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He also spent some time at the Ligonier's residence in order to paint the couple and II, p.605. See M. Rosenthal, 'Thomas Gainsborough's Ann Ford', Art Bulletin 80, 4 (December 1998), pp.649-65; Rosenthal, The Art of Thomas Gainsborough, pp.167-81 82 R Baker, Observations on the Pictures now in Exhibition at the Royal Academy, Spring Gardens, and Mr Christie's (London, 1771), p.17 See RR Wark, Meet the Ladies: Personalities in Huntington Portraits (San Marino, California, 1972), pp.1-22; Rosenthal, 'Thomas Gainsborough's Ann Ford', pp.657-8 R Paulson, Emblem and Expression: Meaning in English Art of the Eighteenth Century (London, 1975), pp.213-4 thus would have become more acquainted with them than was normal, the artist usually meeting his subjects during a few brief sittings in a studio. 85 * * * * * Finally, it is necessary to re-emphasise that the conventional pictorial construction of gendered characters and roles did not reflect the actual lives of sitters.
It is only in a few instances, such as that of Gainsborough' s portraits of Lord and Lady Ligonier, that an elision between the two is appropriate. Whilst the assessment of relationships from diaries and letters is highly problematic and evaluations can only be tentative, this section will attempt to compare a few highly standard portraits with the highly individual relationships lived by their sitters. For example, when Reynolds painted the Earl and Countess of Kildare in pendant portraits in 1753 (figs.48 and 49), he rigidly demarcated their respective masculine and feminine territories. The Countess is posed in an interior, her head resting on one hand and her finger marking her place in a book in a manner that recalls Wright of Derby's portrait of Mrs Frances Hesketh (fig.26). Meanwhile, her husband gazes assertively outwards and gestures to what amounts to a display of his property as he directs the viewer's gaze towards Carton House. Stella Tillyard has formulated the contrast presented in these images as between an outdoors man of action and a domestic woman, arguing that this division reflected the sitters' actual temperaments. Whilst she cautions that the Countess had a
Gainsborough wrote to James Unwin from Bath on 10 July 1770: "I went by appointment only to spend two or three Days at Mr George PiUs's Country House, by way of taking leave of him, as a staunch Friend of mine before his going to Spain, & behold he had got two whole length canvasses, & his son and daughter, Lord & Lady Ligonier, in readiness to take me prisoner for a month's work."
strong influence on her husband, she notes that the Earl was actively engaged in politics and with the care and management of his estates whilst his wife's duties were essentially domestic. 86 The conventional demarcation of the Kildares' respective roles was certainly echoed in pendants painted by Allan Ramsay more than a decade later (figs.50 and 51). Emily's husband is again posed in a landscape, suggestive of his property and of his consequent wealth and political power. She, once more, is shown in an interior reading a book, this time with her arms folded so that each hand grasps the opposite wrist, a pose made famous and popularised by Ramsay in the 1760s. 87 By the decade of this commission, Ramsay was a serious competitor in the portrait market and,
according to the Earl at least, was rivalling Reynolds in terms of fashionability:
I have sat once to Mr. Ramsay for the Holland House gallery; and of all the painters I have ever seen in London I like him the best, for when I went there he had not a picture of anyone I ever saw but I knew, as for Mr Reynolds, I call'd there a few days before, and did not know anybody.88 86 S. TiIlyard. Aristocrats: Caroline, Emily, Louisa and Sarah Lennox 1740-1832 (London.
1994). p.70 87 Shawe-Taylor. The Georgians, p.105. He reproduces Allan Ramsay's portrait of Lady Susan Fox-Strangways (1761). a friend of the Lennox family. as an example of this linked arm pose. It may even have been this painting that encouraged the Countess to be depicted in this posture.
Correspondence of Emily, Duchess of Leinster 1731-1814 Vol.!: Letters of Emily, Duchess of Leinster; James, First Duke of Leinster; Caroline Fox, Lady Holland, ed. B. Fitzgerald (Dublin.
1949). p.133. Earl of Kildare to the Countess of Kildare. 18 May 1762 (hereafter Duchess of Leinster, correspondence). James Fitzgerald. Earl of Kildare became 1st Duke of Leinster in 1766.
