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Sarah Siddons (née Kemble) ('Mrs Siddons with the Emblems of Tragedy')

4 of 38 portraits of Sarah Siddons (née Kemble)

Sarah Siddons (née Kemble) ('Mrs Siddons with the Emblems of Tragedy'), by Sir William Beechey, 1793 - NPG 5159 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Sarah Siddons (née Kemble) ('Mrs Siddons with the Emblems of Tragedy')

by Sir William Beechey
oil on canvas, 1793
96 1/2 in. x 60 1/2 in. (2456 mm x 1537 mm)
Given by Dr D.M. McDonald, 1977
Primary Collection
NPG 5159

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  • Sir William Beechey (1753-1839), Portrait painter. Artist associated with 250 portraits, Sitter in 7 portraits.

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Sarah Siddons was the greatest actress of her era. Born into a famous theatrical family, the Kembles, in 1773 she married the actor William Siddons against her parents' wishes. Although she had acted from an early age her first major success upon the stage came in 1782 with her portrayal of Isabella in David Garrick's Fatal Marriage. She went on to play a succession of leading roles in classic and contemporary drama. Excelling at Shakespeare, her most famous role was that of Lady Macbeth. Her skills as a tragedian are celebrated in this portrait by Beechey in which Siddons, holding a tragic mask and a dagger, is shown with a monument to Shakespeare. A comic mask resting almost hidden on the top of the monument suggests that her talents also extended to comic acting.

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