Historical Portraits Picture Archive

The Music Lesson, 1830 

Sir George Hayter (1792-1871)

The Music Lesson, 1830, Sir George Hayter
Oil on canvas
19th Century
Private Collection, Suffolk
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Signed, inscribed and dated, 'Paris 1830'. Artist’s card on the reverse, 'M. George Hayter Member Des Academies Des Beaux Arts de Rome, Florence, Parma, Bologne, and Venice'.

This three-quarter-length portrait shows the daughters of Lady Stuart de Rothesay, Charlotte, later Countess Canning, and Louisa, later Marchioness of Waterford.

Both ladies are fashionably attired in wide-sleeved dresses of watered silk in pale green and orange with elaborate jewels. Louisa, swathed in a paisley shawl, rests her left hand on a harp, while with her right she lifts the corner of a musical score in front of her sister. Charlotte sits at the piano, her elegant fingers touching the black and white keys, though her gaze is not directed at the sheet music but at the viewer. The two girls both grew up to be notable amateur artists in their own right. Charlotte, who married John, Earl Canning, Viceroy of India, was a watercolourist. Louisa, the wife of Henry 3rd Marquis of Waterford, painted in the Pre-Raphaelite manner and was a close friend of Ruskin. Her masterpiece is the cycle of murals of The Lives of Good Children – the local sitters were rewarded with jam sandwiches in the village school of Ford, Northumberland.

Lady Waterford was a compulsive sketcher. Once during a very boring sermon a friend was surprised by the rapt attention she was paying the preacher, while she was taking his likeness from behind her pew. The two sisters were immortalised in a biography by Augustus Hare, Two Noble Lives, a Victorian classic. Hayter painted another portrait of the sisters with their mother, Elizabeth, Lady Stuart de Rothesay a year later, which now hangs in the British Embassy in Paris. This portrait was started in Paris in 1830 and completed in London the following year. Lady Stuart de Rothesay’s husband, Charles, was an experienced diplomat who held posts in St Petersburg and Rio. He was Ambassador in Paris from 1815 to 1830. The grandson of Lord Bute, he began life as Sir Charles Stuart and was made Baron Stuart de Rothesay in 1828. His wife, whom he married in 1818, was Elizabeth Margaret, daughter of Philip, 3rd Earl of Hardwicke.
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