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Sarah Archer (née West), Lady Archer ('The finishing touch')

4 of 8 portraits of Sarah Archer (née West), Lady Archer

Sarah Archer (née West), Lady Archer ('The finishing touch')

by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey
hand-coloured etching, published 29 September 1791
10 3/4 in. x 6 7/8 in. (273 mm x 176 mm) plate size; 11 3/4 in. x 8 1/4 in. (298 mm x 208 mm) paper size
Purchased, 1947
Reference Collection
NPG D12424

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Sitterback to top

Artistsback to top

  • James Gillray (1756-1815), Caricaturist. Artist associated with 881 portraits, Sitter in 7 portraits.
  • Hannah Humphrey (circa 1745-1818), Publisher and printseller. Artist associated with 718 portraits, Sitter in 1 portrait.

This portraitback to top

Lady Archer was well-known in high society and a favourite target of the satirist James Gillray for her close attention to the latest fashions. In this print she wears the riding jacket and skirt which had become the ordinary day or travelling-dress of many English women. The jacket is cut tight at the waist, slopes away at the sides like a fashionable man's coat and flares out at the back. Other details adopted from male dress include the high collar, lapels and buttoned cuffs à la marinière. To accompany her outfit, Lady Archer wears a 'top hat', popular from 1787-1791. The practical masculinity of the outfit - which surprised foreigners when worn by English women abroad - is balanced by her liberal application of rouge and the ostentatious hat feathers she has added.

Placesback to top

Events of 1791back to top

Current affairs

Thomas Paine publishes his inflammatory and widely read Rights of Man in response to Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France of the previous year. The work advocates radical revolution and prompts a trial for seditious libel that takes place in his absence.
The Catholic Relief Act is passed, repealing the most severe penal laws.

Art and science

Astronomer William Herschel discovers Uranus.
Robert Burns publishes Tam O'Shanter, combining the Scottish vernacular with the formal traditions of classical English poetry and exploring radical ideas of freedom.
The Observer newspaper is founded.
The Ordnance Survey is set up to prepare detailed maps of the country.


Mozart composes The Magic Flute.
The Declaration of the Rights of Man establishes liberal freedoms in France
The French Constitution is passed by the National Assembly.
Louis XVI flees Paris with his family but is captured at Varennes.
William Pitt declares Britain will remain neutral in any war against France.

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