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Lady Elizabeth Christiana Hervey, Lady Elizabeth Foster, later Duchess of Devonshire (1759-1824)

Angelica Kauffman RA (Chur 1741 – Rome 1807)

Category

Art / Oil paintings

Date

1786 (signed and dated)

Materials

Oil on canvas

Measurements

1270 x 1016 mm (50 x 40 in)

Place of origin

Naples

Order this image

Collection

Ickworth, Suffolk

NT 851738

Caption

The entry in Angelica Kauffman’s diary, on the day this portrait was painted, reads: “Naples Oct 1785 for Lady Foster, her portrait, half-length figure...sitting in a boscage; in the distance, the Isola d’Ischia - the head was painted at Naples and the remainder finished after at Rome.” The sitter was the second daughter of Frederick Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry (1730-1803), and Elizabeth Davers (1730-1800). She married as her first husband, in 1776, John Thomas Foster of Dunleer, Louth, M.P. for Enniskillen, who died in 1796. In 1809, she married William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire (1748-1811), three years after the death of his first wife, Georgiana, with whom she had lived as his mistress in a ménage à trois since 1782. After his death and the end of the Napoleonic Wars, she retired to Rome, where she maintained a salon, supported excavations, and was drawn by Lawrence.

Summary

Oil painting on canvas, Lady Elizabeth Christiana Hervey, Lady Elizabeth Foster, later Duchess of Devonshire (1759-1824) by Angelica Kauffman RA (Chur 1741 – Rome 1807), signed bottom left: Angelica Kauffman Pinxt / An. 1786. A three-quarter-length portrait of a young woman, turned to the right, gazing to the right, seated on a stone bench on the left, by a tree, with the Bay of Naples and a view of the Isola d’Ischia beyond on the right; she has on a large straw hat with ostrich feathers, and wears a white dress with a double frill around neck and shoulders, and at wrists, at her waist is a black and gold sash bordered with gold braid and a fringe which she fingers with her left hand on her lap, A small oval pendant miniature of lady (that of Georgiana Spencer, Duchess of Devonshire), set in pearls, hangs from delicate chain from her neck. The sitter was the second daughter of Frederick Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry (1730-1803) and Elizabeth Davers (1730-1800), daughter of Sir Jermyn Davers, Bt. In 1776 she married John Thomas Foster of Dunleer, Louth, MP for Enniskillen, who died on 10 October 1796. She refused an offer of marriage in 1797 from Edmund Gibbon. In 1809, she married William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire (1748-1811), three years after the death of his first wife, Georgiana, with whom she had lived as his mistress in a ménage à trois since 1782. After his death and the end of the Napoleonic Wars, she retired to Rome, where she maintained a salon, supported excavations, and was drawn by Lawrence. “Although the fashion soon spread to England, the chemise dress remained an informal garment, worn in the privacy of the home. This situation changed in August 1784 when Georgiana, wife of the 5th Duke of Devonshire, attended a concert ‘in one of the muslin chemises with fine lace that the Queen of France gave me’. Georgiana and her close friend, Lady Elizabeth (Betty) Foster, daughter of Frederick Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol, Bishop of Derry and builder of Ickworth in Suffolk, were the acknowledged leaders of fashion in Britain. Early in 1784 Lady Elizabeth Foster visited Naples and took the opportunity of having her portrait painted by Angelica Kauffman (142). The head, with its huge hat, was completed at this sitting. The figure, clad in a white muslin chemise dress with an opulently layered collar, was finished later in Rome. Her next visit to Italy, at the end of 1784, was conducted in somewhat different circumstances, as she had become pregnant by the Duke of Devonshire, and she gave birth to a girl in August the following year. The ménage à trois managed to retain complete affection for one another. Indeed, when Elizabeth was about to give birth she became extremely upset when she had to relinquish her ‘beloved medallion’, a miniature of Georgiana that she always wore around her neck, and which is prominently displayed in the Kauffman portrait.” - (Jane Ashelford, The Art of Dress. Clothes and Society, 1500-1914, 1996)

Provenance

The entry in Angelica Kauffman’s diary reads: “Naples Oct 1785 for Lady Foster, her portrait, half-length figure...sitting in a boscage; in the distance, the Isola d’Ischia - the head was painted at Naples and the remainder finished after at Rome.” The commission was evidently negotiated by the dealer Thomas Jenkins (1722 - 1798), for the payment is recorded as follows: “On 20th August 1793 received from Mr Jenkins on behalf of Lady Foster 50 L stg. exchange 49 ½ .” Apparently given by the sitter to her brother, John Augustus, Lord Hervey (1757-96), or left by her to his grandson, Charles Augustus, 6th Lord Howard de Walden (1799-1868), since in the latter’s posthumous sale, Christie’s, 16-18 March 1869, lot 463: bought by Wright for 155 gns, probably on behalf of Frederick William, 3rd Marquess of Bristol (1834-1907), on whose death inherited by the 4th Marquess (1863-1951), accepted by HM Treasury in lieu of death duties; loaned to the National Trust in 1956 under the auspices of the National Land Fund, later the National Heritage Memorial Fund, and then transferred to the National Trust in 1983.

Credit line

Ickworth, The Bristol Collection (acquired through the National Land Fund and transferred to The National Trust in 1956)

Makers and roles

Angelica Kauffman RA (Chur 1741 – Rome 1807), artist

References

Farrer 1908 Edmund Farrer, Portraits in Suffolk Houses (West), 1908, no. 13 Manners and Williamson, 1924: Lady Victoria Manners and G.C.Williamson, Angelica Kauffmann, London, 1924, p.68, 125, 149, 179, 231

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