Sleeping Nymph and Cupid

John Hoppner, RA (London 1758 – London 1810)
National Trust Inventory Number 486138

Category Paintings
Date 1806 (exh at RA)
Materials Oil on canvas
Measurements 1320 x 1676 mm (52 x 66 in)
Place of origin
Collection Petworth House and Park, West Sussex (Accredited Museum)
On show at Petworth House and Park, West Sussex, London and South East, National Trust

This picture was first exhibited as ‘A Sleeping Nymph’, when the title was accompanied by six lines of verse (“As on her arm reclines the sleeping fair...”).

At one time the reclining nude was identified with Miss Emily St Clare, although this is questionable. A letter from Hoppner to Sir John Leicester (for whom this was painted) acknowledges the receipt of 170 guineas for a ‘Portrait of Miss St Clare’ and 300 guineas for ‘my picture of a Sleeping Nymph.’ Hoppner did do a subject picture of her, but as of a ‘Lady Dancing’, in the guise of a muse.

Originally the nymph was completely nude, but Sir John requested some covering. He wrote to Hoppner that ‘ … imagination must have something left to make the thing compleat …. To meet this idea Mr H will not perhaps object … to throw a veil over a part of ye Body.”

Summary description

Oil painting on canvas, Sleeping Nymph and Cupid by John Hoppner, RA (London 1758 – London 1810). 1806. Nymph lying naked, with her head right and her arms above her head. Above her a red drapery for a canopy; Cupid can be seen flying over her. A forest glade setting. Hoppner believed this to be his masterpiece. A poem accompanied the painting when it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1806:

"As on her arm reclines the sleeping fair,

And with her breath the loitering gale perfumes,

Love sees, or thinks he sees, his mother there,

And nearer earth directs his glittering plumes;

Hovers with fond delight around her bower,

And swells the fragrance with a roseate shower."

Provenance

Painted for Sir John Fleming Leicester, 5th Bt and 1st Baron de Tabley (1762-1827) in 1806 for 300 guineas and bought at his sale on 7 July 1827 for £472.10s. by the 3rd Earl of Egremont; thence by descent, until the death in 1952 of the 3rd Lord Leconfield, who had given Petworth to the National Trust in 1947, and whose nephew and heir, John Wyndham, 6th Lord Leconfield and 1st Lord Egremont (1920-72) arranged for the acceptance of the major portion of the collections at Petworth in lieu of death duties (the first ever such arrangement) in 1956 by H.M.Treasury.

Makers and roles

John Hoppner, RA (London 1758 – London 1810), artist

References

Carey 1819 William Carey, A Catalogue Anon: A Catalogue of Pictures by British Artists in the collection of Sir John Leicester, Bart, London, 1819, no.2, pp.4-10
Young 1821 John Young, A Catalogue of Pictures by British Artists in the possession of Sir John Fleming Leicester, Bart [...] including the pictures in his gallery at Tabley House, Cheshire [...], London, 1821, no.2, engraved.

Related items

Place of origin
Materials Canvas (9981)
Oil paint (8234)
Category Paintings (12561)
Collection Petworth House and Park, West Sussex (Accredited Museum) (1861)
Periods 19th century (164975)
Maker John Hoppner, RA (London 1758 – London 1810) (99)
Subjects
Object Type Oil painting (10789)

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