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The events of sitters' lives also affected the history of their portraits in terms of the reaction and response of critics and of the viewing public at large. As discussed in chapter three, whilst most portraits were exhibited unidentified, many reviewers made a point of revealing the names of sitters for the benefit of their readers.75 Thus, they enabled comparison between their representations and known aspects of their biographies. For example, Reynolds exhibited his large historical portrait of the three Montgomery sisters in the Royal Academy exhibition of 1774 as Three ladies adorning a Term of Hymen; whole length (fig. 131). Whilst E.H. Gombrich argued that "the emblematical conception" behind the image, namely that each sister's relationship to the statue of the god of marriage is dictated by her marital or nonmarital status, "could only appeal to the intimate circle of the family," this is contradicted by that year's exhibition reviews.?6 A critic in The Public Advertiser identified the sisters and The Morning Chronicle went further and elucidated the conceit in full. 77 Indeed, it was hardly likely that so able a self-publicist as Reynolds would wish to confine the wit of his invention to his patrons alone.
75 See chapter 3, pp.166-7 76 E.H. Gombrich, 'Reynolds's Power and Practice of Imitation', The Burlington Magazine 80 (1942), p.43. Anne, Lady Townshend. the only one of the sisters to have achieved the illustrious state of wedlock, is depicted as having already passed the statue of the God of Marriage and is adorning it with wreaths. Elizabeth, the sister who was soon to be married to the Rt. Hon. Luke Gardiner, the commissioner of the image, is centrally placed and engaged in passing flowers to Anne. Barbara, who was not to be married for another year, is furthest from the term and is merely collecting flowers in preparation for the rite. See also Penny, Reynolds. pp.262-3; Pointon, Strategies for Showing, chapter 2, especially p.61 The Public Advertiser, 1774, quoted Painton, Strategies for Showing, p.61; The Morning Chronicle. 28 April 1774 Thanks to such identifications, the public could mentally applaud or deride the merits of sitters. One critic ironically commented that Reynolds's depiction of the Duke of Marlborough discussing a cameo with his son was not entirely apt, for the
Duke was "by no means a virtuoso except in coins." He thus suggested to the artist:
"If you had placed a new guinea it would be more apropos."78 Indeed, the anonymity of Royal Academy catalogue entries was criticised by one 'DA.VINCI' in significant terms;
to me it would be greatly more interesting to know that No.- is the portrait of Lord A or his Grace the Duke of B than simply to be told, "Portrait of a nobleman." By this means the sentiments of their public conduct might be compared with those written in their countenances, and it would contribute to fix the attentive regard of the spectator upon a piece which otherwise, though ever so well executed, he might pass unnoticed. 79 Not only does this emphasise both the desire to compare representation and subject and widespread interest in physiognomy, in the face as the index to the mind, but it also confirms that such comparisons were of interest to the spectator. Indeed, A.
Pasquin's critical guide to the Royal Academy exhibition of 1796 clearly exploited the fact that it "correctly named" all the portraits as a selling point. 8o Canvases such as Thomas Gainsborough's portraits of Lord and Lady Ligonier (figs.46 and 47), on The General Advertiser, 29 April 1778, discussing Sir Joshua Reynolds's The Marlborough Family of 1777/9 (fig.8) 79 The Morning Chronicle, 22 May 1783 80 A. Pasquin (J. Williams), A Critical Guide to the Exhibition of the Royal Academy, for 1796 (London, 1796), title page display in the exhibition of 1771, could have been viewed as merely aesthetic objects by anyone (somehow) ignorant of the fact, that at that moment, the former was divorcing the latter on grounds of adultery. Most, however, must have taken an added interest in their likenesses for this very reason. It is likely that the contrast between the Duke's passive appearance and the alertness of his wife together with the dominating figure of Lord Ligonier's horse (particularly in light of his groom having enjoyed sexual relations with his wife) would have taken on enhanced significance. 8 ) The publicised transgressions of aristocrats also influenced the commissioning of portraits. On occasion, an image proclaiming the status and moral virtue of a sitter seems to have been a direct response to public derision. As noted above, the character of the Duke of Cumberland, already damaged by numerous affairs, was further besmirched during the notorious criminal conversation case of 1770. 82 Lady Mary Coke remarked on the extent to which he was "abused and ridiculed in every publick paper. "83 Trial reports abounded, the lovers' correspondence was published and republished and satires proliferated. To make matters worse, just one year later, Cumberland married Anne Horton in a secret ceremony at her house. The Town and Country Magazine claimed that Horton's brother, concerned for the honour of his family, had instigated this union. It thus questioned which the marriage signified R.R. Wark, Meet the Ladies: Personalities in Huntington Portraits (San Marino, California, 8) 1972), p.17; M. Rosenthal, 'Thomas Gainsborough' s Ann Ford', Art Bulletin 80, 4 (December 1998), pp.657-8 82 The Town and Country Magazine April 1769, pp,449-50 pointed out that the Duke had "rendered himself so celebrated in the annals of gallantry, that we have had occasion already to mention him more than once in this work."
