Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Lady Mary Scott-Montagu Countess of Courtown (1769 – 1823) 1793

George Romney (1734-1802)

Portrait of Lady Mary Scott-Montagu Countess of Courtown (1769 – 1823), George Romney
Oil on canvas
18th Century
30 x 25 inches 76.2 x 63.5 cm
The sitter’s mother-in-law Mary Powys Countess of Courtown, Windsor Castle; The Earls of Courtown, Courtown House, Gorey, Ireland; Private Collection USA
H Ward and W Roberts, Romney: a Biographical and Critical Essay with a Catalogue Raisonné of his Works, London 1904, vol. II, p.151
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Sittings with Lady Mary as Viscountess Stopford, her husband’s courtesy title before he succeeded his father in 1810, are recorded in Romney’s diary in 1793 April 17th and 26th, and then May 10th and June 24th. The sitter paid £21 1s as half of the price in advance on June 5th, and the remainder of £15 14s was paid by Lady Courtown her mother-in-law June 29th 1794. The portrait was despatched by Romney to Lady Courtown at her apartments at Windsor Castle July 23rd 1793.

A portrait by William Beechey still in the possession of the Duke of Buccleuch at Bowhill confirms the identity of the sitter, showing the same large, expressive eyes and paying the same attention to the extremely slender waist of which Lady Mary was evidently very proud, since in Romney’s portrait it is emphasised to a degree that stretches credulity. The painter’s approach to his sitter in this portrait approaches is almost expressionistic in this portrait, and the composition is manipulated to emphasise her slender height. Unusually she so dominates the painting that her head reaches to the very top of the canvas, and the landscape is not glimpsed beside and above her but through the hollow of her willowy body. This landscape is treated more fully than is usual in many of Romney’s on this scale, and where this element is often almost abstract, here we see trees and have a sense of bright sunlight breaking through a distant prospect. Recognising that his disposition of the figure occupies a greater portion of the composition than is usual on this scale, and shuts off that part which would normally reveal the sky, Romney creates a greater sense of depth and recession to the side. The treatment is daring, but the painter’s ingenuity ensures its success, and a comparison with the Beechey portrait demonstrates Romney’s skill in conjuring his sitters as beauties without distorting likeness.

Lady Mary was the eldest daughter of Henry Scott 3rd Duke of Buccleuch. She married her second cousin James Stopford Viscount Stopford (1769 – 1835) at St George’s Hanover Square January 29th 1791. Lord Stopford was appointed a Privy Councillor in 1793 and in the same year succeeded his father as Treasurer to the Royal Household in 1793, an office he held with only one brief hiatus until 1812, when he was appointed Captain of the Band of Gentleman Pensioners, a post he held until 1827. He was also created on of the knights of the newly formed Order of St Patrick in 1821, although for the want of vacancies he could not be installed until the very end of 1832. In his last year he was Captain of the Yeoman of the Guard. He died at the Cloisters, Windsor Castle in June 1835.
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