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Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762), Writer and traveller

Portraits, unless otherwise stated, are in the collection of the Marquess of Bute, Rothesay, Mary, the sitter's only daughter and principal legatee, marrying, 1736, John Stuart, later 3rd Earl of Bute.

Of three portraits attributed to Kneller and said to be of 1710, 1715 and 1719-20, only the last is certainly by him and firmly dated. The first, showing the sitter as a shepherdess leaning against a tree, was painted before her marriage in 1712. It is inscribed Lady Mary Pierrepont and on stylistic grounds is more likely to be by Jervas. A miniature omitting the spud [1] and lamb engraved as after Kneller, 1710, by Caroline Watson (F. O'Donoghue and Sir Henry M. Hake, Catalogue of Engraved British Portraits ... in the British Museum, 1908-25, 7), was published 1803. Nearly whole length, the second portrait, of her seated and holding a book, is probably by Kneller and on appearance, can be dated after her marriage. The inscription is perhaps not contemporary. A head and shoulders repetition, formerly in the Wharncliffe collection, is now owned by R. Halsband. Another, in a private collection, is inscribed LADY MARY WORTLEY MONTAGU Given to/LADY LONSDALE BY j LADY LOUISA MANNERS. The third portrait, in a reclining pose and Turkish costume engraved by Caroline Watson (F. O'Donoghue and Sir Henry M. Hake, Catalogue of Engraved British Portraits ... in the British Museum, 1908-25, 1), was painted for Alexander Pope; the inscription includes the date 1720. This presumably is the portrait mentioned in a letter written by Pope to the sitter, apparently in the summer of 1719: 'Upon conferring with him [Kneller] yesterday, I find he thinks it absolutely necessary to draw the Face first ... To give you as little trouble as possible, he proposes to draw your face with Crayons & finish it up at your own house, in a morning ...’. [2] The portrait is said to have prompted the poem beginning: 'The playfull smiles around the dimpled mouth/That happy air of Majesty and Youth ...'. [3]

Other portraits, in addition to NPG 3924 of c.1717-18, include a three-quarter length formerly in the Wharncliffe collection known until recently as Mary Churchill, Duchess of Montagu. Given to Jervas but close to an engraving by Caroline Watson published, 1817, after a portrait of 1719 by Jonathan Richardson, it is now owned by Denis Martineau. A striking whole length in Turkish dress, traditionally attributed to Richardson, in the collection of the Earl of Harrowby, Sandon Hall, does not accord with the majority of female portraits by this artist. It is, however, unusually attractive, the head in particular suggesting a Venetian influence - perhaps Rosalba's. A related pastel head and shoulders, artist unknown, is in the Bute collection. A miniature by Zincke, 1738, at Welbeck, although apparently engraved by Vertue in 1739 as from life, may nevertheless be based on the Kneller of 1715. A portrait in which the sitter rests her hand on a skull, on loan from the Wharncliffe collection to the Department of the Environment, HM Embassy, Ankara, is inscribed done from the life by Carolus de Rusca London 1739 Given by her Ladyship to Lady Oxford.

False Portraits
Turkish style dress was much in fashion after the sitter's return from Constantinople [4] and various ladies were so painted, in some cases in a pose similar to NPG 2506. These include Lady Fanny Shirley, Winchester College exhibition, 1938 (24), as by Kneller, lent by Sir F. Hervey-Bathurst, Bart; the portrait of Jemima, Countess of Ashburnham, attributed to Jervas, at Wrest Park, and Lady Selina Bathurst, artist unknown, sold from the Heathcote collection, Christie's, 27 May 1938, lot 34. A later portrait of Nancy Parsons by G. Willison (d. 1797), now in the Mellon collection, has also been mistaken for the sitter. A portrait inscribed Lady M. Wortley Montagu/Vanderbank, almost certainly a late Kneller, shows a lady in Turkish dress and may represent the sitter although the shape of the jaw is not easily reconciled with known portraits of her by this artist. It is not unlike portraits of Frances Thynne, 7th Duchess of Somerset (1699-1754). [5] Another portrait, lent by the Duke of Newcastle to the Second Exhibition of National Portraits, South Kensington, 1867 (25) as Mary Wortley Montagu, is now believed to represent Mary Churchill, Duchess of Montagu.

1) For 'spud', see the Oxford English Dictionary, X, 1933, p 706.
2) G. Sherburn, The Correspondence of Alexander Pope, 1956, II, p 22.
3) Poems, ed. J. Butt, 1965, p 467.
4) For a description of the dress, see R. Halsband, The Life of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, 1956, I, pp 325-27, letter to her sister Frances, Countess of Mar, 1 April 1717.
5) Exhibited 'Old Masters from Houses in Kent', Canterbury, 1937 (25), lent by Mrs Hammond.

This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Kerslake, Early Georgian Portraits, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1977, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.