The Three Witches from Macbeth (Elizabeth Lamb, Viscountess Melbourne; Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire; Anne Seymour Damer)

1 portrait

The Three Witches from Macbeth (Elizabeth Lamb, Viscountess Melbourne; Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire; Anne Seymour Damer), by Daniel Gardner, 1775 - NPG 6903 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

The Three Witches from Macbeth (Elizabeth Lamb, Viscountess Melbourne; Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire; Anne Seymour Damer)

by Daniel Gardner
gouache and chalk, 1775
37 in. x 31 1/8 in. ()
Accepted in lieu of tax by H.M. Government and allocated to the Gallery, 2011
Primary Collection
NPG 6903


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Sittersback to top

Artistback to top

  • Daniel Gardner (1750?-1805), Portrait painter. Artist associated with 16 portraits, Sitter in 1 portrait.

This portraitback to top

This unusual group portrait depicts three of the most notorious women of the late 18th century. They were intimate friends sharing a common passion for Whig politics and the arts. Whereas Lady Melbourne had been friends with Anne Seymour Damer since the early 1770s, the friendship with Georgiana was fairly recent and this pastel may in part be related to Melbourne's desire to publicize their friendship. While all three women are described as having enjoyed attending private theatricals and tableaux vivants, Gardner's choice of the cauldron scene from Macbeth can also be related to their shared and shadowy political machinations as leading members of the Devonshire House circle. The composition has no parallel in Gardner's oeuvre and it is assumed that either Damer or Melbourne suggested the design. Melbourne is also thought to have commissioned the work which has descended in her family. Although there is no evidence of its being exhibited at the time, contemporaries clearly knew of its existence. It is mentioned in Lady Mary Coke's journal where she wrote in 1775 of a drawing of 'the Duchess of Devonshire, Lady Melburn, and Mrs Damer all being drawn in one picture in the Characters of the three Witches in Macbeth … They have chosen that Scene where they compose their Cauldron, but instead of “finger of Birth-strangled babe, etc” their Cauldron is composed of roses and carnations and I daresay they think their charmes more irresistible than all the magick of the Witches'.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Perry, Gill (introduction) Roach, Joseph (appreciation) and West, Shearer (appreciation), The First Actresses: Nell Gwyn to Sarah Siddons, 2011 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 2011 to 8 January 2012), p. 123

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top