Discussions of the Ramsay portraits in family correspondence reveal gendered priorities and opinions as to what constituted a good likeness. The artist's depiction of the Earl was deemed by its recipient, Caroline Fox, "a charming picture... a most pleasing likeness;" and his wife requested that he procure her a copy for Carton, having heard that it "is so good a one and so like yoU."89 For this copy, she asked that he be painted in his Master General's coat. This, she admitted, would not be as flattering as the red garb of his Major General's uniform, but she had decided on the blue, "as character rather than beauty is what should be consulted in your picture; and your being Master General has been more a mark'd part of yours than the Major General."90 Whilst her husband's representation was thus reliant on his public role, her own portrait, commissioned as its companion, was discussed in very different terms. Caroline Fox wrote repeatedly to the Countess between 1762 and 1766 as her sister was prevaricating over the picture. 91 As encouragement, and to counteract her fears that such a portrait would not be "so young and blooming as it once would have been," she reposted; "that makes very little difference in a picture, except quite old people and children. Painters make their other portraits I think look much the same age. You'll be handsome enough this twenty years to make the best picture in our Duchess of Leinster, correspondence, p.336, Caroline Fox, Lady Holland to the Countess of Kildare, 8 August 1762; pp.141-2, Countess of Kildare to the Earl of Kildare, 25 November 1762 Duchess of Leinster, correspondence, p.153, Countess of Kildare to the Earl of Kildare, 10 December 1762; p.158, Countess of Kildare to the Earl of Kildare, 17 December 1762 Duchess of Leinster, correspondence, p.336, Caroline Fox, Lady Holland to the Countess of Kildare, 8 August 1762; p.339, Caroline Fox, Lady Holland to the Countess of Kildare. 5 September 1762; p.388. Caroline Fox, Lady Holland to the Countess of Kildare. 11 September 1763; p.388-9, Caroline Fox, Lady Holland to the Countess of Kildare, 21 September 1763; p.413, Caroline Fox. Lady Holland to the Countess of Kildare, 20 September 1764; p.444. Caroline Fox, Lady Holland to the Countess of Kildare. 25 April 1766. Finally, p.452, Caroline Fox, Lady Holland to the Countess of room, if the painter does you justice."92 Whilst the Earl's pictorial identity was reliant upon his public role, the main point of concern in the portrait of his wife was thus her (waning) physical attractions.
However, to argue that these gendered demarcations of the sitters' roles and characters reflected their actual relationship is to smooth over the many ways in which such boundaries were transgressed and negotiated in the course of their daily lives. As Tillyard herself notes, the Countess was shrewd and played a very real and useful part in her husband's life. 93 She begged him, "I long to hear how things go on" and referred to "our affairs" and to "our own friends" in discussions of politics. 94 He answered her requests to "write me all the politics you can" for which she expressed herself "extremely obliged... as I cannot but be extremely anxious about politics at this time."95 Her letters switch from discussions of household affairs to matters of state in a couple of sentences: "So much for linen. Now as to politics."96 However, as political opinion was supposedly a masculine domain, she sometimes humoured her husband by playing down her proactive role. Thus, whilst she wrote in one letter, "I am glad to hear you say our affairs look well. I hope you mean by that that the heads of our party Kildare, 9 June 1766: "How could I go on so far without telling you your sweet face is come home and put up in my gallery?" Duchess of Leinster, correspondence, p.339, Caroline Fox, Lady Holland to the Countess of Kildare, 5 September 1762 93 Tillyard, Aristocrats, p.70 Duchess of Leinster, correspondence, p.17, Countess of Kildare to the Earl of Kildare, 15 May 1755; p.7, Countess of Kildare to the Earl of Kildare, 3 May 1755; p.20, Countess of Kildare to the Earl of Kildare, 17 May 1755 Duchess of Leinster, correspondence, p.136. Countess of Kildare to the Earl of Kildare. 15 9S
December 14 1762 are likely to be reasonable," she concluded, "my dear Jemmy has always used me to talk to him upon this subject and tell my mind freely so 1 hope he don't think 1 have said too much."97 Such women were clearly not weak and feeble creatures, locked within the home, but their construction as such in the prescriptive realm does seem to have had some impact. Men could feel uncomfortable if their wives appeared too assertive, fearing the emasculation implied in clear trespass into their public domain.
