdor, the other recorded in the art market. Both of these are smaller in size than the present sketch, and lack the freshness and spontaneity of this, surely the original. No specific source has been identified for the attitude that Miss Hart assumes here, and the other versions have not been characterised. It is possible that -with its nineteenth century overpaint- this sketch may relate to the painting decribed as Emma Hamilton as a Gypsy, half-length recorded in the Lansdowne Collection in the mid-nineteenth century (Mrs Jameson's Private Picture Galleries 1844 p.330). Further research is attempting to establish whether this painting, no longer listed in Lord Lansdowne's collection at Bowood, may be identical with the present half-length sketch.
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