Mary Robinson (née Darby)
2 of 12 portraits of Mary Robinson (née Darby)
- Extended Catalogue Entry
Mary Robinson (née Darby)
by George Dance
10 1/4 in. x 8 1/4 in. (260 mm x 210 mm)
Sitterback to top
- Mary Robinson (née Darby) (1756 or 1758-1800), Known as 'Perdita'; writer, actress and mistress of the future George IV. Sitter in 12 portraits.
Artistback to top
- George Dance (1741-1825), Architect and portrait draughtsman. Artist associated with 322 portraits, Sitter in 7 portraits.
Linked publicationsback to top
- 100 Pioneering Women, p. 47 Read entry
The English actress and author Mary Robinson (1756/1758-1800) became known as Perdita after her success in that role in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale in 1779. Celebrated in her youth as a great beauty, painted by the likes of Reynolds and Gainsborough, she became the mistress of the Prince Regent for four years, after he saw her performance as Perdita. In her early life, however, she had suffered great hardship, finding herself, at sixteen, in debtors’ prison, having been bullied by her mother into a disastrous marriage with the profligate Thomas Robinson. It was on her release that actor-manager David Garrick prepared her for her debut at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London, in 1776. Her subsequent stage success ended in 1780, however, with her role in Lady Craven’s The Miniature Picture, a poignant farewell. In her mid-twenties, an unidentified illness left her partially paralysed. Too enfeebled to return to the stage, she began writing, prolifically, both poetry and prose, both well regarded, and one of her seven novels, Vincenza (1792), became a bestseller. Her extensive literary circle included Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, the latter describing her as ‘a most accomplished and delightful woman, the celebrated Mrs. Robinson’.
- Holmes, Richard, The Romantic Poets and Their Circle, 2013, p. 76
- Holmes, Richard, Insights: The Romantic Poets and Their Circle, 2005, p. 61
- Ingamells, John, Mrs. Robinson and her portraits, 1978, p. 28
- Rogers, Malcolm, Master Drawings from the National Portrait Gallery, 1993 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 5 August to 23 October 1994), p. 64
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 527
- Walker, Richard, Regency Portraits, 1985, p. 417
Events of 1793back to top
Current affairsWhig MP Charles Grey enters a motion for parliamentary reform but is defeated in the House of Commons.
Art and scienceRadical philosopher William Godwin publishes Political Justice, an inflamatory document that promoted rational anarchism. This crystallised a wider feeling that a new era of world peace and progress was beginning.
Sir William Beechey is appointed Portrait Painter to her Majesty, Queen Charlotte.
InternationalLouis XVI and Marie-Antoinette are executed and the Reign of Terror begins.
France declares war on Britain, Holland and then Spain. William Pitt addresses the House of Commons and Britain hesitantly joins the first coalition of anti-revolutionary European states to oppose the French threat.
Attack on Corsica in which Captain Horatio Nelson loses an eye.
Listen to a series of podcasts exploring the lives of pioneering women, past and present.
William Eggleston was closely associated with the alternative music scene in Memphis. Revisit our 2016 exhibition and listen to a special playlist.
Links to audio and transcripts of interviews with artists, sitters and historic recordings.
Tell us more
Framed & unframed prints
Choose your favourite portrait from our Collection as a framed or unframed print for your home.