The Letters and Journals of Lady Mary Coke ed. lA. Home, 4 Vols. (Bath, 1970), III, p.261, 22 July 1770 most; "the D. of C.'s... C--dice or his folly?"84 Apparently, the first news that reached George ill of this union was a letter sent from a hotel in Calais, the first stop on the newly-weds' continental tour. The King was furious, society was deterred from receiving the couple in the knowledge that it would prohibit their own reception at court, the Duke of Cumberland was the only Knight not present at the Chapter of the Garter in June 1771 and the Royal Marriage Act of 1772 publicly condemned the union. 85 In light of such events, which sustained the scandal and gossip surrounding this peer, the display of Reynolds's portraits of the Duke and his new wife at the Royal Academy in 1773 (figs. 132 and 133) was highly significant, particularly as they were exhibited under their names. 86 For these paintings, the Duke and Duchess not only selected the more ceremonious pendant format, but also had Reynolds employ almost every traditional convention of royal portraiture. The dominating drapes, columns and full monarchical regalia suggest a re-assertion of status, a public presentation of a marriage that positions itself in a lengthy tradition and smoothes over aberrance. Then, a mere four years after these paintings had been on display for the benefit of London society, remarkably similar pendants of the couple by Gainsborough were exhibited at the summer exhibition (figs.134 and 135). Once 84 The Town and Country Magazine November 1771. pp.580-2. It illustrated this account with a woodcut depicting "A Dialogue" between the Duke. the ambitious Mrs Horton and her irate brother.
85 L. Lewis, 'Elizabeth, Countess of Home, and her house in Portman Square', Burlington Magazine 109 (August 1967). especially p.449. Lady Mary Coke. having received conflicting reports of the King's reaction to the marriage. believed that castigation was the only possibility. Letters and Journals of Lady Mary Coke, III, p.488, 12 December 1771; "reason must dictate that if he does not mark his displeasure and keep steady in it, that many more of the same events will happen in his Family.
Everybody ought to consider the consequences of their actions, and Kings more than others."
A. Graves, The Royal Academy of Arts 4 Vols. (London, 1906), III, p.271 again, classical architectural backgrounds and the accoutrements of royal status feature heavily.87 The Duke of Cumberland grasps his crown in one hand and fingers his garter chain with the other, possibly in memory of his slight at the Chapter several years before. 88 The impression that these paintings were designed to assert legitimate claim to status is validated by comments made in the newspapers. For example, The Morning Post observed that the couple were "pourtrayed (in complement to their Royal Highnesses no doubt) in rather more state, than is consistent with the free and elegant designs of this artist."89 These pictures were attempts to refute scandal, allowing the Cumberlands to assert both their royal pedigree and adherence to conventional marital norms in contradiction to the actualities of their lives and the popular perception of their characters. However, this exploitation of public imagery to negate public slander was not entirely successful. 90 On 28 May 1777, The Morning Post published a poem
addressed to Reynolds, alluding to Gainsborough's portraits of the Cumberlands:
87 It has been suggested by Rosenthal, The Art of Thomas Gainsborough, p.90 that Gainsborough was deliberately referring to the earlier portraits. This is confirmed by a review in The Morning Ch ron ic/e, 25 April 1777 that compares the two: "Sir Joshua's portrait of the Duke was somewhat superior. Mr Gainsborough's Duchess for striking resemblance, graceful attitude, finished drapery and richness of colouring is equal to any picture of the kind heretofore exhibited."
