The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

Elizabeth (née Farren), Countess of Derby

Elizabeth (née Farren), Countess of Derby, by John Downman, 1787 -NPG 2652 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Regency Portraits Catalogue

Elizabeth (née Farren), Countess of Derby

by John Downman
8 in. x 6 3/4 in. (203 mm x 171 mm) oval
NPG 2652

Inscriptionback to top

A paper formerly on the original mount in Downman's handwriting, now in registered packet 2652 in NPG archive reads: again Miss Farren: 1787. Original: the celebrated and admired Actress. I drew one of this for the Duke of Richmond. There was a Print made from this.

This portraitback to top

A performance of The School for Scandal in 1785 inspired Lord Derby to commission from Downman a picture of Thomas King and Miss Farren as 'Sir Peter and Lady Teazle'; this is at Knowsley (Sir George Scharf’s Sketchbooks, 78, 7a), and a drawing of King alone is in the British Museum (George C. Williamson, John Downman A.R.A, III.3.29). They were followed by a watercolour drawing of King and Farren in The Heiress, exhibited RA 1787 (505) and engraved by Jones 1787, and by a drawing, probably NPG 2652, exhibited RA 1788 (463) together with a drawing of Mrs Siddons (NPG 2651). Duplicates by Downman formed part of a series for the scenery of the Duke of Richmond's private theatricals in Richmond House where Miss Farren acted as producer (Percy Noble, Anne Seymour Damer, 1908, pp 96-104).
A miniature version now in a private collection was originally at Strawberry Hill and inscribed in Horace Walpole's hand: Miss Farren/The Incomparable Actress/1787, Strawberry Hill sale 6 May 1842 (50) bought by the Countess of Wilton, reproduced in Daphne Foskett's Collecting Miniatures, 1979, colour plate 29E.

Physical descriptionback to top

Half-length head turned to left in white dress with pink ribbon and sash, luxuriant powdered hair, dark blue eyes, rosy (rouged?) complexion, cloudy sky background.

Provenanceback to top

Henrietta G. Brooke 1884; given by Mrs Rosalind H. Knollys 1934.

Exhibitionsback to top

RA 1788 (463); 'The Masque of Beauty', NPG, 1972 (29).

Reproductionsback to top

Stipple (in reverse) by Collyer 'from a drawing made by Mr Downman for the Scenery at Richmond House', printed 14 February 1788; stipple by Ridley for The Monthly Mirror, 1 December 1796.

This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: Richard Walker, Regency Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, 1985, 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.

View all known portraits for Elizabeth (née Farren), Countess of Derby


Our channel

View a wide collection of video content on our YouTube channel from past projects to our latest films.

Sit back and watch

Artist and sitter interviews

Get insights into creating portraiture from BP Portrait Award 2020 artists and their sitters.

Explore behind the scenes

Sleeping Awake

Watch our film created to say ‘goodbye’ to the Gallery before we closed for our major transformation project.

Hear our story