by George Romney
oil on canvas, circa 1785
24 1/2 in. x 20 1/2 in. (623 mm x 521 mm)
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, 1965
Click on the links below to find out more:
Sitterback to top
- Emma (née Lyon), Lady Hamilton (Baptised 1765-1815), Mistress of Lord Nelson. Sitter in 30 portraits.
Artistback to top
- George Romney (1734-1802), Portrait painter. Artist associated with 160 portraits, Sitter in 5 portraits.
This portraitback to top
The daughter of a Cheshire blacksmith, Emma Hart had a spectacularly successful career as mistress to a succession of older men, finally marrying Sir William Hamilton, the British envoy in Naples. Romney met her when she was only seventeen and the mistress of Charles Greville. He was clearly besotted by her and painted her again and again, becoming her friend but probably not her lover, however much he might have liked to be. As she wrote to him on 20 December 1791, 'you was the first dear friend I open'd my heart to, you ought to know me, for you have seen and discoursed with me in my poorer days, you have known me in my poverty and prosperity'. This portrait is one of many that Romney kept back in his studio for his private delectation. It conveys something of his feeling for her doe-eyed beauty.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Audio Guide
- Colville, Quinton; Williams, Kate, Emma Hamilton : seduction & celebrity, 2016, p. 92
- Cooper, John, Great Britons: The Great Debate, 2002, p. 93
- Ingamells, John, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, 2004, p. 227
- Piper, David, The English Face, 1992, p. 191
- Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery: An Illustrated Guide, 2000, p. 106
- Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery, 1997, p. 106
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 274
- Schama, Simon, The Face of Britain: The Nation Through its Portraits, 2015-09-15, p. 315
- Woof, Robert; Hebron, Stephen, Romantic Icons, 1999, p. 53
Events of 1785back to top
Current affairsGeorge Prince of Wales secretly marries his mistress Maria Fitzherbert in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act of 1772.Prime Minister William Pitt introduces a bill proposing parliamentary reform and the abolition of 'rotten boroughs' but is defeated.
Art and scienceWilliam Cowper publishes his best -known poem The Task.James Boswell publishes The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, narrating his travels with the late writer Samuel Johnson. Physician and naturalist James Hutton presents his studies of local rocks to the Royal Society of Edinburgh, launching the era of scientific geology.
InternationalWarren Hastings resigns as Governor-General of Bengal and returns to England. His trial begins on charges of corruption in the administration of India. French sculptor Jean Antoine Houdon crosses the Atlantic to sculpt a statue of George Washington. British government establishes a permanent land force in the Eastern Caribbean, based in Barbados.
See this portrait
- WebQuest: Pepys, Nelson, Seacole
- Only Connect
- Only Connect - Emma Hamilton <> William Hamilton
- Only Connect - Emma Hamilton <> Richard Cosway
- Only Connect - William Hamilton <> Emma Hamilton
- Only Connect - William Hamilton <> Joseph Haydn
- Only Connect - William Hamilton <> Horatio Nelson
- Only Connect - Emma Hamilton <> Horatio Nelson
- Only Connect - Emma Hamilton <> Joseph Haydn
- Only Connect - installation video
- George Romney
- Collected Archives - N-S
- Artist - Romney