88 Lewis, 'Elizabeth, Countess of Home', pp.449-50 The Morning Post, 25 April 1777. The couple sat again to Gainsborough in the 1780s for a portrait that now hangs at Windsor Castle and for which a drawing exists in the Royal Collection. It depicts the Cumberlands in the promenade format so popular in this period and discussed at length in chapter two, pp.l00-2 accompanied by the Duchess's sister who commemorates their walk in a drawing. Thus, once again, conventional lexicons of marriage are employed to suggest a conventional history, recorded for posterity. See D. Mannings, 'Gainsborough's Duke and Duchess of Cumberland 183 (1973), pp.85-93; C. Lloyd, Gainsborough and Reynolds:
with Lady Luttrell', Connoisseur Contrasts in Royal Patronage (London, 1994), pp.26-7 This is partly suggested by the fact that Cumberland commissioned portraits from Thomas Gainsborough so soon after sitting for Reynolds. Indeed, his choice of second artist may have been
On first inspection, this verse may be taken as pertaining to the ostensible lack of intimacy, the fonnality and the somewhat abstract and impersonal view of marriage implied by the pendant fonnat. 91 However, the rather cryptic passage actually refers to one of the more notably unpunctuated letters written by the Duke to Lady Grosvenor,
read out at the 1770 trial and included in the numerous published accounts:
I then prayed for you my dearest love kissed your dearest little Hair and laye down and dreamt of you had you on the dear little couch ten thousand times in my arms kissing you and telling you how much I loved and adored you and you seemed pleased but alas when I woke I found it all dillusion no body by
The Morning Post was thus satirically evoking the criminal conversation case, now seven years past, but still vivid enough in people's minds for this jibe to hit its mark.
Copies of the letters sold in 1770 were presumably still to be found in homes around influenced by the fact that Gainsborough was highly favoured at court, as opposed to Reynolds who are largely disliked. See Rosenthal, The Art of Thomas Gainsborough. pp.103-4 91 D.R. Smith, Masks of Wedlock: Seventeenth-Century Dutch Marriage Portraiture (Epping, 1982), p.27 The Genuine Copies of Letters which passed between his Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland and Lady Grosvenor (1770 (London, 5 th edition, 1770), p.3 the country and anthologies such as Trials for Adultery, published in 1780, repeated the details of the case. 93 It also seems that this missive had particularly gripped the public imagination. When The Town and Country Magazine printed the correspondence in July 1770, it quoted this letter first. 94 Also in that month, The Oxford Magazine included an engraving entitled A certain great Personage learning to Spell (fig.126) alongside a letter headed 'To hiz Ryyal hynes they Dook of Cumburrland'. This depicts Cumberland attempting to improve his inadequate education. He peruses a book, on the pages of which is inscribed, 'ab eb ib ob ubI ba be bi bo but Boo-by', as his tutor despairs, "I fear I shall make nothing of your R--I Hn--ss." A horned figure places a jester's cap on the Duke's head and questions if he "cast Anchor in Grosvenors Straits." However, most prominent in the image in terms of its positioning, size and legibility, is a scroll inscribed: "Specimens of R--I Spelling. Lett mee Kiss your sweet little Hare. noboddy with mee butt myself." Thus, once again, public cognisance of this letter was assumed. 95 A certain great Personage learning to Spell was one of very many graphic satires that Cumberland sought to counter with grandiose oil portraits, but with questionable success.
Johann Zoffany's Lord Cowper and the Gore Family of 1775 (fig.136) supplies a second example of a portrait designed to counter defamation. This painting, executed in Florence, was commissioned by George Nassau Clavering-Cowper to commemorate his marriage with Hannah Gore in June of that year. 96 The couple are pictorially emphasised through their erect poses and are attended by other members of Trials for Adultery, V. pp.1-304 and continued. VI. pp.3-202 The Town and Country Magazine July 1770, p.364
E.D.H. Johnson. Paintings of the British Social Scene from Hogarth to Sickert (London.