Second, the Countess was very much involved in the running and management of Carton and, to an extent, can be argued to have assumed more responsibility than her husband for decisions in their programme for its improvement. Several of her letters in 1757 discuss plans to hire a new gardener and the selection of new tree varieties for the grounds. This plantation appears to have been her project to the extent that she elicits his approval; "for it's of infinite consequence that you shou'd be quite Au/ait of it a11."98 Similarly, she discussed the decoration of the house as taking place under her supervision, complaining at one point, "here my painters are all going away and leave the work half done, half undone. I am plagued to death with them and poisoned into the bargain."99 The employment of the first person possessive reverberates throughout these accounts: '''tis so much time lost in my work;" "I grow Duchess of Leinster, correspondence, p.14, Countess of Kildare to the Earl of Kildare, 12 May 1755 Duchess of Leinster, correspondence, p.36, Countess of Kildare to the Earl of Kildare, 19 May 1757; p.39, Countess of Kildare to the Earl of Kildare, 31 May 1757; p.42, Countess of Kildare to the Earl of Kildare, June 1757; p.52, Countess of Kildare to the Earl of Kildare, 21 June 1757; p.53, Countess of Kildare to the Earl of Kildare, 24 June 1757; quoting p.53 Duchess of Leinster, correspondence, p.83, Countess of Kildare to the Earl of Kildare, 12 May 1759 very impatient to know how my work goes on at Carton" and "I hope to find a great deal done in my absence."loo The above suggestion that the routine transgression of gender boundaries was an occasional source of unease for men, conditioned to a certain degree by the prescriptive ideal, is supported by the relationship of Thomas Gainsborough and his wife. He allowed her control over his earnings as a painter but, when she took this liberty too far, he grew uncomfortable and asserted his traditional masculine role. A
letter to his sister complained:
I was induced to try how far Jealousy might be cured by giving into her Hands every Farthing of the Money as I earned it, but very soon found that (as a punishment for so unmanly a condescention) instead of convincing, it was a further incouragement to Govern me, and invert the order of Nature in making the Head the foot and the foot the Head, so that now I have taken the
However, once again, pictorial representation masked such blurring of the spheres.
When Gainsborough painted his family c.1748, he employed highly conventional pictorial language (fig.52). The artist himself is assertively posed in fashionable garb and his posture accords with early notions of genteel posture, one hand resting on his hip and his legs crossed. He presents a (now faded) drawing to the viewer to indicate Duchess of Leinster, correspondence, p.61. Countess of Kildare to the Earl of Kildare. 17 April 1759; p.n, Countess of Kildare to the Earl of Kildare. 5 May 1759; p.80. Countess of Kildare to the Earl of Kildare. 10 May 1759 Letters of Thomas Gainsborough, ed. Woodall. p.83 his profession as an 'up-and-coming' young painter. His wife, meanwhile, is portrayed in a typically passive stance. Her attention is directed off to one side and she is firmly inscribed within orthodox notions of femininity. The flowers in her lap reinforce the standard association between women and the natural world and the daughter who rests against it indelibly connects her with the role of motherhood.
* * * * * In conclusion, the mid decades of the eighteenth century clearly witnessed the emergence of a newly companionate ideal in family portraiture. Husbands and wives became united in mutual narratives, posed formality was supplanted by physical and inferred psychological interaction and a burgeoning sense of privacy negated the existence of the spectator. However, as this chapter has demonstrated, the sentimentalisation of the marital relationship was not accompanied by a new equality between husband and wife as has been suggested by historians such as Lawrence Stone and Randolph Trumbach. Rather, an underlying theme of patriarchy can be seen to have endured, redefined within the terms of such new developments as the burgeoning cult of sensibility. The continuing principle of masculine superiority and authority can be most clearly seen in the persistence of 'separate spheres' as a means of constructing masculine and feminine identities in portraiture. Whilst revisionist feminist historians have rejected the utility of this model, their argument that rigid gender boundaries were largely prescriptive indicates that it remains an important tool for visual analysis. The plentiful evidence of 'separate spheres' in eighteenth-century portraits of sitters ranging from the middling sorts to the uppermost reaches of the aristocracy also serves to cast doubt on Davidoff and Hall's argument that it was a tool developed by the Victorian middle classes for the purposes of self-fashioning and self-definition.