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Gertrude Lawrence possibly as the Muse of Comedy

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Gertrude Lawrence possibly as the Muse of Comedy

by Madame Yevonde
Vivex colour print, July 1936
14 5/8 in. x 11 3/8 in. (373 mm x 290 mm)
Given by Madame Yevonde (Yevonde Philone Middleton (née Cumbers)), 1971
Primary Collection
NPG P871(2)

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

This portraitback to top

This portrait of the actress and singer Gertrude Lawrence has previously been accepted by the title inscribed on the reverse as (Thalia), Muse of Comedy. Her attributes or symbols usually include a comic mask, a shepherd's staff or a wreath of ivy none of which appear here thus inspiring doubt about its correct identification. Lawrence's portrait however is reproduced in Yevonde's 1940 autobiography as the Muse of Lyric Poetry . In Greek mythology she is Euterpe and usually holds a flute.. Another Yevonde portrait of Lady Ratendone holding a flute fits this description, though she also wears a daisy garland also seen in Lawrence's portrait. So possibly like Arethusa, Yevonde may have created two portraits of Euterpe or could this portrait represent another of the nine muses, namely Erato, muse of love poetry whose lyre has been replaced by a guitar?

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Gibson, Robert; Roberts, Pam, Madame Yevonde: Colour, Fantasy & Myth, 1990 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 July - 1 October 1990), p. 84
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 368

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1936back to top

Current affairs

Following the death of his father George V, Edward succeeds to the throne as King Edward VIII, but chooses to abdicate in order to marry the American divorcee, Wallis Simpson. Edward was the only monarch every to voluntarily relinquish the throne.

Art and science

The Spitfire, designed by Reginald Mitchell, has its maiden flight. The RAF and other allied forces used the plane extensively and to great effect during the Second World War.
Television broadcasting begins. Although the BBC had been transmitting television since 1930, regular service did not begin until 1936, when the 'BBC Television Service' (now BBC One) was broadcast from Alexandra Palace.


The Spanish Civil War begins. Nationalists, led by General Francisco Franco, and supported by Italian and German fascist governments, rebelled against the Second Spanish Republic. The conflict lasted until 1939, and anticipated many of the features of the Second World War: fighting between Communists and Fascists, the rise of nationalism and the use of terror tactics against civilians.

Tell us more back to top

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Dr R M Callender

23 January 2018, 16:17

The actual print was handled by David Frost in one of his programmes concentrating on the theme of octogenarians. Mrs Middleton insisted I accompanied her to the studios because she wanted me to inform David Frost he had to refrain from taking the 'mickey'. He accepted this stricture and he and Madame Yevonde created a lovely segment in his show. I have still frames from a legitimate videotape produced later by a company in New York.

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