Mary Anne Clarke (née Thompson)

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Mary Anne Clarke (née Thompson)

by Adam Buck
watercolour and bodycolour on ivory, 1803
4 in. x 3 1/4 in. (102 mm x 83 mm)
Purchased, 1935
Primary Collection
NPG 2793

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Artistback to top

  • Adam Buck (1759-1833), Miniaturist. Artist or producer associated with 17 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Mary Anne Clarke is best remembered for her central role in the 1809 scandal involving the sale of army commissions which forced the Duke of York's resignation as army commander-in-chief. In this miniature on ivory she appears as the Duke's mistress and her shapely form and pale skin are shown to advantage by a thin muslin gown. The Neo-classical style - which the artist Adam Buck helped to popularise - was at the height of fashion by 1803 and had become increasingly revealing. Moralists were beginning to complain about its immodesty while doctors reported a significant increase in chills and colds. Clarke fastens her dress here with two blue Wedgwood cameos and completes the look with a 'classical' hairstyle: lightly oiled and gathered up at the back of the head in a bunch of loose curls.

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Events of 1803back to top

Current affairs

The Vice Society is formally established by John Reeves and his associates to campaign against blasphemy and immorality, particularly that perpetrated by Thomas Paine and the Edinburgh Review.

Art and science

Erasmus Darwin's Temple of Nature published posthumously. A scientific treaty in the form of an elaborate couplet poem, its content anticipated some of the evolutionary ideas developed by his grandson, Charles Darwin, fifty years later.
Construction of the Caledonian Canal begins.


War with France resumes, sparking new fears of a cross-channel invasion.
United Irishman, Robert Emmett's attempted uprising in Dublin. Planned to coincide with Napoleon's expected invasion, it aimed to overthrow the English administration but ended in failure. Emmett is hanged along with several other conspirators.

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